We are currently fostering some mothers with nursing kittens. One of the kittens, a tiny orange tabby named Holly, was rejected by the mothers, and by the time she came to us, she was skeletal. Brian and I did what we could, giving her formula with a syringe, which she lapped up eagerly. Within a day, she recognized us as food-bringers, and would run to us when we came in the room. If we didn't feed her right away, and had to leave the room (such as, refilling the water dish in the room), she would sit at the door and give a tiny mew.
Mother cats often reject a kitten because they know something is wrong, even if we can't tell. When Brian and I went in for her 6pm feeding, she was on her side, listless, with agonal breathing. Not long after, she passed, cradled in his hands. She was such a tiny baby, weighing only half a pound, and adorably sweet. Lots of "ifs" go through my mind, including wondering if we'd have been able to do better if she'd come to us sooner, but I don't think so. I am reflecting on her short life, and thinking of the good we did for her, while she was with us.
If we'd never fostered Holly at all...
...she would never have known a moment's peace from the fleas that covered her body in angry, red bites. She instead had nearly a week of flea-free living, enough for her skin to heal, and for the painful bites to cease.
...her last days would have been with an empty belly. Instead, she was fed to satiation by humans to whom she was so grateful, she came running to them whenever they came into the room.
...she wouldn't have been cuddled and stroked in her last days, because her mother didn't want her. Instead, she was held and cuddled by the humans who filled her belly.
...she would likely have died alone. Instead, she passed in the gentle hands of a human man who loved her dearly.
...she would have died nameless. Instead, she was carefully named with great love and consideration, and there are stories to be told of her short life with us.
...there would have been no one to remember her with love, and give her a shady resting place after her body failed her. Instead, she is immortalized in my foster diary, and she has a grave which will have a namesake bush planted in her honor. She is also near another kitty's resting place, so she is not alone (Teya, we miss you).