The little black and white kitten was only caught because she was weak and limping.
In fact, she was not far from being dead. Malnourished and riddled with fleas and worms, as well as having a sore leg, she was that bit slower than her mother and so was able to be picked up by two passers-by with an interest in cats.
It was the Friday before the Palmerston North Cat Club's big two-day 60th Jubilee show in May 2014. The committee members and helpers were setting up in the hall. One of the helpers and a rep for the show sponsor were the ones who picked up the tiny black and white kitten. One of the committee members was a vet (which was convenient) and everybody was interested in the wee kitten.
When she was examined she just lay there, no hissing or growling; she just lay flat when the vet and her assistant took their hands away from her. It was obvious that she wasn't very well. The vet thought she was about nine weeks old but would turn out to weigh only half of what she ought to for a kitten that age.
People rallied around. The sponsor's rep supplied a soft-sided carry cage for her and some food - and named her Lola. The vet consultation had already been done for free. Another helper supplied blankets and a heat pad to keep the kitten warm. Lola was taken home for the night to see if she would survive.
Lola did survive and the next morning she had the first of her regular weigh-ins; she was 514 grams. She had had flea treatment the night before and a shocking number of dead fleas in her bedding were the result. (Kittens can be overwhelmed by fleas and sometimes they die from anaemia caused by the blood loss.)
The cat show went on, but in a hall full of cat people most soon heard about the little kitten that had been rescued the day before. People asked after her and the club's committee members promised to put pictures up on Facebook so everybody could follow her progress.
By the Tuesday Lola had gained weight, now 630 grams. She was still very much underweight but by then she felt well enough to hiss and growl at people who came near her but she never struck out at anybody. Despite her protests she was given lots of cuddles because those important first weeks when a kitten is socialised to life with people were almost over and if she was to find a proper home she would need to be a well-socialised kitten.
Because Lola had been taken home by somebody with other cats in the house she had been put in quarantine until it was clear that she didn't carry diseases she could pass on to the other feline residents. Rather than keep her separated and with limited human contact during this important time another foster home was found for her where there were no other cats but two people home all day, and where her big pen could be set up in the living room, accustoming her to the comings and goings of a normal household.
For the next couple of weeks she learned to like humans. She experienced the normal things that go on in households and everybody who visited got to handle her so she learned to be friendly with a lot of people, and not just those she knew best.
Everybody who was interested in Lola's progress was kept up-to-date through Facebook postings and photos. This included cat lovers from all parts of New Zealand who had attended the show, and even the cat show judges from overseas who had been there that weekend. Lola had friends in the UK and Europe as well as closer at hand. But she still didn't have a permanent home.
Once Lola had learned to love people (and she learned it very well!) it was time for her to go back and learn to get along with other pets - cats and a dog. It was hoped this would help her by making her suitable to find a home with other cats and with dogs, as well as teaching her about playing nicely with other animals which a kitten would normally learn from being with its litter-mates.
By the beginning of June Lola's weight had reached 1 kg and that meant she could be desexed. Regardless of what home Lola went to she was going to be safe from going through what her mother had in having unwanted kittens that nobody was taking care of. The vet who did her spaying said Lola ' was the best behaved of my surgical patients and purred the whole way through her anaesthetic induction'. It seemed all that time getting her used to people and other pets was starting to pay off.
A week after her operation somebody offered Lola a home. Lola would be going to a reliable, cat-friendly home with an older cat and a human of her own. She had one more week at her foster home enjoying the company of her cat and human friends, and then went off to her new life where she settled in like she had been born there.
But that wasn't the last we saw of Lola! People were too interested in the fate of the little rescue cat and so we got a quick photo when Lola's new human brought her in to the vet for her next vaccinations. Then Lola came back to her foster home for a couple of weeks while her new human was on holiday. It was a great opportunity for the people who had been involved with Lola's 'rescue' to catch up with the lovely teenage cat she had become.
It took a very big commitment by a lot of people to turn Lola's life around from an underweight, not-far-from-death kitten into a lovely young cat.
Lola was just one kitten. Hundreds and hundreds of unwanted kittens have to be cared for and made ready for homes - if homes can be found for them - every kitten season. Some of the unwanted kittens aren't as lucky as Lola was but whether they find homes or not they all exist because people don't bother to have their pets desexed. Kittens can be desexed from about 12 weeks old (or 1 kg in weight) which is very young but at certain times of the year they can be getting pregnant from five months of age. Please don't let your kittens have kittens.