by Amanda Fanger, Reporter and Farmer
A litter of five kittens was rescued from a train on April 25 while a crew was giving the locomotive its annual service.
The North Dakota-based crew had come to the Wheat Growers facility in Bristol and found five kittens nestled inside an outside compartment of the locomotive, which had been stored over the winter inside a heated building.
As the service crew was removing covers, Wheat Growers employee Michael Binder said, “Suddenly, there was a lot of loud meowing from these kittens.”
At first the crew attempted to ignore the baby felines while they continued to work, but the kittens continued to make noise.
“Finally, (they) brought the kittens over to the office in a box,” Binder said. “Pretty soon, a throng developed around the box at the office.”
To keep the kittens warm, Binder took them outside to his pickup where the sun was warming the cab by shining through the vehicle’s windshield. Although they searched for the mother of the kittens, she was never found. Binder says he began to have doubts that she would be coming back at all.
“There was a very foul odor of diesel fuel from all the work in the shed,” Binder said.
Although they have only been in town for a couple of years, Binder and his wife Angie Hagen have gained somewhat of a reputation as cat rescuers. Starting in 2011, they took in 13 kittens that year and later found homes for them.
This is the youngest group they have ever taken in, however.
“These barely had their eyes open,” Binder commented. They’re guessing the kittens were 10-14 days old when they were found.
Binder and Hagen looked to Kirsten Wiley of Webster for tips about raising cats. Wiley, who raises purebred Ragamuffins cats, gave them a kitten formula recipe. Hagen says the recipe calls for goat milk. Once they began feeding the kittens with little bottles every two to three hours, the baby felines were romping around and playing with each other by the end of Friday.
“Five baby kittens has changed our routine around here a little bit,” Hagen said. “Usually when someone knows they are going to have a baby, they have nine months to prepare. We now have to remember what time we need to be home to supplement feed them.”
After a little while, they had the idea to bring in a surrogate mother. So, they went to Juellann Hagen’s farm and picked out a calico female who they thought would be a good candidate. Right away, she adopted the kittens as her own and began producing milk for them.
“Miss Callie took on her roll quite well,” Binder said. “She immediately took to them.”
Hagen says Miss Callie appears to take the role of mother very seriously. Binder and Hagen have two other house cats, one of which is a biological son of Miss Callie. Once, the tom got too close to the kittens for Miss Callie’s liking.
“Momma looked up and saw him; her hair went up and claws were flying,” Hagen said. “I can’t believe how protective she is of these kittens.”
When they took in the kittens, Binder and Hagen were in the middle of remodeling their guest bedroom.
“We put the remodeling on hold,” Hagen said. “They have that whole darn room to themselves,” Binder added with a laugh.
While Binder and Hagen say they’ll keep the kittens at least until they’re on solid foods, they hope to have found homes for them by Memorial Day because they’ll have guests coming to stay at their house that weekend.
Hagen has posted pictures of the kittens on social networks such as Facebook to try to find homes for them. Binder says several WheatGrowers’ employees will likely be taking some also.
Hagen encourages anyone interested in adopting one to call her at 952-913-4629.
One of the kittens is smokey grey, one is black with a white spot on its chest, two are grey tigers, and one is dirty white and appears like it could be Siamese.