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15th December 2023

Five tiny kittens have survived illness, eye ulcers and their earliest weeks hidden under a shed to become a bouncing litter of festive cheer.

Four boys named Elf, Gnome, Imp and Sprite as well as a girl named Pixie were found under a shed in Helston by a member of the public who cared for the kittens initially. However, it soon became clear that the kittens’ mother was feral and therefore extremely fearful of human contact and would need to be humanely trapped, neutered and returned to her home at a later date. As the situation was complex and the kittens needed specialist care, Cats Protection’s Falmouth, Helston & District Branch was approached for help. 

The mainly black kittens were around five weeks old when they were taken in by the local branch of the feline welfare charity. They were all suffering from severe cat flu and needed urgent vet care. 

The kittens were taken straight to Highertown Veterinary Clinic in Truro within an hour of arriving in foster care. They were underweight and extremely unwell. Kittens should weigh around 600g at five weeks old and should still be cared for by their mother for at least a further four weeks. Elf weighed 530g, Sprite was 520g, Gnome was 510g, Imp weighed 450g and Pixie was the smallest and sickest at 385g. 

Branch Coordinator Paula Rosewarne says: “All the kittens were sneezing and had severe conjunctivitis. It was clear they needed to be urgently assessed by a veterinarian. Pixie and Sprite were noticeably very sick with painful eye ulcers and Pixie already had a ruptured eye which needed to be removed without delay, a risky operation for such a tiny unwell kitten. 

“The operation to remove Pixie’s right eye took place the day after she arrived and we were all so grateful she survived thanks to the vet care she received. The lovely vet nurse who cared for her throughout the day of her operation described her as a 'little miracle'.” 

The kittens are now around 11 weeks old and have been receiving round-the-clock care from their dedicated fosterer who is bathing their eyes and noses, administering antibiotic eye drops four times a day as well as providing oral antibiotics and oral pain relief for Pixie and Sprite who needed extra care for their stubborn eye ulcers. 

Paula adds: “In their first three weeks of care, the kittens needed ten veterinary appointments but they are coming in to their own little personalities as they recover. 

“Pixie is so gentle and loves to sit on a warm lap. Her favourite place to sleep is the radiator bed. Sprite is such a gorgeous kitten and even purrs when he is getting his medication. Imp wants to supervise his siblings' treatments and has found sitting on his fosterer’s head to be a good spot! Gnome is a vocal chatterbox and Elf, true to his name, loves to climb and explore the shelves. 

“Despite their challenging start to life, all the kittens are sweet and very friendly in nature. The boys purr all the time and ask to be picked up for a cuddle. Like kittens their age should, they all love to play and run around. It took Pixie a little longer to come out of her shell after her operation, but despite her limited vision she now plays happily with crinkly balls and balls with bells as well as catnip mice.” 

Cat flu is an illness that affects the upper respiratory tract, much like a cold or flu in humans. It is mainly caused by feline herpes virus and feline calicivirus. For cats who are very old, who have a damaged immune system or who are very young like Elf, Gnome, Sprite, Imp and Pixie, it can be more difficult to fight off infections and cat flu can be life threatening. It cannot be caught by humans but is spread between cats when they cough or sneeze. Read more about cat flu

The veterinary care for the kittens has cost £1416 so far with more appointments and medication needed. The branch, which fundraises to cover all the costs of cats and kittens in its care, has therefore set up a donation page for anyone who would like to contribute towards the kittens’ care.

There is also a wishlist for anybody wishing to send a gift or supplies direct to the kittens.

Cases like this highlight the importance of vaccinations to protect against illnesses like cat flu as well as neutering to prevent unwanted litters.

To find out more about the branch please visit their website, or call 03453 712 729. 

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