The Orange Kitten 

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Don stepped on his brakes and pulled his pickup to the side of Bellinger Scale Road. 

“I think that was an orange kitten,” Don said to himself as he stepped out of his pickup.

Don looked for traffic before starting across the road. Being an EMT, he didn’t want to become a statistic. He trotted back up the road to where he thought he saw the kitten in the ditch.

The little kitten turned on his back and hissed, with his paws spread wide and claws out, when Don stepped down in the ditch beside the kitten.

“Oh, aren’t you a mean little guy,” Don said as he pulled on his gloves before scooping up the kitten.

As soon as Don got back into his pickup with the kitten, he wrapped the kitten in his sweatshirt and took a moment to look him over.

This kitten was an orange male with extra toes on every paw. Don tended to collect orange cats with many toes. This little guy was going to need some help. He was skin and bone, covered with fleas, and his rear end was soiled from diarrhea.

“I wonder if you were dumped out here?” Don asked himself and the kitten out loud. “Whatever, it looks like I am going to drop you off with Doctor Larsen before taking you home.”

“I’m sorry to drop in on you guys unannounced,” Don said to Sandy as he came through the clinic door. “But I found this little guy in the ditch our on Bellinger Scale Road just now, and it looks like he is going to need some help.”

“I’m sure the Doctor will work you in with no problem, Don,” Sandy said. “Is this a kitten you are going to want to keep, or do you want to get the KATA group to take him?”

“If he survives, he will fit right in with our group,” Don said. “He’s an orange male, and he has a lot of extra toes. But I think he must have been dumped out there. He is in pretty bad shape. A little kitten like this can’t fend for himself out in the wilds. He is probably lucky that I found him rather than a coyote.”

“Let’s get you in an exam room, and I will get the doctor,” Sandy said as she ushered Don and the kitten into the exam room.

“This guy is lucky to be alive,” I said as I did a quick exam of the kitten. “I would guess he was probably out there on his own for a week or more. He was either dumped, or mom got run over or something. Someone could have dumped the whole litter. Five-week-old kittens cannot fend for themselves in the wild, and they have no hunting skills until mom teaches them. When I was growing up on the farm, the momma cats would take their litters up on the hill for a week or two when they were six or eight weeks old. Those kittens would become good hunters. But at five weeks, with no access to food, this guy is probably the sole survivor, and he is close to the end of his rope.”

“That’s what I thought,” Don said. “Why don’t you hang on to him for a day or two. Do whatever it takes to save him. Just give me a call when you think he is ready to go home.”

We collected a blood sample and a stool sample before placing the kitten in the kennel to wait for treatment.

“Should we give him something to eat,” Joleen asked. “He looks starved to death.”

“Open a can of a/d and give him just a teaspoonful for now,” I said. “We need to get his gut straightened out a bit before we give him too much to eat, and it will just shoot right through him now.”

I made a smear on a microscope slide from the stool sample and diluted it with floatation fluid. Under the microscope, the slide was covered with both roundworm eggs and hookworm eggs. Hookworms were a little unusual to see in kittens around Sweet Home. His blood showed some anemia, but not severe. 

“The anemia should resolve when we take care of the parasitism,” I said to Joleen. “So we will give him a dose of Nemex liquid for the worms and a bath with a flea shampoo to clean him up and take care of the fleas.”

“He just about ate the spoon when I put the a/d in his kennel,” Joleen said.

We gave the kitten a dose of Nemex and bathed him with a mild flea shampoo. It was difficult to comb the dead fleas out of his hair coat. Then when he was dry, we returned him to his kennel, where Joleen had made him a bed of warm towels.

He devoured another spoonful of canned a/d, and we put some dry kitten food into his kennel to hold him overnight.

“We will see what morning gives us,” I said to the kitten as we closed the kennel door. “I will give him a vaccine in the morning if he is doing well.”

***

The kitten was screaming when we came through the door in the morning. He was reaching his paw through the kennel bars anytime someone was close. He was hungry.

Joleen quickly warmed a couple of teaspoonfuls of canned a/d and set the dish in the kennel. The kitten literally dove into the plate with both front feet, and he devoured the a/d. His dry kitten food we had put in the kennel last night was gone. And his litter box had a soft stool, somewhat formed, that was full of dead worms.

“I think he is well,” Joleen said with a laugh.

“I think so, too,” I said. “Give Don a call, and we will send him home this afternoon. We need to get a vaccine into him sometime this morning.

When Don arrived, he was pleased with the appearance of the kitten. Joleen had it pretty well tamed down, and he loaded into Don’s carrier with no problem.

“I think just some groceries and TLC is what he needs now,” I said. “We should see him at the end of next week to repeat his worming and then in four weeks for booster vaccines.”

“I’m pleased,” Don said. “I thought it was going to be a struggle for him, but he must be a tough one. After all, he survived out there, all on his own.”

“Just for the record, Don,” I said. “What are you going to call him?”

Don lifted the carrier and got eyeball to eyeball with the kitten.

“I think I’ll call him Wazzu,” Don said.

***

When Wazzu came back for another dose of Nemex for his worms, he had increased his weight by almost a full pound. He had fat on his ribs and was a happy kitten.

“I think you can probably consider Wazzu a normal kitten at this point,” I said as we loaded Wazzu back into his carrier.

“Do you think he will have any lasting problems from those days of starvation?” Don asked.

“I don’t think he will have any physical problems,” I said. “But, we see cats who are rescued from a feral situation that have a real problem with overeating. Some of those cats will eat food until it is gone, and if the owner doesn’t regulate their portions, they will get heavy.”

“He will get enough to eat at our place, but he has enough competition at the food dish that he won’t have much of a chance to overeat,” Don said.

Fate served Wazzu well. Rather than becoming a boney morsel for a coyote, he fell into a household of multiple cats and attentive owners.

We neutered him when he was old enough, and he lived for many years. 

Photo by Rudy van der Veen on Skitterphoto

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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