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Vince Staten: Two cats raise mothering to new heights

Vince Staten • May 11, 2013 at 10:47 PM

Cookie arrived first. She had a stomach as round as a bowling ball and no daddy anywhere in sight. “Another single mom,” thought Ginger Smith. Ginger sees a lot of that in her job.

A few days later Pandora showed up at the office. Same story. In a family way and no family with her.

Cookie gave birth on March 26. Two weeks later Pandora followed suit.

That’s not unusual. Pregnant cats are always being dropped off at the Kingsport Animal Shelter. Shelter technician Ginger says there are currently eight new mama cats at the shelter. But what happened next is unusual.

Pandora, a Hemingway with seven toes, and her three kitties, were housed in one cage.

Cookie, a Siamese mix, shared a nearby cage with her litter of three.

“At night we would let them out of the cages to roam around the office,” says Ginger.

One morning, tech Emily Cannon arrived at work early and saw something she had never seen before. She gathered the other shelter techs around.

There were Cookie and Pandora and their kittens, all huddled together in one cage. Each mother was nursing a trio of kittens but they weren’t all hers.

“It was like they had set up a domestic partnership,” laughed Ginger.

Two other kittens, each an orphan, were soon introduced into the group. And Cookie and Pandora took to them as if they were their own.

So the animal shelter now has two mama cats nursing and raising a blended brood of eight kittens.

There’s Pandora’s three: Tiny Tim, Tyler and Tina. Call them the Highland bunch because that’s where Pandora was found.

There’s Cookie’s trio: Juliet the calico, Leonardo and Donatello. They are the Lynn Garden group. Cookie was a stray found in a yard there.

And there are the orphans, Bobby Joe, whose mama was hit by a car, and Tee Tiny, who was found abandoned in a yard.

“Nobody here has seen mama cats nurse each other’s kittens,” says Ginger. And the techs at the shelter have seen a lot of cats over the years. There are currently 70 cats waiting to be adopted.

There was a hint that these mama cats might be different. “The day before Pandora gave birth she was trying to nurse an orphan puppy,” says Ginger.

The shelter workers recently introduced solid food to the kittens who are still nursing. All 10 in the blended family are eating adult cat food because the shelter is in desperate need of kitty food. Donations happily accepted.

Both mamas protect the kittens but they also protect each other. One morning a tech accidentally stepped on Pandora’s tail. Pandora squealed and Cookie raced to comfort her.

It’s a beautiful arrangement and the shelter techs have loved watching the families blend and grow.

Ginger marvels at Pandora and Cookie. “They are two of the best mothers we have ever seen.”

But Mother’s Day may be the last day for this maternal grouping.

Cookie’s kitties are ready to be adopted.

Pandora’s will be old enough to adopt out at the end of the week.

Cookie, who is about 8, and Pandora, 2, will see their mothering days end soon in another way. Each will be spayed as soon as she is ready.

But for almost a month now Cookie and Pandora have celebrated Mother’s Day every day.

The Kingsport Animal Shelter is at 2141 Idle Hour Road, just off Stone Drive. Hours are weekdays from 12:30 till 5:30 p.m. It is currently home to 70 cats and 89 dogs, all of whom are looking for a human mom and dad.

Contact Vince Staten at vincestaten@timesnews.net or via mail in care of this newspaper. Voicemail may be left at 723-1483. His blog can be found at vincestaten.blogspot.com.

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