The Kingston Concentration Camp Victims

Goliath Before & AfterOtherwise known as The Giants this crowd were rescued from Kinston’s Concentration Camp near Bantry, Co Cork.

The Giants’ Story

Please click the titles to see the story chapters.

Goliath (pictured right)

Bob, a tenant at Kingston’s farm in the Mealagh Valley, just outside Bantry, Co Cork, was concerned about the state of the 26 cats at the farm and contacted us to see if we could help. His daughter, Ashley, was particularly concerned about the health of some of the kittens. We arranged to start a Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) program but we had no room for any more kittens. Ashley insisted that at least one of the kittens was blind and I figured we could always fit one more in. She brought us Goliath at the beginning of August 2007.

I was horrified. He looked like a concentration camp survivor. Skin and bone, snotty, eyes cloudy and white with mucus. I was nearly in tears just looking at him, never seen anything like it and I’ve seen kittens in pretty bad states before. And despite all that he had a fair bit of energy in him and was the friendliest wee thing towards the other cats & kittens and us humans alike.

So we dosed him with antibiotics, treated his eyes with gel and drops, fed him up and welcomed him into our home.

We kept him in the training cage for a day or so, much to his, very vocal, disgust. And when we let him out the Furrball Purrfest was complete. The Chocolates and Banjax took him on as their own, cleaned him, snuggled up to him, played with him and purred with him.

If you haven’t gathered already, Goliath’s only real problem had been malnutrition and lack of care. He was the same age as the Chocolates and yet half their size (see his Image Gallery for pics). Sometimes their play was a bit rough for him because of their size but he held his own and protested with outraged squeals. He went from strength to strength. His body filled out, his eyes healed, becoming clear as day, no sign of the blindness that threatened when he first came.

Now Goliath loves everyone and everyone loves Goliath. A more good natured cat you’ll not find often. He’s a real gent, incredibly polite, waiting patiently while the others eat if there’s no spare food bowl – I’d wonder if that was why he was so malnourished when he turned up if other kittens hadn’t been just as skeletal.

I’m ridiculously proud of Goliath and would love to know how he gets on in the UK. If you adopt him please let me know how he fares – you’ll get my contact details at the bottom of this website – or use our contact form!

Jupiter, Fell, Titan & Orion

And once Jenni and I had seen the state of Goliath we knew we couldn’t leave the other kittens we’d heard about at the farm, space or no space. So we set off the week after Goliath arrived and on our first visit picked up the worst of the survivors: Fell, Titan and Orion. All were in a similar state to Goliath and they seemed to respond well to treatment, as he had done. Of all of them Fell seemed not to thrive. He was the most timid and his third eyelid had grown onto his eyeball, probably from an old untreated injury. Although the milkiness of his eyes improved there was only so far they could go. We gave them all names they could grow into. Big names for tiny creatures who must have had great strength to have survived at all.

Then another week later we packed our trapping gear and went back to the farm. The first trip we only got 4 adults. One of them was Jupiter, a nine year old female with siamese-like markings. Ashley told us Jupiter had had flu symptoms as long as they’d lived there (several years) and she’d probably had untreated flu for most of her life. When it came time to release the neutered adults we decided to keep hold of Jupiter for a wee while to treat her symptoms, thinking she’d little chance otherwise. Again she was stick thin, rheumy eyed and sneezy/snotty. She seemed feral, hissed and spat and clawed at us when we went near but Jenni persisted and she soon settled. I was amazed at the change – it’s seldom that truly feral cats will tame down but Jupiter had obviously received some kindness in her life and responded to the domestic environment – she’s now as soft as anything, if a bit bossy.

In Memoria: Orion & Titan

Anyway, we put the three kittens, Fell, Titan and Orion in with Jupiter in a large cage and Fell was ecstatic. We can’t be sure of the exact kinships but this lot were definitely related to each other and we felt Jupiter was almost definitely Fell’s mum from his reaction to her. Titan was pretty pleased to see her too. And she took to nursing them all with great aplomb. Fell began to thrive. But Titan and Orion started backsliding.

