Come meet Peabody, my very special orphaned kitten who is not a kitten anymore! He’s now Peabody, Wonder Cat, and such a special, special boy.
Peabody is a medium-haired black cat. This means he is really hard to photograph by artificial light inside and he’s always doing something seriously cute when I don’t have the best light. I don’t take him outside a lot, so sorry about the low-quality photos!
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Around January 28, 2019, a calico cat belonging to an older couple had a litter of 7 kittens. SEVEN! This was her second litter of kittens.
(None of the cats belonging to this couple had been fixed and I was told they go in and outside. The daughter-in-law told me there is likely a lot of inbreeding going on.)
This little boy was rejected by the mother immediately and was left for an entire day without nursing or care, I was told. I am uncertain the mother ever fed him or even cleaned the afterbirth off of him, which is not good. The first few hours of mother’s milk are vital to a kitten’s immune system as it contains antibodies from the mother cat that will help the kitten for the first few weeks of life.
The daughter and her wife found the kitten on the kitchen floor and took him home. They posted around Facebook regarding anyone who could bottle feed a neonatal kitten and as they had almost no answers after a day, I responded. I agreed to take him temporarily until someone with more experience with kittens that young could return from New Orleans.
They brought him to me in a little box with a heating pad, nipples, and some supplies. They told me they named him Peabody and they were going to keep him once he was older.
I was kind of freaking out about it. I am an experienced bottle feeder. With older kittens that don’t need to be stimulated to go to the bathroom. A two-day-old neonate? I was TERRIFIED!
Turns out the person who was supposed to come to pick him up had a family emergency and was unable to make it for a few weeks and by then, he was old enough I was comfortable continuing his care.
The First Five Weeks
For the first five weeks of Peabody’s life, he was the perfect neonatal orphaned kitten. Other than escape attempts that no little neonate should be able to accomplish, anyway.
For the first three weeks, I ended up having to keep him in a carrier to protect him from the other cats. I am highly suspicious that they thought he was some sort of rat or something at first. They kept trying to play with him as if he were one, anyway!
He was alone, which broke my heart. But other than feeding and potty and cleaning him up, he was too young to be handled a lot. He needed sleep and to stay warm.
Once he reached 2 weeks old, I started allowing him to sleep around with me on the bed and the like unless I was asleep, because as I mentioned, a single orphaned kitten is a sad experience. They need to have a mother and siblings to cuddle with and he did not. I wasn’t equipped like some places with one of those cool stuffed animals with a heartbeat and had to make do with a little stuffed horse toy.
It wasn’t the same as having a mother and a litter of kittens at all.
Around 3 weeks, he would nurse on the syringe and go and curl up by himself on my pillow. It broke my heart. I had to do something! I rigged up a little box on my bed so he could sleep with me, keeping him curled up next to my face with my hand in his ‘bed’. I did NOT want to squish him in my sleep, he was so tiny!
(Public Service Announcement: Do not sleep with young kittens unless you have a way to keep them away from your sleeping body. You can smother them easily if you roll over and not even realize it!)
Sadly, he did escape his ‘bed’ often and freaked me out by sleeping against my lower back. I finally got him to sleep in the crook of my arm, next to my face every night. I got lucky, folks. I am a supremely light sleeper and knowing the kitten was there made it worse. I woke up every time he moved.
I also had to get up once every night by this time for feeding, so it was better. But mostly, don’t do this. I felt too sorry for him by himself and the other cats wouldn’t sleep with him like that during this time, so I did something that could have had a very bad ending.
He had no problems putting on weight, going to the bathroom (mostly), or anything else that comes with having a neonatal kitten for the next two weeks either. He continued to sleep in the crook of my arm every night. He didn’t often purr nor was he supremely cuddly, but he was no longer alone.
Upper Respiratory Infection (Oh No!)
In mid-February, I got two of my foster cats (both females) fixed. At the same time, I brought home two feral teenage boys (unfixed at first) from our local feral cat group, Wild Cat Foundation. A couple of weeks later, the first week of March or so, I brought the two boys in to be fixed (covered by the above mentioned feral cat group).
During those two trips to get fixed, someone brought home an upper respiratory infection (URI). Upper respiratory infections in cats are basically kitty colds.
Most URIs are viral that must run their course. Sometimes the cat requires help alleviating the symptoms because they’re miserable with severe symptoms. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat a secondary infection or prevent one. Lastly, sometimes high fevers and the stuffy nose reduces appetite which could lead to a cat becoming very sick.
It’s very important to remember that URIs in kittens can be extremely dangerous, however.
