Kittens Find Caretakers on Campus

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October 5, 2005

Graduate student Jill Seymore was working on a computer in the CPM building last Monday when she became distracted by a strange call from what she thought was a bird outside the window. When the call grew increasingly distressed, Seymore, an animal lover, went outside to investigate. To her surprise, the relentless noise wasn’t coming from any type of bird – it was the cries of two dainty palm-sized kittens crawling through the ivy outside of the physics lab.

With the help of faculty members Pam Ralston and Joe Scullion, Seymore rounded up the tiny orange tabby and the grey and white kitten. “They were cold and dehydrated,” Seymore said. “I didn’t think the mom would come back.”

After being plucked from the ivy, the lucky little kittens had found themselves in the care of Seymore and her girlfriend, post-bac student Tasha Roos, who happens to be employed nearby as a veterinary technician. The women provided them with a temporary home in the form of a cardboard box. The kittens’ makeshift-mama consisted of a large latex glove filled repeatedly with warm water and then covered with a yellow terry cloth towel. Mother’s milk was substituted with a syringe full of special kitten formula designed for situations such as these and available at a local pet store.

By Thursday, after a whirlwind conundrum of “what to do with the kittens?” that left them frustrated, sleep-deprived and relieved as first-time parents, the grey and white kitten had gone to a new home. The women were down to just one kitten, the tabby with the baby blue eyes.

Their first course of action was to place a couple of phone calls to Oakland’s animal control center and the SPCA. Both were closed.

Then they took a trip to the Berkeley Animal Shelter. That didn’t work out either. Not only was it closed, the drop boxes provided for after hours were already full of abandoned animals. Little did they know that would turn out to be a blessing.

The next day, the women took the kittens to Roos’ job, Kensington Vet, where a vet checked them out and determined that they were only two weeks old and severely dehydrated. After giving the tiny patients fluids, the next step in their special treatment was a long and extensive flea bath.

“Water was floating with so many dead fleas,” said Roos. “It was the color of dark tea.”

Once the kittens were hydrated and de-flead, their guardians took them to Oakland’s Pet Emergency Treatment Center to inquire about finding a suitable home for the kittens. The weary couple spoke to a sympathetic employee and relayed the chain of events that led up to their arrival at the center with a box of tiny kittens still too young to survive without round-the-clock care.

“She said they would have been euthanized at the Berkeley Animal Shelter because they’re too young,” said Roos. The woman wound up taking home the grey and white kitten.

Judging from the exhaustion that hung over Roos like a heavy blanket as she sat in the Tea Shop on Thursday, only one thriving kitten does not alleviate the sleep deprivation that comes from the kitten’s constant crying during the night. The kitten is apparently very unhappy about being secluded in the bathroom – away from the three big cats that run the apartment Roos and Seymore share with a roommate.

It was hard to imagine this tiny kitten causing so much trouble by the way the tabby slept curled into a little dollup of fur on the chest of their friend, senior Winnifred Wallace who sat next to Roos with a kitten-less box between her legs. Although the kitten has taken to her, Wallace insisted that she is not interested in adopting the kitten whose fur color perfectly matches her long strawberry-blond hair. “I’ve fostered a pregnant mom and kept one,” she said. “Now I have three.”

“As long as it finds a good home I’m happy,” said Roos.

Roos and Seymore and others animal lovers like them, may have their work cut out for them. As reported in The Weekly last semester, generations of feral cats have made Mills their oasis. Campus Facilities director Paul Richards said that the feral cat population continues to bloom with many litters of kittens being spotted on campus each spring.


Kittens Find Caretakers on Campus was published on October 5, 2005 in Features

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