Field Biology

Median Kitten

I was super sick. It was “just a cold,” but I hadn’t felt so terrible from a cold since my sickly days in high school. (Two weeks later, Urgent Care would diagnose me with a sinus infection and bronchitis). But doody calls and I had to get a bird survey done before Monday. Work was starting on the median of Summerlin Parkway in Vegas, and I had to make sure no migratory bird nests were in harm’s way. I was scheduled to do it on Friday but I successfully convinced my boss I was dying and asked to postpone it a day, thinking I’d feel better on Saturday.

I was very wrong, but I had at least had the foresight to ask for another biologist to tag along so we could “leapfrog” the survey. This changed it from me walking 12 miles (6 miles of survey and then all the way back to the truck) to each of us only walking 3 miles. Still, hardest 3 miles ever. I honestly was so sick that I don’t remember a lot of the survey. I know I did a good job though because I found such treasures as a dead burrowing owl, several inactive nests, a fallen egg and a kitten.

Yup, a kitten. Through the dense brain fog that comes with the over-production of snot, I made out the huddled shape of a little cat under a bush, right there in the noisy median of the highway. We stared at each other. Finally, I said “Hi.” It meeped at me. I took a step towards it. Staying low, kitten slinked around the bush. I stopped. Kitten stopped, meeped at me. This could go horribly wrong, I thought, envisioning the scared kitty darting out into traffic and turning into tomato paste in front of my eyes. I’d never recover. But I had to try. I channeled “calm and confident” and tried again. Kitty slinked around to the other side of the bush. We played this game two more times before I ran out of energy.

I sat down two feet from the kitten. She stared at me, eyes wide. I told her things like “I know you’re scared” and “you can trust me.” After every sentence, she meeped back at me. She wanted help. I reached out my hand to her. She flinched, then sniffed it. I snuck a finger to scratch behind her ear and OMG BEST FEELING EVER! She leaned into my hand so fast. After that, she was willing to put her fate in my hands. I scooped up the tiny bag of bones and walked along the highway back to the truck. She only wiggled a couple times.

I put her in the back seat of the truck, praying she wouldn’t bolt. But she had no intention of leaving. I filled the lid of my Nalgene with water and little kitty dove straight into it, not lifting her head up until the lid was drained. I filled it again, but I was afraid she’d get sick if I gave her more.

At this point, the other biologist, Chelcee, had reached the truck. I showed her my lucky find and she was just as smitten as I was. Neither of us really had anything to feed the kitty. I offered her my PB&J but she was not interested in that. It was only 7am, too early to take her to a shelter or a vet. Besides, I wanted to bang out this survey before it got too hot. I was already pouring an unnaturally high volume of sweat from my face, as Chelcee kindly pointed out. I told her I had a fever. I’m not sure if I did but it seemed like a good excuse for sweating so much.

Anyways, we left the kitten in the truck. Yes, I know. Horrible. But we kept the cab shaded, cracked the windows. It was warm outside but we monitored the cab temperature and it only got up to 80*. She’d been out in 108* for who knows how long, so we didn’t worry. One of us was at the truck every 20 minutes to move it and offer kitty a lid-full of water. When I needed a potty break, we went to a gas station and I bought her a turkey sandwich. She didn’t even wait for me to tear up the meat!

She was so cute. Every time if get in the truck she’d emerge from the backseat and crawl into my lap, meeping the whole time until I pet her. She was just as starved for love as she was food and water. Kitty, how did you get in the middle of a freeway?

By the time we’d finished the survey, Chelcee had decided to keep the kitty. She took her home, gave her 3 baths, and took her to the vet. She was obviously very dehydrated and malnourished. Her paw pads were burnt from the ground. She had healed and not healed blistered sunburns. She had a wound on her leg, possibly from a predator. But she was safe now, and she knew it.


Later that day, snuggling with Chelcee

a week later, looking like a new cat!


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