It took a while, but we had some stuffy and sneezy cats, they passed it around and ended up giving it to Peabody. Since I wasn’t aware they had contracted anything, I didn’t quarantine anyone after the spay and neuter surgeries. After all, they were healthy before the surgery!
Peabody got runny eyes and a slight sneeze. The eye was the issue as it required a trip to the vet. Unfortunately, the first of many trips for Peabody. (My poor wallet!)
He received the usual for a cat with an upper respiratory infection: Clavamox and tobramycin, an antibiotic eye drop for his inflamed eye. His eye and sneezing cleared up in three days, though the medication was continued as directed.
Mysterious Diarrhea of Death
The VERY same night I got him home from the vet, he started leaking poo out of his anus. Which was really weird, because he did NOT have diarrhea before his vet visit. He had had his temperature taken rectally, and I had never seen cats have issues afterward.
I called the vet to ask, just in case. He said he had never seen it, but he wasn’t going to say for sure that wasn’t the cause. The vet asked about his food.
Peabody had been on kitten formula (KMR) and started to eat dry cat food. He wouldn’t eat wet kitten food or even wet cat food, he wanted crunchy food or formula or water. Nothing else. I had also had to put up the cat food as he preferred their food to the kitten dry food.
He had a diarrhea explosion after that and even was throwing up the next day. It was back in to see the vet. Fluids, temperature check, fecal test, and no answers, but we kept an eye on him because he wasn’t majorly sick and short of doing hundreds of dollars worth of blood tests, I simply opted to observe him.
The vomiting stopped, but the diarrhea did not. Back in AGAIN, to the vet.
Another fecal test, no parasites. Still no fever. But bad, leaky, watery diarrhea. More fluids, probiotics and we decided to treat for coccidia (a protozoan parasite), even though the test was clear.
No change. Called the vet back. He let me bring him in for an anti-inflammatory steroid shot, which DID help, temporarily.
Peabody was not doing well and was looking so bad. He stopped wanting to eat, was losing weight and getting dehydrated despite all we did. The only thing he did want was formula so I kept trying to give him whatever he wanted. It simply went right through him. No joke, he was pooing formula.
He was now 7-8 weeks old and dying. As the above picture shows, he was so thin, losing hair on his tail because of major diarrhea and couldn’t even stand to have his rear end cleaned anymore. Canned pumpkin didn’t even help and that usually is my go-to for kitten diarrhea!
I went and bought an anti-diarrhea medicine for cats. I decided as they couldn’t find anything major wrong that I was going to STOP the diarrhea enough to let him recover some of his strength.
I never do this because you’re treating the symptom, not the cause, and you never know if something is majorly wrong if you can’t see his poop. You also don’t know if a treatment is working either.
But he was dying, I was broke by this point, and I needed him to start gaining strength.
It worked. His poop stopped leaking everywhere, I hand-fed him chicken baby food. He put on weight, etc. After a couple more weeks, I took him off the anti-diarrhea medicine. He seemed fine for a while.
Unfortunately, this didn’t last, although it never got as bad as before. He had no parasites, no other symptoms, but nothing was working. By this time, other cats started having diarrhea.
I was like, what… in…. the… hell.
I decided to treat them for Giardia with Panacur/Safeguard since that was the last of the common parasites. I had already treated for worms by deworming my cats and Peabody previously. Peabody had been treated for coccidia with no change at all. So Giardia treatment time.
It had no effect. Grrr.
Back on the anti-diarrhea medicine for Peabody, as he was leaking.
Around this time, I had started to let Tweety and his brother, Marbles, out into the barns. They were former feral teenagers that I socialized, but they didn’t become social enough to handle adoption. So I decided, I would have to keep them in my colony.
I noticed that Tweety’s diarrhea was much better after going outside. Hmmm. Are the cats not getting enough exercise inside? (Exercise is important for a cat’s digestion.) Is it exposure to nature’s bacteria and other stuff that helps diarrhea? What?
I didn’t care. So I started allowing Peabody to follow me around outside. I have never had a problem with cats getting diarrhea from lack of exercise, so I’m not sure if this is the cause or not. Or if it’s being exposed to other germs. And Peabody is a kitten who should therefore naturally get enough exercise because they are HYPER.
It didn’t matter the reason, because it worked!
Peabody’s diarrhea disappeared.
New Problem: Ringworm
Now, prior to solving the diarrhea problem (and before being allowed to go outside), Peabody started losing some hair along his tail. At first, it looked like his hair was lying down. A little weird, but nothing major. Because Peabody is a black cat with black skin it was really hard to tell, but soon it became obvious.
