After a typically tedious day at work (usual illiterate emails, crap left in the sink for me to put in dishwasher), I went along to Medivet with Maureen. Maureen is a mink Berkshire rat of about eight months, who had developed a tumour in what I suppose would be her groin. The vet removed the lump at vast expense, and I had to go back today for a post-op checkup.

Maureen has been in solitary confinement since the operation last Friday, in a cage slightly bigger than a shoebox. Her two half sisters, Pamela and Agnes, are too rumbunctious for Maureen at the moment, since she has a two-inch scar on her belly and they would undoubtely damage her stitches. So Maureen, easily the most intelligent and outgoing rat of the three, has been in her little cell.

The vet kept me waiting for some time, and while I hung around reading last week’s free local paper (when you pay 200 for something the size of a marble to be removed from something the size of a mobile phone, I expect better reading material), I heard shrieks of delight from the reception. The nurses were playing with something small, wriggly and black, about the same size as Maureen. I couldn’t work out what it was from where I was sitting, and then the vet called me in.

After giving Maureen the once-over and sentencing her to another week in chokey to heal, he invited me to see the black creature that was causing such excitement. It was a three-day-old black and white kitten, being hand-reared by one of the nurses. The kitten was so tiny it could sit on my hand and had yet to open its eyes. Maureen looked up, intrigued. Here was a cat, and it was smaller than her.

The kitten tried earnestly to suckle the palm of my hand and still had its umbilical cord attached. The nurse told me that this kitten had been found mewing, tied up in a bin liner and dumped with some rubbish for the bin men to take away (they come on Monday mornings, so this kitten was lucky to be found when it was).

Cats are notoriously promiscuous, and animal charities constantly harp on about the need to neuter or spey pet cats. It’s quite possible that this kitten’s mother was very young, and had had just the one. The owner either didn’t know or didn’t care that their cat wasn’t speyed, and when she produced a kitten, didn’t even have the guts to despatch the unwanted offspring humanely, but simply threw it away.

Maybe they had their reasons, no matter how warped. Maybe the cat’s owner was too old, too young or simply panicked when they realised they had two cats, instead of one. Regardless of that, I think it takes a certain psychopathic tendency to treat any living thing in that way.

But before I despair of human nature (and I’ve had a lot of strangely natured humans whining at me this week, seemingly unable to exercise any sort of critical facility on a piece of unsubstantiated tripe from a former circus performer in Iraq, to the extent that an attack on the writing is taken as tacit admission that Iraq is a lovely place to live and everyone’s fine), I thought about the nurse.

She looks about 17 or 18, and her badge says she’s a trainee. She was handed this kitten by the person who found it, and took it upon herself to hand rear the animal. Hand rearing any baby animal, of course, involves regular feeding – in this case, every two hours, day and night.

So, in a half-mile radius of my house, there is a person who will throw a live kitten in a dustbin and another who will stay up all night hand-feeding it with an eye dropper.

Funny old world. Of course, one kitten is neither here nor there, but I hope it survives. In a perfect, comic book world, that kitten would grow up to be an enormous, stinking tomcat, track down his mother and exact his revenge on the humans that would throw him in the wheelie bin by piddling all over the house, scratching furniture, curtains and wallpaper and finally depositing a big cat turd behind the TV. He’d watch, covertly, the people’s confusion and eventual horror as they turned the house upside down to locate the source of the fetid pong.

Probably not.. apart from anything else, the nurse thinks the kitten’s female.

Update: Friday 20th August – Maureen’s healing fine and the kitten is doing well.

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