One animal shelter worker was on her way to start her volunteering shift in July 2017 when she noticed something worrying. Sitting outside the doors of the charity rescue center were two large cardboard boxes. The sight was all too familiar – anonymous “donations” left in such a manner were a fairly frequent occurrence. But nevertheless, the volunteer was wary; she had no idea about what lay inside the packages. She had an awful feeling that whatever was in them, it wouldn’t be good.
Project Purr Animal Rescue is an adoption center in Mobile, Alabama, dedicated to the well being of our feline friends. The non-profit organization rescues homeless cats and kittens from the surrounding Gulf Coast area to give the unfortunate creatures a second shot at a happy life. Its cat credo is that every feline deserves to feel loved and secure in a healthy, family environment.
When cats arrive at Project Purr, they enjoy the freedom to move around. The open-plan center contains many rooms with beds, climbing frames and litter boxes. The organization has the capacity to provide shelter for more than 100 moggies. Project Purr believes its “free-range” approach to cat accommodation encourages its feline guests to become more social and better adjusted.
On July 27, 2017, Margie Morris was on her way to work at the rescue center. The 50-year-old had been volunteering at Project Purr for six years, so she’d seen most things in her time there. Even so, the sight that greeted her that day before she even entered the facility stopped her in her tracks.
Outside the center, Morris saw two sizable cardboard boxes stacked on the sidewalk. This was despite the clearly visible sign that Project Purr was currently at full capacity. Someone had punched holes into the side of the packages, before loosely securing them with duct tape. Morris had no way of telling what was inside, but her stomach told her it was probably living.
So the volunteer carefully opened the first box, not wanting to alarm whoever was inside. And the shelter worker’s suspicions turned out to be correct. However, there wasn’t just the one living being in the package. Instead, Morris found one female adult cat and two adorable, five-week-old ginger kittens.
Given what she had just discovered in the first box, Morris opened the second one in trepidation. However, to the volunteer’s surprise, she found that it was completely empty. But, Morris’ years of experience told her that there probably had been a cat in there, but it had somehow escaped its cardboard cage.
The adult cat and kittens were somehow found room at the shelter. And two days later Morris received word about where the missing moggie could be. Speaking to animal interest website The Dodo in August 2017, Morris revealed, “As it turned out, on Saturday morning, there was another cat spotted running around the parking lot of our little strip mall. Myself and three team volunteers tried to catch her.”
“She was getting up in the car engines,” Morris continued, noting the animal’s need for shelter. “We couldn’t catch her. It was pouring down rain. We tried to bribe her with food, but we just were unsuccessful. We’re hoping that she’s still out there somewhere. We’ve been leaving food out, but we have not seen her.”
While Morris and her colleagues tried to capture the freaked feline, the momma cat and her ginger kittens settled into shelter life. Staff named the adult Caroline, while the babies became known as Shilo and Neil. The volunteers then got to work feeding the momma up so she could take proper care of her little ones.
“We set up a little bed and a little kennel for her to keep them safe,” Morris explained. “We’re giving her extra cat food with vitamins.” This love and care from the volunteers was soon working wonders. Before too long the momma moggie and her babies were thriving in the safe environment of their new home at Project Purr.
Morris drew great pleasure from simply watching the feline family flourish. “As small as they are, the kittens will play, and they’re wrestling each other and jumping around, and they cuddle up next to the mom,” she told The Dodo. “She loves them, and she’s taking very good care of them.”
However, as the volunteer observed the antics of the cats one day, Morris spotted something surprising about the mother. It appeared to the experienced cat carer that Caroline was expecting another litter. That would mean the cat must have fallen pregnant again almost immediately after delivering Shilo and Neil.
Morris knew that domestic cats carry their litters for 64 to 67 days on average, so what happened next came as quite a shock. Although Caroline was still nursing Shilo and Neil, she delivered her new babies just four days after arriving at the shelter. Alongside the two she already had, Caroline was now the proud mom of a quartet of new kittens.
Morris could not believe how quickly Caroline had given birth. So the volunteer did some moggie math. And her calculations revealed there was no way Caroline could have been the mother of Shilo and Neil. The cat was simply a kindly surrogate who had taken on the responsibility of loving and caring for the abandoned animals.
The discovery got Morris wondering who the two kittens’ real mom was. Could it possibly have been the other feline who fled its box after being dumped? The volunteers could find neither hide nor hair of the missing moggie, so perhaps they would never know. Nevertheless, staff were just glad to have Caroline around.
It would have been easy for the new momma to have also escaped her cardboard box. But, Caroline had obviously decided to stay for Shilo and Neil. “I’m just grateful that she didn’t run away and leave the babies,” the volunteer informed The Dodo. “I think that might be the best thing I love about that cat – she did not leave those babies.”
Before long, Shilo and Neil had grown to the point at which Caroline could wean them. As a result, the mom could concentrate on raising her four newborns. And, just as she had with her adopted couple, Caroline did an excellent job. “She’s the best mom ever,” an admiring Morris said.
Unfortunately, Caroline, Shilo and Neil’s story of abandonment is not an unusual one. According to Morris, people have left unwanted cats outside the shelter about 15 times in the last five years. In fact, just three days after the threesome were found on the doorstep, another eight kittens turned up in a box. “It’s really unsafe for the cats, because we’re not there in the evenings,” Morris said. “If we weren’t there, those kittens probably would have been dead — they would have been hit by a car.”
However, any cats and kittens who find themselves at Project Purr, should count themselves lucky – they will be in the safest of hands. After feeling unwanted and unloved, the moggies experience care and compassion for the first time. And, once they have learned how to feel like proper felines, they can hopefully go on to their perfect forever homes.