What Holly Taught Me.

I haven't really publicized much of it on the blog, but back in May, I rescued a little kitty.

I was going about my business one morning when I heard one of my cats making some very strange sounds on the sill of my bedroom window. When I went to see what all of the fuss was about, I peeled back the window's curtain to find two huge, beautiful eyes looking right back at me. A stray cat - which is a frequent occurrence in my Brooklyn neighborhood - somehow found one of my other cats in the window and decided to engage in a staring contest with it. 

Feeling awful about her situation, I decided to open the window and give her a little food and water, and immediately, her affectionate flips and desperate pleas for a belly rub enamored me more than I expected. I made a decision - to bring this little girl inside, but only as a foster, since I already have three other precious rescue kitties of my own. I figured that I might as well take care of her and keep her off the mean Brooklyn streets (Brooklyn is great for people, but not as kind to its stray cats), so that she wouldn't get pregnant and make more stray kitties. Boy, was I in for a reckoning.

Holly - moments before devouring a bowl of popcorn.

About a month or so into it, this little rescue, who we named Holly, started looking somewhat heftier in the area around her belly. She was eating twice as much as my other cats and was increasingly hormonal and territorial as the weeks passed. After talking with Steve about it, researching on the internet, and talking to family and friends, it hit me. The kitty I brought in to keep from getting pregnant had been pregnant the entire time.

Steve and I were both scared and exhilarated by this news - I mean, finding a home for one cat had been difficult enough by this point, but more? How would we ever find a way to make this work? Having a deadline of Sept. 1st certainly didn't help either (which is the day we are planning to make the cross-country trek to our new home in Los Angeles). But for all of the fear and worry, we both decided this could be the best thing that ever happened to us - and even more so for Holly. Little did I know that the experience of watching and helping Holly give birth would completely change my life in a way I never expected. 

Holly hugging her first born.
On August 1st, Holly gave birth to five tremendously adorable kittens. The first three came out quickly and easily, with no complications (thank you, Mother Nature!). After about two and a half hours and no third kitten, I acted quickly and found a way to get a very tired Holly to push out a foot-first baby (one of the most difficult and least survived birthing positions for kittens) - a feat I look back on with so much glowing pride. After the fourth baby, Holly seemed finished and in good spirits as her kittens happily nursed. Steve and I decided to leave them all for a little bit - to be honest, we had been hovering over her like helicopter parents all day and this lady needed a serious break from us!

After consuming some much-needed comfort food at Foodswings, we came home to find, hiding under a towel in the bathroom, a fifth kitten. Completely cleaned but cold, we weren't sure if this baby got lost in the shuffle or was rejected by his exhausted mommy. None of that mattered to Steve or me - what mattered was it surviving. It seemed like an eternity of struggling to get little number five to latch onto a nipple, and when it happened, tears poured out of me as I realized that we saved a life that may have not been saved had we left our first-time mommy alone the rest of the night.

After everything was over, Steve and I watched in awe as these little babies, knowing exactly what to do, crawled over to Holly, who also knew exactly what to do, and nursed with abandon. For the most part, these little guys and gals have been only eating and sleeping, much like human babies. They've also been exploring the blanket they've lived on for their first six days of life, I've seen a few nipple fights between two hungry kittens, and mostly, they're enjoying the bliss of being innocent, comfortable, happy babies. It's pretty amazing.

What has been the greatest part in all of this? The beliefs within me that have grown insurmountably since watching Holly give birth - that every mother deserves the peace and respect of being able to give life on her own terms. That every mother deserves to nurse her babies for as long as needed to nourish them. That every baby deserves to be nourished, loved, and protected by its mother.

As I watched a beautiful and responsible feline mom do her thing with so much grace and inner wisdom, bittersweet feelings ran through me. Because while Steve and I were able to give Holly a safe place to make this transition, there are countless pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens, goats, sheep, and ducks - the list goes on and on - who are not given even a modicum of safety, peace, or respect as they experience the birth of their babies. We artificially place babies within these animals, then rip them away from each other soon after they are born, and for what? To consume the milk of another species that was never something we were supposed to take (and that we never needed in the first place). To eat the flesh of an animal whose natural born right should be to live and bear children peacefully. Why have we grown so distanced from the that truth? Why did we ever decide as a species that it was okay to take that away from them?

Harrison and Loretta at Farm Sanctuary. Read their story here.
Holly has shown me that I want to fight until the end of my life for these mommies and babies, because there are far too many humans who either aren't fighting or don't even know that there's a fight to be had in the first place. More than the violent act of eating the flesh of an animal, we need to focus on helping people learn about the massive violence we are inflicting on the mothers and babies of this world. We have confused them, exploited them, and taken away a right that was given to them by something much greater than ourselves. By consuming the eggs and the milk of other species, we contribute on a daily basis to the deaths of baby male chicks, baby male cows, and mother cows, pigs, chickens and other farmed animal mothers on a massive scale.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has a wonderful video about her thoughts on the female exploitation that occurs within the world of farming and consuming animals. I encourage you all to watch it, and, if you are still on the fence about consuming the by-products or flesh of animals, please reconsider. There are so many delicious, healthy, cholesterol-free alternatives to dairy and eggs, it's not even funny!

