On the last weekend of my summer vacation, I volunteered for a cool job – bottle feeding two tiny kittens! At the time they were about a week old and weighed just five ounces each. Kittens at that age need to be fed every two hours around the clock, and they also need assistance with basic functions like urinating and moving their bowels. It was a little challenging to haul myself out of bed every two hours over night. But the every two hours phase ended fairly quickly. Soon it was every four hours, and now it’s more like every six. As the kittens grew, though, so did my responsibilities. Fourth year started and I began my emergency medicine clerkship. I also had to finish studying for Step 2. All this while feeding the kittens round the clock. Thankfully, I had some help from my boyfriend and his family! It has been exciting to watch them grow, even if it is also a lot of hard work. They each weigh about a pound now, and they’re starting to act like real cats instead of little mewling fur balls. They follow me around, tails up in the air. Their meows are becoming more varied and expressive. They are starting to eat real food instead of just kitten formula. They are both little explorers with distinct, developing personalities!
The kittens have certainly presented challenges. For a while, one kitten wouldn’t eat. Then we had to give her antibiotics when she started having bloody diarrhea. Then the other kitten was constipated and we had to give her enemas. It reminded me of new parents in the clinic, struggling to meet the needs of their new child. When the kitten wouldn’t eat, I recalled the times we (the clinicians) thought that parents weren’t doing the right things for their child. I realized that sometimes parents are trying everything they possibly can and their child still won’t eat or grow or do the things he or she is supposed to do. I realized that it is incredibly frustrating to be doing all the right things with no results, or worse, negative results. I got a small taste of the exhaustion that comes with getting up several times a night. I learned about the way the day disappears when you have formula to make, bottles to wash, and faces to clean every few hours. Taking care of the kittens has been a real learning experience for me – definitely one I won’t forget! It has been the highlight of my summer!