In early November, an 11-week old abandoned kitten was found nearly lifeless, curled into a basement corner at Mount Ida College in Newton. Its gray-and-white fur blended with the cement.
“There was no movement at first,” said Theresa Vinic, community cat rescue agent with the Animal Rescue League of Boston, who recovered the kitten. “I thought he was dead.”
The league is calling this kitten’s recovery an early holiday-season miracle. Staff at the school had called the organization about a mother cat and her kittens seen wandering around campus.
But on that fall morning, the staff heard just one kitten crying in the stairwell before watching him scamper into the basement.
She doesn’t know how long the tiny feline was down there alone without any food or water.
The small body was cold and barely responsive. She scooped the kitten into a carrier and drove to the league’s Dedham Animal Care and Adoption Center. Vinic called the shelter and told an employee, “Let the vets know I’m coming. I have an emergency, and basically they need to drop everything if there is any chance of us saving this kitten.”
The kitten arrived with a temperature that was below what the thermometer could register, and a faint heartbeat. He was gasping for air.
They’re known as agonal breaths, league staff said. It’s the body’s last-ditch effort to deliver oxygen to vital organs. It’s what animals and humans do before they die.
“He was in such a bad place when he came in,” league veterinarian Kate Gollon said. “I honestly didn’t think this would have a positive outcome. But I thought, ‘Let’s just give this a try.’ ”
Gollon relied on three life-saving measures: hydration, warmth, and dextrose to raise the kitten’s sugar level. He was placed on a towel and wrapped in a heating pad to warm him up. An intravenous line delivered fluids and dextrose.
“It was 10 to 15 minutes before we started getting real breaths,” Vinic said, “rather than just an occasional very minimal rise and fall from the chest.”
Despite a series of seizures, likely related to low blood-sugar levels, the kitten was eventually able to eat.
Once malnourished, dehydrated, and close to death, the kitten has gained a pound in the last two weeks and is on the road to recovery. He will soon be up for adoption.
They’ve named him Lawrence, after the vet tech, Lauren Litif, who administered the IV catheter that saved his life. It was Litif’s birthday the day she saved Lawrence. She’s also a graduate of Mount Ida College.
Gollon called it one of the most rewarding cases of her career.
“He’s so cute,” Gollon said. “He’s the type of cat that just wants to be next to you purring and kneading and purring. He really enjoys human companionship.”Cristela Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.