A stray cat took rescuers to her kittens. One of them has a cleft lip and a permanent wink.
Kris and Kia Papiernik of Kolony Kats (a TNR-based rescue) have been caring for feral cat colonies in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for many years. Whenever they spot a cat outside, they stop to provide food, check with the neighbors and offer help.
Last week, while they were driving their daily route, they noticed a stray crossing the street. "This particular day was chilly and no one was outside. We pulled over to offer the cat some food, and that is when we immediately noticed that she was lactating/nursing," Kris told Love Meow.
The cat was friendly but a little skittish. They decided to wait in their car and watch where she would go next. "That is our usual tactic when we spot a nursing mama cat. They always 'take us' to their kittens."
The cat wandered to the front porch of a resident's home, where they discovered a few cardboard boxes along with some other rubble. They searched around the area, hoping to locate the nest. "Lo and behold, inside of an old beat up cardboard box, there were four little fluff balls."
They learned from the homeowner that the cat was a stray, and this is her fourth litter in the last two years. They offered to rescue the little family so the kittens wouldn't end up wandering the streets and that the cycle could be stopped.
"He agreed. We came back the next day and scooped this little family up. That is when we noticed we had one special little kitten."
To their surprise, the runt of the litter had one eye and a cleft lip. Despite being the smallest of all, he was the bravest and the most vocal. The family of five was immediately taken to the vet for a checkup.
"Everyone had a great exam. Mama took great care of these babies under the circumstances," Kia shared with Love Meow.
"The special baby was diagnosed with a cleft lip and anophthalmia, which is a genetic disorder that causes the absence of the eyeball and ocular tissue. Both of these conditions are purely cosmetic and will not affect his quality of life."
Roe, a volunteer, welcomed the little family into her loving foster home. The cat mom, whom they named Eleanor, was relieved to be safe and warm. She was so pleased with her comfortable nest that she started kneading and purring.
She lay down on her new bed and got right back to caring and doting on her kittens.
The cleft lip kitten, Kurduroy, is a few ounces lighter than his siblings, Koko, Kelsi and Kirby. But what he lacks in size, he surely makes up for in personality.
"He has the biggest personality of them all. He is very vocal and recently discovered the water dish. He is fascinated by the water and loves playing in it," Kia said.
"He may look different than his litter mates, but his mama and siblings treat him no differently."
The kittens adore their little brother, and they wrestle with each other, trying to figure out how to cat. Mama Eleanor is very attentive and protective. She watches over them every step of the way, and makes sure no one misses a bath.
Watch this adorable family in this video:
Stray cat and her kittens - Kolony Katswww.youtube.com
"We got these babies just in time! Another two weeks or so, they would have started venturing off of the porch they were born on, putting them at high risk," Kris told Love Meow.
The little family of five are now thriving in foster care.
"Mama will never have to care for another litter again. She can now be a cat. Her babies will never know what it is like to sleep in frigid temperatures, suffer from injuries, have to fight for territory or food, or get chased by people who don't want them around."
In a few more weeks, they will be ready for their new chapter in life, their forever loving homes.
"Momma is an absolute love-bug. She lets me handle her babies and she hugs me as I hold her," Roe said.
"The kittens are all over a pound now and doing amazing. Eleanor makes sure they are all fed and well groomed."