Then he started getting spots of missing fur on his ears. His head. The back. Even a paw.
When he started having a few obvious gray hairs, and then I started getting a couple of weird spots on ME, I realized what it was. I was confused by the diarrhea problem and thought it had something to do with not getting enough nutrients.
It wasn’t. It was ringworm. Ringworm is not an actual worm, but is a fungal infection, like athlete’s foot or similar, except it is contagious.
The OTHER reason I missed it is because NONE of the other cats he came into contact with inside had ringworm. Not one cat in my barn outside had ringworm. I have NO clue where he got it.
The only thing I can guess is that I must have pet a cat in another barn that had it and took it home to Peabody. Adult cats can have ringworm and show little sign of it. If they have a good immune system, it means they don’t catch it as bad if they catch it at all. As Peabody was a kitten, with lowered immunity, he is the only one who ‘caught’ it.
Ringworm is not as bad as it sounds. Being a fungal infection, it’s fairly easy to treat. It is just a long process. I did a lime sulfur dip and a topical antifungal cream, I can’t remember which one specifically. Luckily, it started working.
Now: 8 Months Old in October 2019
Now that he’s recovering from all of that, I now know he’s a medium-haired black cat. He’s gorgeous with super soft fur. His tail hasn’t finished growing out the missing hair, but it’s looking better every week! He’s still kind of small for 8 months old. He looked 4 months at 7 months. He’s finally growing up now, though.
Peabody grew very slowly after all of this crazy stuff happening to him. He even dropped his testicles a little late at somewhere near 5 months old. As of this month, he’s just past 8 months old and still hasn’t been neutered simply because I wanted to be sure his ringworm is completely gone before I expose my favorite low-cost spay and neuter clinic to a contagious fungus.
Peabody will not eat wet food of any kind. I’ve tried. The closest is that he likes the Friskies Lil’ Soups. He loves treats. He likes to stick his nose in my food, even if he almost never wants to actually eat it. He loves dry food and will literally starve before he will eat wet food. So weird.
He was also delayed when growing up. It took him longer to potty by himself. It took him forever to figure out the litter box is not just for poop. It took him an extra week to even start playing (and he was healthy then). He also did NOT want to stop kitten formula, but I do believe in letting the kitten set the weaning pace, so he was eating it kind of late. I actually had to buy the Kitten Milk Replacement (KMR) 2nd step to help him along with at least TRYING food.
Peabody is also not a purring cat, even now. He’s not super lovable. He loves being near me. Sometimes he’ll purr. He leans into chin scratches. But otherwise, he just sits in my lap or chest or beside me on my laptop stand, not purring or rubbing.
Oddly enough, my little black foster cat here loves watching television, my computer screen or my phone when I have any sort of video on. Crazy.
Peabody’s Little Issue
Peabody does have one issue that is going to cause me to be very picky about his furever home.
Normally, I want all my rescue cats to be indoor cats. I know that I care for barn cats and have two rescues who go outside. However, that is because the circumstances made it so it was either the cat’s happiness outside or safety inside, where they were miserable. They did not like being inside and I started really late at trying to acclimate them to it. I chose to rescue feral and barn cats and that is why I have outdoor kitties.
I believe all pet cats should be indoor-only if at all possible and only allowed outdoors in catios or on leashes. Unless the cat grew up on the streets and absolutely hates being indoors all the time. There are some excellent ways to provide the same outdoor enrichment a cat needs AND keep them inside.
However, with Peabody, he absolutely 100% has to be an indoor-only cat.
I started allowing him to follow me around during the calm afternoons when I was cleaning or doing laundry or something in the barns. But he once darted out of the door in the dark and as he’s black and was very small, I didn’t see him. He ended up missing for an entire 16 hours before I found him in the barn next door.
The next time, he was following me around and I turned my back to finish up my errand and he was gone. I searched the nearby barns and found him a few hours later THREE barns down from where home is.
Last time, same deal, but he was gone for nearly 36 hours and I found him nearly five barns away!
This is after following me around our ‘home’ barn for a few months. He should absolutely know where home is by now. He does not.
Peabody has no sense of direction. Or he has no territorial instincts. Or no fear and he just gets confused.
He has never found his way home. Not one time. Except when he follows me into our home barn, he has no clue where it is. He lacks something that enables this, which is odd.
He can never be a barn cat or an indoor/outdoor cat. I’m happy about that. He deserves a long, safe life inside. But in his case, it’s not just a choice. It’s a necessity.
You got it! Come meet Peabody, Wonder Cat on YouTube! I talked about some of his story there. You can also watch him try to climb a metal pole!