“Wait. What is that? Slow down.”
Sitting in the passenger seat of my sister’s car, I grabbed the dashboard and leaned forward, trying to peer over the hood.
“No, seriously. Slow down. I think there’s an animal in the middle of the road.”
My sister took her foot of the gas pedal, braking lightly. “Where?”
“There. See it? Up there, right in the middle of the road.”
We were on a back road of the tiny town of Taft. There wasn’t much to see – just an old, deserted building, an abandoned lot, and there, crouched in a tiny lump in the middle of the road…. a kitten.
The car slowed to a crawl, and eventually came to a complete halt, about ten feet from the tiny ball of fur.
“Oooooooooooh,” we breathed out simultaneously, starting at the bedraggled, miserable little animal.
“Why won’t it move? It’s just sitting there!”
“Is it alive?”
“It’s so tiny!”
“Ooooh, poor little thing!”
My sister gave a tiny, experimental little honk, but the kitten stayed there, trembling and immobile.
“We could drive around it…..?” My voice trailed off, lacking conviction.
“But it’s so tiny…” breathed my sister. “We can’t just leave it….”
“But what can we do with it?” At the time I was living with my mom, who was a self-proclaimed cat hater. There was no way I could show up with a half-starved kitten, no matter how tiny it was.
My sister wasn’t in a much better position. In the back seat of her car my nephew slept on, completely oblivious. He was barely three weeks old, and with a rambunctious two year old back at the house, Brandie didn’t exactly have much time on her hands.
“Maybe we can find it a home….?”
We both stared at each, knowing we didn’t have the time, energy, or finances to deal with a kitten at the moment.
But there was a kitten. In the middle of the road.
With a heavy sigh, I slipped off my seatbelt and cracked the door to the car. “I’ll go get it….?” The door buzzer dinged in an annoying rhythm as I waited for Brandie to tell me not to go.
“Okay,” said Brandie, shifting into park and flipping on her hazard lights.
Sigh. So much for being older and wiser.
The closer I got to the kitten, the tinier it became. It looked like it couldn’t have been more than three weeks old. As I approached it, it hissed faintly, and took two or three steps forward before freezing again.
“Awwwww, little one, it’s okay.” Reaching down, I snagged it by the scruff of its neck, and cuddled it against my body. The kitten was an indeterminate shade of mottled grey – it was hard to tell what color it was supposed to be, with all that dirt. As I pressed the kitten against my shirt, I winced as I felt its ribs, hipbones, and shoulder blades popping out against its thinly stretched skin. It was starving to death. Poor little thing.
I walked back to the car, kitten still cuddled close against my chest.
“It’s so small!” Brandie leaned forward to look at it, the kitten staring up at her glassily, lips pulled back in a forced smile as I maintained a tight grip on its scruff.
“I know. It’s hard to say how old it is. What do you think?”
Brandie glanced at it. “Well.. size-wise it looks younger than a month…. but I dunno….” she cocked her head, taking it in. “It might just be smaller from malnutrition.”
“Good point. Let’s get it home and get it cleaned up,” I said, releasing the scruff of its neck as I reached around for my seat belt.
Released from the catatonic spell of being carried, the kitten woke up. It took one look me, Brandie, the car, the strangeness………. and realized it was about to die.
“MREEEOEOOWOWOWOWOLWLWLWL!” With an eerie sound somewhere between a scream and a growl, the kitten leaped off my lap, flying towards the back seat with the sleeping newborn. I immediately reassessed my judgement of its age from about 3 weeks to a pathetically malnourished 10-12 weeks.
“Get it! Get it!” screeched Brandie, kitten love being replaced by protective maternal instinct.
I lunged in my chair and managed to grab it around its middle mid-leap.
The kitten, upon feeling my hand around its stomach, twisted agilely around and sank its teeth into deep into my knuckle.
With a yelp I flipped my hand, and the kitten went sailing onto the floorboards by my feet.
“MRREEEOEOOWOWOWOWLLLLLLLLL!!!!!” For such a tiny creature it had a surprisingly loud growl. It crouched, terrorized, fur on end, large eyes slitted in hate as it growled, hissed, and spit at me. It looked like a bedraggled, filthy demon from the underworld.
“Becky, get it!” said Brandie, her arms stretched out in a flimsy attempt to act as a barrier between Demon Kitten and the newborn in the back seat.
“I’m trying,” I said, trying to find a way to grab the kitten without losing a finger.
“MROWOWLWLWEATYOURSOULMROWL,” moaned Demon Kitten.
“GET HIM!” hissed Brandie.
With a lunge I managed to snag the kitten behind its neck, capturing it and freezing it by grabbing its scruff. Unfortunately, in the split second between catching and immobilizing it, it managed to twist around and sink its teeth into my left hand, and latch on with all four sets of claws.
I now had a dirty Demon Kitten “stuck” in a permanent attack position on my left hands. It may have been my imagination, but I swear I could feel the germs, bacteria, and rabies seeping into me from its dirty little teeth.
The kitten glared up at me, frozen mid-snarl.
“MRRROWWWWLLLLWLWLWHATEYOUHATEYOUMRRRRLW” it growled, deep in its chest.
“OW!” I tried to wiggle my hand free, but it just pushed its teeth deeper. I tried relaxing my grip on its scruff so I could free my hand, but in that brief moment of relaxation Demon Kitten just doubled its aggression and sank its teeth and claws deeper. “OWWWW!” This was a life or death struggle, and Demon Kitten wasn’t going down without a fight.
“Do you have it?” Brandie asked anxiously.
“Yeah,” I gritted out between clenched teeth. “But it’s biting me.”
“Well, make it stop!”
“Seriously, get your hand out of its mouth! What if it has rabies?”
“I’M TRYING! IT’S NOT LIKE I HAVE MY HAND IN THERE ON PURPOSE!”
It took a lot of maneuvering, a few cuss words, quite a bit of blood, but I was finally able to extricate my hand from Demon Kitten’s mouth. The baby in the back seat never woke up. We managed to get the kitten home and in a rescue kennel.
I lucked out in that I didn’t get an infection from its mouth, and the Animal Shelter monitored Demon Kitten to make sure it didn’t have rabies.
Demon Kitten had a month of endless food, fresh water, and safety at the Animal Shelter before it was humanely put down. Hey, I know that’s a terrible end to a sad little life, but it’s a better end than literally starving to death or being eaten by a coyote, which were its other two options. With cages full of healthy, friendly, adorable kittens being put down do to lack of homes, it didn’t make sense to try to rehabilitate an older, feral kitten. Spay and neuter, people. Spay and neuter.
And that, my dear friends, was the last time I rescued a feral cat off the side of the road.