All In The Family: Elvira’s Story

The majority of the nearly 1,700 kittens admitted to the ASPCA Kitten Nursery in 2018 arrived without their mothers, including a quartet of siblings found in Brooklyn by a Good Samaritan just before Halloween. Fittingly named Spooky, Drac, Skelly and Wolf, the kittens were earmarked for a foster home, but remained in the nursery because they weren’t successfully latching to their bottles, according to Kitten Nursery Logistics Coordinator Karina Josenhans. Days later, the same Good Samaritan found a cat he believed to be the kittens’ mother, presumably searching for her missing litter.

Stephen Cameron, Admissions Coordinator, managed the mama cat’s intake. Named Elvira for her black “mistress of the dark” looks, she was examined and taken to the Nursery to be reunited with her babies. After letting Elvira settle in, Nursery Caregiver Alex Esheyigba brought one kitten at a time to her until all four were successfully introduced. d. Elvira soon took to nursing the foursome, all of whom were too young and underweight to survive without intervention. Finding their mother likely saved their lives.

“If you find kittens, it’s best to wait and see if the mom returns,” explains Gemma Smith, Administrative Manager for the Nursery. “Kittens may be orphaned because their mother was killed, injured or unable to care for them. Sometimes they’re removed by well-meaning people while the mother is temporarily away.

Smith advises people who find young kittens and don’t spot a mother to call their local shelters first to see if and how they can help. The ASPCA Kitten Nursery has caregivers on staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week between April and October, as well as foster volunteers for healthy kittens who only need feeding and minor medical care.

That’s where Zina Rogers, an ASPCA foster, came in. Zina agreed to take in Elvira and her babies and shuttled them to her Roosevelt Island apartment. For the first week or so, Skelly and Wolf did well on their own with Elvira, according to Zina. However, because Drac and Spooky tugged too much at Elvira, Zina bottle-fed the duo at night. During the day, while Zina—a medical assistant at a local hospital—was at work, Drac and Spooky were fed every two to three hours by Zina’s sister.

Zina has been a foster volunteer for a year and has taken in four litters without mother cats—also called queens—but Elvira was her first experience with a mama cat. “She was a bit hissy at first, but once she realized she was safe, she was very sweet,” Zina recalls. “She’d put on a front like she’s tough but eventually sought us out for petting, sometimes climbing on our legs for attention.”

Zina gives Elvira credit for being a good mom. “She stayed close to her babies and looked for them when she couldn’t see them. If I had any of them in my lap, Elvira would approach me, reach up with her paws and drag them one at a time out of my lap just so they could be in her sight range.” Zina returned the kittens—and Elvira—just before Thanksgiving, when they were old enough to be spayed and neutered. The kittens were adopted quickly, and just before Christmas, Elvira was adopted by Gloria Daniels of Queens during a visit to the ASPCA with her eldest daughter, Jennifer.

“Elvira was hiding inside a box, which intrigued me a little,” Gloria explains. “She was so little; I couldn’t believe she had already had a litter of kittens.” True to her name, Elvira is a night owl, often sleeping during the day and playing mischievously at night. And she’s still a leg-climber. “She’s certainly come out of her shell,” says Gloria, a manager for the NYC Parks Department. “She follows me around, from the kitchen to the bedroom and back. She’s adjusted well and likes everybody, especially my boys—my teenage son Craig and my grandson Sammy—as well as my other  daughter Patricia. It’s all good.”A happy ending for Elvira, who saved her family’s life and was rewarded with a brand new family for herself.

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