This tiny kitty was just three weeks old when he was found freezing to death at the border of San Diego and Tijuana. He was all skin and bones and weighed just 170 grams. Rescuers weren’t sure he was going to make it, but, all the same, Hannah Shaw took him in.
“When a kitten like Rey enters an animal shelter, there are typically only two options for him: a foster home or euthanasia. Because most shelters don’t have the resources to provide overnight care staff, orphaned kittens often meet their fate within the first 24 hours in a shelter,” Shaw says. “Knowing this, you can see how important it is for the community to step in and offer our support.”
So when Shaw and her partner, Andrew, got the call, they were quick to say yes to the little kitty and posted about it on Facebook.
“Friends, please keep this baby in your thoughts. Andrew and I are at the airport about to fly home, and when we arrive late tonight, this little one will be waiting for us. He was found at the border of San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, along with his litter mates—none of whom survived but him. He’s very sick, but he’s hanging in there, and we will do everything we can to get him well!
“We’ve named him Rey (the Spanish word for “king”) because if he pulls through, he will grow up to befriend our lovely queen Reina. Thank you San Diego Humane Society, Jackie, Sonja, and his temp foster parent for helping him survive and showing him such love and protection. ♥️ #sweetbabyrey”
As the founder of Orphan Kitten Club, Shaw is no stranger to taking care of small kittens. She gave Rey an incubator to keep warm, as well as a teddy bear to help him feel less lonely as he regained his strength.
“(When we got him), his little light was flickering so dimly, nearly ready to go dark,” writes Shaw. “Seeing him shining so brightly after a few days together, I know that this process has been well worth it.”
Rey showed signs of resilience from the very beginning. Despite his weakness and thinness, he was a very vocal kitten, and he seemed to love being near his teddy. He even apparently got angry with Shaw one day when she washed all of his bedding, including his teddy bear.
“For hours, he was fussy, vocal, and refused the bottle. After trying everything I could to comfort him, I finally had the thought — I wonder if it’s because his teddy bear is gone?” Shaw says.
Sure enough, as soon as the bear was clean and dry and back in with Rey, he began to calm down and snuggle up to it. He also went back to eating normally.
“This may be a coincidence or it may not be,” says Shaw, “but kittens thrive in routine and seek sensory and olfactory cues that they are safe at home — I genuinely think Rey felt a little lost without his teddy bear by his side.”
But the teddy bear wouldn’t suffice as Rey’s only friend for long. When he was finally big enough to be interested in playing with other kittens but was too small to play with Shaw’s other foster kittens, Shaw decided to give him a mentor, an older cat named Haroun who has a great track record of socializing lonely kittens.
Happily, the two have completely hit it off. “Rey is obsessed with Haroun’s tail and is following him everywhere like a little baby duck!” reports Shaw.
Rey has been one of Shaw’s biggest challenges, but having a couple of good friends seems to have helped him regain his strength and health. The adorable little guy is now six weeks old and weighs 400 grams. He’s a big eater and loves playing, and he’s got a new lease on life!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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