In May, a stray cat with babies in her belly was looking for a safe place to have them, and I decided to give that to her. I am forever thankful to have crossed paths with this extraordinary being. One day, I hope to be as good a mommy as Holly has been for her babies. In the meantime, I will continue to speak on behalf of animal mothers everywhere who deserve the same respect Holly was given. 

P.S. What a happy ending - we have managed to find homes for Holly and all of her babies. Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word and to those taking in these wonderful cats! 

For anyone curious about plant-based alternatives to eggs and milk, please visit my "Three Steps" page for more info.


Molly G said…
You are the best grand-mommy in the whole world, Lindsay. I'm glad mommy and babies are doing well and I look forward to meeting the new Wolf-Smith family members!

jana said…
this is awesome. you are awesome, and you did a wonderful thing. :)
hopefullyvegan said…
Loved reading this story. You did a wonderful thing and in the end it sounds like the experience gave you something wonderful too. Love that. We'll miss you when you head to LA, but awesome and safe travels.

...on behalf of Foodswings too :)
Hollie said…
This post brought tears to my eyes (and not just because your kitty and I share the same name). What a beautiful experience.
CurlyLocks said…
What a beautiful, heart-warming story! Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience. You and Steve did a really good thing!
Natalie Would said…
My goodness! My first thought was "AH! 101 DALMATIONS!" in the beginning of the cartoon when they're not sure if Lucky is gonna make it! :)

What an amazing story about kittens and their mama. Beautiful!
Lindsay said…
Thanks everybody - it's been a truly amazing, life-changing experience. :)
Nikki said…
Lovely post, Lindsay.
And so happy to hear all the little kitties have homes! What a blessing all around!
Truly a heart warmer!

I'd also like to plug here, that the best milk for human babies is also breast milk and not bovine based formula!!!

Great post~ glad that it was such a beautiful experience for you both!
Emma said…
How lucky Holly was to find you! Lovely story, wonderful photos. As a mother of 2 little daughters I completely agree with you on how mass-farming exploits females and their reproductive capabilities.

I was in the awful situation a couple of years back to have a still-born, pre-term baby - my body decided to lactate anyway, leaving me with floods of milk and no baby to give it to. It was devastating and I eventually realised that I did not want to be directly putting other mothers in that situation - even if those mothers are 'just' cows/sheep, etc. It was one of my (many!) reasons for going vegan.

I sound like a complete hippy every time I say this, but I really do believe that milk is a miracle from a mother to her baby, no matter what species she is.
Lindsay said…
Emma - thank you for this thoughtful post. You sound like one lovely woman - and I completely agree with you on all accounts. :)
Lolly said…
Fantastic story. Cats are awesome, soulful little beings and I am so glad that Holly came into your life.
Sarah Beth said…
Lindsay, just wondering what you feed your grown cats? Are they vegan too? I have two cats of my own and I always feel guilty giving them cat food when I know that the animals who died for that food in all likelihood lived in horrific conditions. I haven't been able to get any real advice from my vet who just laughed at me the last time I asked!

As a fellow vegan friend observed, my owning cats who consume meat contributes to the meat industry and may well cancel out the animals I am saving by not eating meat or any animal products. Could it be argued that God did not intend for any animal (lions, tigers and bears) to violently eat the flesh of another animal?
JL Goes Vegan said…
This is a beautiful post. I am a recent (dietary) vegan who is finding myself following the natural progression of information = action. The more I learn, the more I see myself moving from simply "eating" vegan to BEING vegan. Thank you for mothering Holly and her babies so well.
Lindsay said…
Hi Sarah Beth -

Thank you for your support and questions! Currently, I feed my kitties the best canned meat cat food I can find. It's so tricky, because I wish I could afford and commit to having them be vegan, but money and the issue of them being carnivores is what makes it so difficult for me. We shall see in time what I'll decide to do...

I would argue that while yes, we are contributing to the meat industry when we purchase cat food, we are also saving a cat's life and living in the least cruel way possible by living vegan. I don't think you should allow what your friend said to deter you from rescuing or caring for your kitties - and the fact that you have a kitty in the first place when so many are on the streets or locked up and killed in shelters is something to feel good about. So, rock on, and thanks for reaching out! :)
It's so amazing how God uses all He created to teach us, nurture us, and fill us. What a wonderful post. I got so much out of it. Once again, I leave here filled. Hugs, hugs, and more hugs to you.
This is so beautiful, Lindsay! This will be a "forever" memory in your life! Best of luck to you as you start your next chapter -- Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing this blessing!
Anonymous said…
I assume they've been spayed/neutered, right? Otherwise, the problem is perpetuated. Siliva
Lindsay said…
Hey Siliva - since the kittens are still very young and I am unable to afford to neuter all five of them, no, they have not been spayed or neutered yet. But thankfully, they have all found wonderful, safe, loving homes with people who will take care of them. I think if you consider where Holly and her kittens might have been had we not taken them in, we are doing the absolute best for her and her little family. And I'll continue to make sure they are all cared for after this experience. Thanks for reaching out!
Stark060 said…
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Stark060 said…