First Orion went downhill. We put him on a drip but he developed a blocked bowel. He couldn’t pass urine or poo. Neither conventional nor homeopathic medicine seemed to help. I kept him beside me at night and the other kittens came around to see how he was doing and give him a wee clean and some comfort. Towards the end of August, only a few weeks after we got him, Orion died. I couldn’t believe we couldn’t save him. Goliath had gone from strength to strength and it didn’t cross my mind that our care couldn’t save the others too. Orion was buried in Jenni’s back garden.

At the same time Titan was starting to slide. Nothing specific to treat, just a general malaise and lack of thriving. See him to the right beside Goliath, both the same age, now Titan is half the size. Again we tried conventional and homeopathic medicines, loving care, plain diet. I kept him beside me at night. By this time I was wondering if Goliath had thrived because he was surrounded by warm, caring bodies from day one (the rest of the family had been kept separate from the house) and was determined that Titan should recieve the same care. But he died in his sleep beside me at 5am one morning.

Both he and Orion had been playful, friendly wee things. It broke my heart we couldn’t save them. Didn’t even occur to me we couldn’t until the last days.

I still wonder if we were wrong to have put them in with Jupiter, flu and all. If we should have integrated them in with the other kittens straight away. If there was anything else we could have done. But, as Jenni says, both deaths were a direct result of the malnutrition and lack of care they encountered in their young kittenhood, and undoubtedly the malnutrition of their mother during and after pregnancy. If we had left them at the farm they would have had no chance at all. At least their last weeks were in a warm, healthy environment with plenty food, treatment and care for them.

So I buried Titan in my back garden. I’ve never buried an animal before and it was amazingly cathartic. I had a tiny basket made of recycled newspaper that he fit right in, put some toys and flowers beside him and surrounded him with willow twigs, some straw decorations, a pipe for flowers and a candle for remembrance. I’ll plant more willow this winter and it’ll grow thick and fast in the spring, allowing me to weave a memorial around him. And now there’s a tiny area of peace in my garden.

Maybe you’ll think I’m barking mad but Titan is the fourth kitten to die in my care this year and the grave, for me, serves as a memorial for all the animals mistreated and killed so needlessly by human carelessness and cruelty. Looking at the pictures above, the state of these kittens when they first arrived, I can’t believe anyone with a spark of humanity in their hearts can look on such vulnerable creatures and not help them. How they can walk past them every day and not do something? How they can say they care (as the Kingston farmer does!?!!)?

Fell and Jupiter

While we were nursing and then mourning Titan and Orion, Fell was going from strength to strength. Absolutely devoted to Jupiter she seemed to give him the energy to grow and recover. I opened the rest of the house to the two of them and, as Jupiter became more and more friendly, Fell joined the Furrball Purrfest. His eye would never be perfect but he would become soft furred, full bellied, happy and healthy.

Fell remains devoted to his mum, Jupiter. He’s still very timid and took a fair while to tolerate me patting him. But he gets on extremely well with other cats and has even adopted two tiny wee kittens who joined the throng here recently. A lovely, good natured cat, he will take a while to win over but he deserves the input after the dreadful beginnings he’s come from.

We tested Jupiter for FIV and FeLV in November 2007 – and found her negative on both counts. We’re assuming from this that this family will all be free of the viruses – Jupiter looks after her territory very well and, by all accounts, was quite ferocious before she discovered the joys of living in a house. We’re assuming she’d have been in plenty of fights and that if FIV had been around the farm she could not have avoided catching it. For this reason we reckon all the kittens will be FIV & FeLV free too.

Jupiter is a proud mum. She’s not only nursed her own kittens but nearly every other small kitten that’s come in while she’s been here. She’s fiercely defensive of her home turf and has given short shrift to a couple of neighbouring cats that keep trying to come in, while at the same time keeping an eye on the kittens in her care (21 at one point). She is less tolerant of the resident adult cats but doesn’t bother about them much as she obviously considers herself queen of the roost. All the kittens love her.

She’s chronically snotty, we’re assuming from having untreated flu for so long, but has been very healthy otherwise and the odd sneezing fit doesn’t seem to bother her. We also think her sight might not be great, at least her peripheral vision, long term untreated eye problems taking their toll. We’re hoping UK vets might be able to help her more!

