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From Barely Alive to Full of Life: A Story of Survival

On February 18, a small black kitten was brought to the Humane Rescue Alliance. Her temperature was so low that it wouldn’t register on a thermometer and she was so weak she couldn’t eat.

At 4 weeks old, Pepper and her littermate were abandoned outside of a pet store, starving and cold. An employee from the store took them home to try and provide care, but soon realized the kittens needed more intensive treatment. Sadly, Pepper’s littermate didn’t make it, but Pepper was still fighting to stay alive.

She was brought to HRA’s New York Avenue location, where our medical team sprang into action to save this kitten’s life. They immediately administered subcutaneous fluids and began trying to warm her up. After a few hours of emergency care, Pepper returned to a normal body temperature, but was still too weak to eat. She had to be fed through a feeding tube to ensure she received the nourishment she needed to gain weight.

Slowly but surely, she became more active and her condition overall improved. After hours of critical care by HRA’s medical and front desk staff, Pepper was moved to foster care.

Pepper was matched with one of HRA’s experienced foster parents, Abby Meltzer, who has fostered nearly 300 kittens since 2015. She has provided specialized care to some of HRA’s sickest kittens, so she was ready to help Pepper survive no matter what.

When Abby first picked up Pepper, she saw a sad, hungry kitten who wouldn’t stop crying. No matter what she tried, Pepper refused to eat, even though she desperately needed to continue gaining weight. There was even a day when Abby thought Pepper wouldn’t make it.

“One morning in the early days I found her pretty listless, lying in her own feces, and thought she was going to pass,” said Meltzer.

“But I gave her as much supportive care as I could in the form of fluids and Karo syrup to help with blood sugar, and made sure she was very warm.”

Pepper was a fighter and again bounced back. Soon after, Meltzer realized how much Pepper loved to eat and feeding time was no longer a struggle.

“It was then that I knew she was going to make it and it just made my heart swell for her,” said Meltzer.

For the next five weeks, Pepper continued to blossom in foster care. As she got better, all she wanted to do was play and snuggle. Meltzer described her as “the most nurturing kitten.”

“Sometimes you just look at a kitten and think to yourself, ‘That kitten is so HAPPY.’ She is one of those,” Meltzer said. “No longer the sad kitten I first brought home, she has such a pep in her step and a zest for life.”

Pepper didn’t just like to play with toys; she also loved playing with other kittens. Meltzer had several other foster kittens in her home and Pepper absolutely loved them. She would play wrestle, cuddle, and groom them like they were her own littermates.

Now, Pepper is thriving in her new home with her cat sister, Katya. In the wake of COVID-19 and mandatory stay-at-home orders, Tyler Cherry thought it was the perfect time to add a kitten to their family.

“We long put off getting another kitten,” said Cherry, Pepper’s adopter. “Work and travel always made it difficult to find the right time. But once we realized we were going to be homebound for the foreseeable future, we figured it was the perfect time.”

Pepper is also providing a much-needed dose of happiness to her adopters’ lives, particularly during the pandemic. Having a new kitten has given them a purpose and something positive to focus on in a time that can feel so bleak.

“The responsibilities of raising her have given us a welcomed distraction from the emotional toll of the pandemic,” said Cherry. “In the absence of personal connection with friends and family, forging a new connection with her has kept alive the parts of us that show love and support.”

Pepper came to HRA barely alive and now she is full of life, delivering joy to everyone she meets. Despite a rocky beginning, Pepper is now a happy, healthy cat thanks to HRA’s medical team and her foster mom. Our foster network plays a crucial role in saving lives, from neonatal kittens to senior dogs. Our foster parents provide loving homes to animals who need daily medical care or who are deteriorating in a shelter environment. They help save the lives of the most vulnerable animal populations and give them a fighting chance.

“Every kitten deserves the chance to live, and if we are able, we should try as hard as we can to help them through sometimes very tough starts,” said Meltzer.

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