DECATUR -- You never know where a mother cat might conceal her kittens.
A crew of roofers learned that lesson the hard way April 20 while tearing the roof from a vacant house on Decatur's near north side. The chimney fell and killed the mama hiding inside, orphaning her four tiny kittens.
Their story has a happy ending, however, thanks to the efforts of a half-dozen individuals and groups.
First, the roofers put the kittens in a box inside their truck to keep them out of harm's way. Second, one of them recognized Teta Morgan of Assumption as she drove by later that day and had one of his co-workers flag her down.
He apparently knew the Decatur native operates a Facebook page called Teta's Helping and Rehoming, dedicated to rescuing animals.
“The kittens didn't even have their eyes open,” Morgan said. “I was late for an appointment, but that didn't matter. I took them straight to Homeward Bound (Pet Shelter).”
After an unsuccessful attempt to get a nursing mother there to take them, the shelter called Decatur's Care Van program, which had them checked out at Northgate Pet Clinic before placing them that afternoon with Chelsea Allen of Decatur, who is fostering a mother cat named Cashmere and her five kittens.
“I took Cashmere out and basically rubbed the blanket on the orphans and rubbed the orphans on the other kittens,” Allen said. “When she came back, she didn't even blink an eye. She cleaned them from head to tail and accepted them as her own.”
All 10 felines will be available for adoption at Homeward Bound, the kittens probably not until July when they are large enough to be spayed or neutered.
Shelter supervisor Linda Clary said the shelter doesn't usually get kittens that young and collaborates with other animal welfare agencies whenever necessary to save them.
Dr. Jennifer Rojas, a veterinarian at Northgate who saw the runt of the orphaned litter Friday to check the healing of an infected eye, said he weighed 7.7 ounces, up from 4.7 ounces on the day he was rescued. “He's thriving now,” Rojas said.
Allen has named him Mad-Eye Moody for the character in the “Harry Potter” series.
Beth Hughes, director of the Care Van, said she's never heard a rescue story quite like this.
“A lot of people need to be commended for doing the right thing,” she said. “I hope it encourages other people to step up, too.”