Timmy and Cleo

Back at the Kingston farm we had presented the farmer with a bill itemising the fees vets would normally charge for the neutering and treatment of all his cats alongside the much reduced, actual fees we would be forking out – all this not including our own free and voluntary services. We didn’t get a penny from the man. Not one cent.

When we returned to the Kingston farm again to complete the TNR program we were surprised to find very few cats and only four kittens. We can only assume the farmer had instigated a killing spree. We were told that in the past kittens had simply disappeared, presumably drowned or killed in some other way. Obviously much cheaper than our own, humane methods.

Cleo was sound asleep on a straw bale and, much to her disgust, I was able to grab her without any trouble. Timmy took a bit more time and was Furious at being trapped. Both were skinny and a bit fluey but nothing like as bad as the other kittens we’d found at this farm. Of the remaining two kittens, the farmer’s wife was keeping one and we hadn’t a hope of getting the other so we left them be, figuring that the remaining animals weren’t in too bad nick so might be okay now the numbers were diminished. Obviously we’ll go back and get them neutered when they’re old enough.

Cleo & Timmy were fostered by Lorna & Frank for a good while until the ringworm set in in the Autumn. It seemed more sensible for me to keep all the ringworm cats and try and keep it contained. Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a special group of fungi; it is not caused by a worm at all. In multi-cat households it can be a real problem to get rid of.

The pair of them joined in with the rest of the gang with no trouble. Timmy was pretty timid but has warmed up considerably – he’ll still need wooing when you first meet him but he’ll warm up into a wonderful companion. Cleo’s a deliciously affectionate wee thing but absolutely Hated being picked up when she first arrived. I’ve worked on this and she’ll tolerate being picked up if her forepaws are put on your shoulder and she’s getting better all the time. I don’t know them quite as well as the other kittens as they haven’t been with me so long. They both get on well with humans they know and with other cats but are timid of strangers (and who can blame them!).

Timmy has developed into quite the tubster – I presume he’s making up for lost time on the food front. Cleo is extremely chatty and keeps you up to date on what she’s thinking and doing. Both are very food oriented and the simplest way to make friends with them is to feed them.

Some Thoughts

The second time we went trapping at the Kingston farm we found, to our horror, a wee six month old puppy kept in a coal cellar – she was only let out when the tenant had time, the farmer didn’t seem to bother about her at all. Daylight only reached her through tiny holes in the door and she had less than four foot square to move around in. And further up from the barn we found the home of the collie you see to the right – a metal door leant against an earth embankment. She’s kept here when she’s not working. A bowl is available for her outside this shelter and she’s kept on a chain. There’s no drainage and the shelter is open at both ends. It rains a lot in Ireland, in case you hadn’t heard.

The dogs didn’t look in too bad nick, unlike the kittens and cats we found, but this shelter is far from adequate. And most people with half a clue would agree it’s inhumane. But if we report the farmer for cruelty we’ll be lucky if he gets a slap on the wrists let alone any serious come back – the law here is ridiculously lax when it comes to animal rights. One person, on hearing the story, suggested kidnapping the dogs and rehoming them – but the farmer will just get more and treat them the same way. If we do report him, none of the farmers will ever want us to come to their farms to carry out a humane TNR program (in case we report them) and we’ll never get on top of the huge overpopulation of cats in West Cork – and animals will continue to live horrific lives of starvation and mistreatment.

I don’t know where to go with this. Catch 22.

Addendum

All these cats are lucky to be alive and deserve the best homes. They get on well with other cats but are timid with strange two-legs – and who can blame them? I’ve had them for a long time now and am still shocked when I look back over these pages at the pictures of the state they were in when they arrived. The deaths of Orion and Titan still sadden me and I feel impotent fury towards the farmer who walked past these walking skeletons every day and made no move of compassion.

They all get on well with other cats and Jupiter, Fell and Goliath in particular adopted and cared for two wee kittens we took in recently, Fell perhaps most of all.

I’m sorry this story has been so long (normally I write less than an A4 page for a family) but I can’t tell one bit without the rest and I’d like you to know how special these kittens are and how proud of them we are and how much I love them (tacky but true, had to say it).

If you adopt any of these kittens please care for them well and let me know how they fare!

 

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Posted in Fosterees 2007.

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