A SHORT SHARP LESSON
Sophie, my first Siamese breeding queen, had an accident two days after giving birth. She'd had them in the kitten cube beside my bed but they were slow to suckle. That Sunday, I was sewing while keeping an eye on her. My husband brought me cake on a plate. After eating it, I must've dozed off.
I was woken by her licking crumbs from the plate. When she looked up I saw thread trailing from her mouth but where was the needle?
I prised open her jaws but couldn't see it. I prayed that she'd only swallowed loose thread but feared the worst. I searched the duvet and floor but found nothing. I stripped the bed while Sophie calmly watched. Only one place was left to search: inside Sophie. I phoned my vet who put a full Sunday emergency plan into operation.
I drove the five miles with Sophie and her kittens snuggled in vet bed warmed by a hot water bottle. An X-ray showed that the needle was in her stomach, the point threatening her gut. I hand fed the kittens while the vet performed a gastrotomy. He removed the needle safely, the thread still attached.
Sophie was a terrible patient perhaps she couldn't understand the fuss. She wouldn't tolerate the drip and had to be taken home after only two hours. Before being moved since she was nil-by-mouth' she had to be rehydrated with subcutaneous saline and I was told not to give her anything to eat for thirty-six hours another problem. She insisted on finding her kittens and couldn't be kept from them. She then insisted on feeding them and became more and more hungry. But the vet's instructions were obeyed and, as a result, she and her kittens survived.
Thanks to Petplan, Sophie went on to have another litter before being neutered. She bore 47 kittens in eight litters by seven studs and founded three other breeding colonies.
Sadly, in 2002, mammary cancer was diagnosed; she had a limited mastectomy and, for two further years, led a contented life. She insisted, as before, on being present when kittens were due (they're always born in that same heated kitten cube in our bedroom) helping the mum during labour. Uncannily she knew when the last live birth had taken place and would then walk away. Sometimes a last still born kitten proved that she was right to go. I'm sure she told every kitten the story of the needle and what might happen if one was swallowed.
For nearly two years Sophie was treated homeopathically by a specialist holistic vet and seemed to be in an extended period of remission. But the end came shortly after she'd seen the latest litter into the world in March 2004. The cancer had spread and she died.
I have a new Sophie now, the old matriarch's five greats granddaughter who was born in March 2005. I hope that her mother Sameera has passed on the lesson to her: don't eat needles.