Early in December, 1998, I came upon a squealing grocery bag that had been set atop a pile of garbage near the Pulaski Bridge in Brooklyn. Thinking, "Oh, boy, rats," I bent closer with morbid curiosity, and several small, glistening bodies were writhing within—along with assorted scraps of garbage, such as styrofoam, dirty newspaper and parts of a chicken carcass (including a fairly complete torso). Upon closer inspection, the writhing things revealed themselves to be newborn kittens, their eyes still sealed shut and their ears almost invisible, pressed against their tiny heads.
Not quite knowing what to do (I am used to dealing with cats who are disdainful, aloof and self-sufficient, not helpless, starving and near death), I picked the garbage out of the bag and carried the squealing sack home. Lorien and I called several vets and pet stores and found out about such necessities as kitten formula and feeding techniques, as well as the charming business of inducing the flow of urine and feces. Kittens are not born with a knowledge of these matters, and if they do not learn them soon they die. Usually the mother cat stimulates this mechanism with her rough tongue; we opted for cotton balls and spent some anxious days trying to get the process to kick in.
They did not die, however. Along with Maria Berman, who lived downstairs at the time, we set up a schedule of 8 feedings a day, around the clock. Eventually they grew into a fine set of cats. Only Betty had any physical difficulty—before she opened her eyes her left eye ran with pus for many days, and we were sure she would turn out blind in that eye. This did not happen, though, and the infected eye is now just a little flaked about the iris. The vet says it may give her cataracts when she gets older. It was a sad day when my brother Gord came and carted two of them off to Ottawa.
These kittens were, I believe, only a few hours old when I found them. They had never pooed or peed, and perhaps had never sucked milk. One still had the umbilical cord attached. Apparently, they had been taken directly from their mother at birth, put into a garbage bag (along with real garbage), and deposited on a back street in a warehouse district.
Unfortunately we did not take any photos of the kittens in the first couple of weeks. We were told by every authority we spoke to that they would probably die, and it would be best not to become too attached. Once their eyes were open and they were out of danger, Gord came with a digital camera and took these pictures.