Jason Henderson was working at the Remondis Recycling Centre in Bedlington, Newcastle Upon Tyne, when he thought he heard a cry. Following the sound, he discovered the two-week-old kitten huddled in the bottom of a box.
Placing his hi-vis coat in the box for warmth, Jason rushed the kitten to his aunt Nicola’s home, knowing that as a cat lover she would know what to do in this situation.
Nicola Henderson said: “I opened the door to Jason and he said ‘you’ll never guess what’s in this box’; it was a complete surprise to see this tiny kitten in there. I could see he was very young, his eyes weren’t yet open, and I instinctively held him close to my chest to keep him warm and he snuggled into my collar bone.
“It just so happened I had been recently talking to the local Cats Protection branch about getting a new cat as a companion for my Darcy, so I had their number to hand. A volunteer arrived within 20 minutes.
“We have no idea how he ended up at the recycling centre, whether he was placed there by his mum or was dumped, but it doesn’t bare thinking about what could have happened if Jason hadn’t heard him.”
Sascha Dean, the co-ordinator of the East Northumberland Branch of Cats Protection, was able to get the kitten to the vet to be checked out before bringing him into care and embarking on hand-rearing Womble, as he’s now called, including round-the-clock feeding and helping him go to the toilet.
Sascha said: “The first few weeks were a very worrying time for all the volunteers here, and we didn’t know if Womble would make it. Fortunately, he got stronger and from that day in December when he was a shivering bundle of fur he has now grown into a 15-week-old healthy but mischievous boy.
“As he had no mother cat or siblings to teach him when to stop he has a boisterous nature, although he has calmed down considerably. Consequently, he will need to be adopted by an experienced owner, where there are no children or other pets.”
Womble’s story is one in a series of heart-wrenching cases East Northumberland Cats Protection has had to deal with recently, which has invigorated their resolve to educate more people on the importance of getting cats neutered.
Co-ordinator Sasha and her team of volunteers see first-hand the distress and suffering of pregnant cats who come into care, and kittens who have been abandoned or dumped.
She said: “Kittens that are too young to be away from their mothers can go downhill quickly. It can really upsetting, particularly for the volunteer fosterers, as these problems are largely preventable; if people got their cats neutered it would not be so common.”
Sasha is currently hand-rearing a kitten whose mother, Aphrodite, was abandoned when she was heavily pregnant. Within days of coming into care she went into labour but had to be rushed in for an emergency caesarean. One kitten was stillborn, another survived only 48 hours after weighing just 35g at birth. Kittens typically weigh between 90 and 110kg at birth.
Nugget was the only one who made it but soon his mother stopped producing milk so Sasha had to step in and bottle feed him.
“All of this could have been avoided if Aphy had been neutered,” said Sasha.
The branch is keen to share the benefits of neutering to prevent the cycle of unplanned pregnancies and kittens being born to mothers who cannot cope.
Male cats who are neutered are also less likely roam, which reduces the risk of them being involved in road traffic incidents and displaying territorial behaviour such as fighting, which assists in reducing the risk of injury or serious diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) or Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV).
The branch can offer financial assistance for those on mean-tested benefits; find out more information about the voucher scheme.