By Helen Neafsey
The kittens were gone.
It was Oct. 28, a day before the arrival of Superstorm Sandy. It was quiet, lovely fall day at the home of Tamara Garabedian in Port Chester, N.Y., not far from neighboring Greenwich. But something was in the air, and a semi-feral mother cat had decided to move her litter of five kittens away.
The kittens had lived with a colony of stray cats in bushes beside Garabedian’s house. It was a pleasant sight to see the kittens near her front door over the past several weeks, she said. With its many cozy hiding places, the kittens and their mother would stay close to Garabedian’s house.
But on this day, kittens needed a safer place, and soon disappeared along with their mother. The next day, Oct. 29, the rain came and the winds picked up, causing trees to bend and break as darkness fell. The sound of the wild wind was frightening. It sounded as if the world might be coming to an end.
Garabedian wondered to herself, “Are the kittens safe?”
“I was pretty worried, because it got windy out there, ” Garabedian said.
The storm passed, leaving a mess of debris in its wake. Days went on and no kittens.
“I didn’t see them for a week, ” she said sadly.
Finally, as Garabedian would call out to them, the kittens began to materialize one by one.
“They could hear me and they came to me one after another, ” Garabedian said.
But they were in poor shape. All of their eyes were stuck shut.
“When I saw the black kitten — she was born with three legs — and was now half the size as her sister, ” she said.
Now, a new worry — it was getting very cold and a snowy nor’easter was on the horizon. Garabedian was desperate. All of the kittens needed help.
So she emailed Allyson Halm at the Adopt-A-Dog shelter in Armonk, N.Y.
When Halm received Garabedian’s email, which contained photos of the sorry-looking kittens, she saw how sick the kittens were.
“When I looked at Tamara’s pictures of the kittens, I knew that we needed to move fast, ” Halm said.
Garabedian packed up the kittens and brought them to Adopt-A-Dog. Halm and her daughter Samantha, 15, immediately took the kittens to Just Cats veterinary hospital in Stamford.
“We knew that we had to get going and quickly get them to the hospital, ” Halm said.
At Just Cats, Dr. Sasha Gibbons took charge of caring for the kittens.
“They were quiet, dehydrated, and thin, but miraculously otherwise physically unharmed, ” Gibbons said. “They did have evidence of a cold, most likely from the malnourished in extreme weather conditions.”
Of great concern was the condition of the kittens’ eyes.
“Their poor eyes were crusted closed, and at first it was questionable if there were eyes under them, ” the veterinarian said.
Staff at Just Cats cleaned the kittens’ eyes with warm water, antibiotic eye drops and gave them fluids to alleviate their dehydration, Gibbons said. The kittens were also treated for fleas and internal parasites and placed on antibiotics.
“It seemed almost immediately that after they could see again, they realized that they were in a safe place, and started trying to make up for lost meals, ” she said. “It only took them an hour before they started playing and resuming normal kitten activity.”
After three days at Just Cats, Gibbons felt the kittens were doing well enough to be sent to a foster home. Halm and Samantha fostered the kittens at their home, and Tamara and her friend Nikki love to visit and play with the kittens.
It won’t be long before the little ones, now more than 8 weeks old, are ready to be adopted.
“They are very lucky, ” Halm said. “They were rescued in time and should make wonderful pets.”
Meanwhile, back at the colony of strays in Port Chester, Garabedian last week trapped all three female cats, including the kittens’ mother, and took them to be spayed at Just Cats. Garabedian and Halm hope to get the stray population under control.
The kittens were put up for adoption at Adopt-A-Dog, 23 Cox Ave., Armonk, N.Y. The phone number is 914-273-1674. The website for Adopt-A-Dog, which is based in Greenwich, is adopt-a-dog.org.