This is Short Bus. He is the Runt of the Outside Kittens, son of Molly the Tramp, little brother to Mop and Mama's Boy.
He was dead this morning.
Here's what happened. Earlier this morning, Jill did her Daily Outside Kitten Count. She counted six, one too few. At first he was hidden by the Kitten Basket, and then she saw him. Short Bus was lying behind the Kitten Basket, stiff, ice cold, and covered in ants. Jill swore he was dead. She went to get a paper towel to clean him up, and when she touched him, he twitched and cried out weakly.
"[expletive deleted] what do we do?!?"
"Warm him up!"
We put him in a bowl of tepid water and held his head up so he could breathe. The water drowned the ants and brought his body temperature up. We kept him in the water and slowly warmed it up so it wouldn't shock his system. He was so pathetic, ya'll. I swear he stopped breathing in my hands and in Jill's hands multiple times. While Jill was holding him in the water, I threw two hand towels in the dryer. When he seemed warmed up, we put him in the towel. We rubbed his little chest and belly, his little back and his little neck to keep the blood flowing. He stopped breathing again, and I fought back tears. But he was warming up. He was breathing.
Jill is a trooper and a genius. She has an old cat named Dizzy who had a terrible bladder infection. The vet had given us an IV to give her fluids while she recovered, and Jill remembered that we still had it. Jill held Short Bus, pinched the skin behind his neck and carefully put the needle in. I warmed the IV with my body and squeezed. We worked like a well-oiled machine, like two vet techs who had been working together for years. We got some fluid under his skin, where his body would absorb it. Short Bus got transferred to another warm, dry towel.
At this point, there was nothing else we could do.
I cradled him against my chest in the towel, just like he liked to be held on these cold autumn nights, and we went outside. Short Bus opened his eyes and looked around. He was mostly dry by this point, and was looking better, though he was still weak. Momma Molly came up then and started nursing the other kittens. Jill put him on her and made sure he nursed. We had to pry off several of his brothers so that he could nurse uninterrupted. Once he was done, we put him back in the towel and gave him some antibiotics we had left over from the other cats. Short Bus was steadily gaining strength, yelling at us and looking around, though the warm towel made him sleepy.
Short Bus became an Inside Kitten at that point. We fed him kitten formula; we fed him nutrient rich wet cat food. His tiny belly was big and round. We showed him the litter box. He was confused.
Now here's the cute part of the story.
At the end of our long day, I brought Short Bus upstairs to live with me. I have a small dog cage that my Persian kitten Firefly was sleeping in. I moved it out of Firefly's bathroom and set it up in my living room. I made him a tiny litter box out of a Priority Mail box, a Hobby Lobby bag and some duct tape. I gave him some food, some water and, most importantly, his warm towel. I put him in and closed the door. Short Bus promptly jumped into the middle of his food bowl, laid down, and started eating.
I ran downstairs and got Jill to show her how cute he was in his little room.
When we came back upstairs, Short Bus meowed at the top of his lungs and ran up to us. The door of the cage was still latched.
"I gotta see how he did that."
So we put Short Bus back into the cage, and watched him. He meowed a bit, then proceeded to climb up the door of the cage (still securely latched). Then Short Bus shoved his giant head through the grate at the top of the cage, climbed on top, and tumbled, not very gracefully, to the floor.
He has been climbing all over my neck, shoulders and chest as I type this, making biscuits, chewing on my ears, and screaming. It is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard.