Nothing moves the hearts of staff more than when a nursing mother is brought in without her babies. “Where could the little ones be?” we wonder. “Can we go back to the area where the mother was found and search for the babies? How old are they? Will they be able to survive on their own?”
Sierra arrived in such a condition. Found in downtown Williamsport in the middle of August, the beautiful black mother cat came in with milk, but no kittens. She also had a palpable limp, either from a hip or ankle injury, and very dirty ears. The young momma was very sweet upon intake, and let staff do everything they needed to bring her up to speed, including trim her nails. She remained quiet and aloof, however, once in her pen. She curled up in the back and watched passesrby with soulful eyes. Kelli Smith, Animal Team Lead at the Lycoming County SPCA, remembers explaining the situation to Sierra’s finder. “I told her that Sierra had kittens and that they were likely still in the location where Sierra was found,” Kelli says. “Her finder was very concerned and said she would diligently hunt for the kittens.”
“The challenge,” Kelli explains, “is that very young kittens often do not make it through the first night and are usually in hard-to-find places where their weak cries cannot be heard.” The first night went by, then the second. Rain began to pour, and as was the case this summer, continued to pour for days, making for chilly days and nights. Days three and four passed by, and Kelli began to give up hope. She gently encouraged and petted Sierra whenever she went by. The young momma was now full of milk and uncomfortable. If only animals could talk, what would Sierra have said? Perhaps it is our empathy that makes us humanize animals, giving them human thoughts and emotions. Perhaps not. Either way, Kelli was not prepared when Sierra’s finder called four days after Sierra came in.
“I found them!” she breathlessly exclaimed. “A neighbor tipped me off that she thought they were under our front porch.” The woman proceeded to dig and scoot her way under her dirty and wet front porch to search. Four days after Sierra had been brought to the SPCA, her two little kittens were found. The little black and gray balls of fluff were raced to the SPCA. “They were ice cold,” Kelli remembers. “I hurried them into the room where Sierra was. Sometimes mother cats reject their kittens, especially if it has been awhile, or because of the stress of the shelter. My plan was to tentatively hold a baby up to the front of Sierra’s pen, but I didn’t get the chance. As soon as I entered the room, Sierra stood up and rushed to the front of her pen. That was the first time I had seen her do this. She eagerly sniffed one of the kittens, so I placed it gently in her pen. Within seconds, she wrapped her warm body around the little kitten and began to nurse it. I have never seen such a relieved and happy-looking momma.”
What a story! It is only through the help of community members like Sierra’s finder and SPCA supporters that happy endings like this are possible. Both the kittens and Sierra received the medical treatment they needed at the shelter and found a safe place to stay, together. At three months old, the two little kittens, Hermes and Hades, and their momma are ready for their biggest adventure yet: landing their forever homes.
As #GivingTuesday approaches, please consider giving so life-saving work such as Hermes’ and Hades’ can continue here in Lycoming County.