It was a beautiful, sunny fall day when I heard my friend, Joe, call me from the other room. "Jane, look out the window. You have to see the cute kittens." I had one cat at the time, my gorgeous Himalayan Molly. She was treated like royalty and I knew that any cat outside in a big city was not!! I lived in the Fenway area of Boston and street cats were just pests to most people. I said to Joe, "No, don't make me look. I will have to do something if I do!" It was only a matter of minutes before I packed up some cat food and fresh water to bring down to the kittens. The mama cat, Nina, was a gorgeous, long-haired calico. She must have been an indoor cat at one time because she let me pet her and even got up on my lap. But the babies were another story!! Since they were born outside, they were very feral! I never even knew what that word meant before that, but I tried to touch the kittens and they would not get near!! They were wild as wild can be!!
But they looked so cute!! Of course I could tame them!! Every morning and evening I would bring Nina, Spot, Speck, Einstein, Tigerlily, and two others(Vicki, I will look up their names from old journals...can't remember!) fresh food and toys. The kittens looked forward to our play time and I knew if I tried hard enough I would get them. I knew I had to do something about getting them in for the winter. I had been feeding them for almost three months and the beautiful sunny fall days were turning to cold, icy winter days. It broke my heart to leave them outside but I had only a one bedroom apartment and I knew Molly would not be very gracious to new guests!!
I wish I had saved my yellow pages from that year 1994, because you would see so many stains and dog ears! I tried to call every animal shelter and veterinarian to help Nina. I was obsessed with getting them in. But little did I know that cats are so prolific that the overpopulation problem is completely overwhelming. Most shelters told me," Don't look. don't feed them." It was a defining moment for me and made my life what it is today. I only listened to Ally Cat Allies and they said, "You're IT!" I had already invested three months in Nina and her babies. I would not give up on them now. But how? I am in a wheelchair; I had no strength or money to take on such a project. But I always loved the work of Mother Teresa and I remembered that she helped people "one at a time." So that is what I did! I decided to help the kitties one at a time. I called everywhere to find out how to catch a feral cat and made some good connections and finally on Thanksgiving I trapped Einstein!! He was the sweetest kitten with big blue eyes and he was especially smart because he got in the trap first!! I had already taken Nina inside with Molly. The next day we got two other kittens and with a lot of work, we finally got Speck, the most stubborn, scared one. Roasted turkey is what they loved! They could not resist it!
I had borrowed a big cage to keep them separate from Molly, but I noticed that they were sickly with runny eyes and diarrhea. I knew I would have to get them all to a vet which I did one at a time. Then the bad news came. Nina and all the babies had Feline leukemia! They were suffering from the symptoms too so I had to do something. My precious, MOlly, was 14 years old and I could not let her be compromised either. I had to make the awful decision to let them go. Einstein did not test positive so he went with Jamie, one of the neighborhood girls who helped me with the trapping. He lived to be 15 years old and gave lots of love and peace to Jamie and her family.
The others went to heaven. But their lives were not in vain. That winter I read and learned as much as I could about helping cats. I couldn't take any more in because the vets suggested not to because of the FELV. So I watched so many others struggling outside. The little girls in the neighborhood became my partners and we built a shelter and brought the other strays food and water every day. That was my only consolation to watching them suffer in the cold. But cats are resilient and they were there with all their babies the next spring!
Molly lived through six more years of my animal rescue in Boston. She thought I was bringing her live toys whenever a new kitten would come in!! That was almost twenty years ago! Because of Nina, I have rescued countless kitties' lives! I have bottle fed orphaned babies, nursed injured kitties, did the hospice vigil with old and dying kitties, and stayed out in cold winter nights trapping helpless, hungry kitties. Because of Nina and her babies, I never tire of it. I don't really know how I have been able to do this, but life presents us with mysteries that may not always be solved. I just try to help "one at a time".
I hope that Nina is looking down on me from heaven because now I have a not for profit organization called CATS, Inc! Of course! What else!! It was because of her that I was taught tenacity and determination. Even now there are tears in my eyes to think that one sweet, lovely cat could have made such a difference in my life. She gave me strength and purpose that I never knew I had!! Thank you, Nina! I will always love you!!