Agri-Science students care for homeless cats in Ledyard

Ledyard agri-science student Karleigh Reeves examines one of 21 kittens currently in the care of students at the school.
Ledyard agri-science student Karleigh Reeves examines one of 21 kittens currently in the care of students at the school.

Ledyard - Their fuzzy, warm bodies fit in the palm of a hand, and their glassy newborn eyes open only a crack.

Their meows are barely audible, but when you hear them, your heart melts.

On Thursday, the 21 kittens and nine cats were drawing all the attention at the high school, where students in the regional agri-science program were caring for their every need. The cats had been homeless before being taken to the school to become part of a student service project.

Peering through their metal cages, the cats' marble-like eyes were fixed on Karleigh Reeves and Lexy Monroe, the seniors who have made the caring for the cats and kittens part of their senior project.

During the 84 minutes they spend every day with the animals, Reeves and Monroe give them food and water, clean their litter boxes and, most importantly, hold and pet them.

"The cats were kind of skittish at first, but I try to calm them down before I try to clean their ears," Monroe, 18, of Groton, said. "I try to socialize them as much as I can because we want to make sure everyone gets a nice cat when they're adopted."

Inside the school's animal lab, the cats keep company with two calves, newborn chinchillas, a six-day-old goat and ferrets. The kittens' cries for attention are often overwhelmed by the mooing of the calves, the squeaking of the chinchillas and the bleating of the goat.

"It's like a nursery in here," agri-science teacher Devon O'Keefe joked. "We've never had this influx of animals before. This is something out of the ordinary."

The cats came to the school after the school's agriculture department was contacted by a representative from the Reliance House, a Norwich nonprofit agency that works with residents who have mental health issues. The agency had a client who was living in a tent with nine cats, three of which were pregnant, and wanted to know whether the school would take the cats. O'Keefe said yes, but only if they were vaccinated before arriving.

"Given the conditions the cats came from, they are all in good health and are disease-free," she said. "They were tested and vaccinated against rabies, feline AIDS, leukemia and heartworm and all were negative."

On June 5, the kittens and Crush, Cupcake, Little Russell, Mitzy May, Heart, Oscar Doo, Mr. Moo, Shade and Cage will be put up for adoption.

Mitzy May is pregnant and expected to give birth soon.

There are calicos, brown, black- and gray-striped cats waiting for homes.

As Monroe coddled a kitten, Reeves was busy making sure Cupcake didn't scatter her litter across the floor. Even though the teens have taken care of the cats for just a week, they've started to pick up hints of their personalities.

"She doesn't even use it, she just gets in the box and kicks it everywhere," Reeves, 18, of Waterford said.

The problem was remedied with a donation of a covered litter box.

The cats are scheduled to be put up for adoption at the Ledyard Canine Wellness Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 5 at the high school.

j.hanckel@theday.com

Student Lexy Monroe caresses Oscar Doo, one of nine adult cats.
Student Lexy Monroe caresses Oscar Doo, one of nine adult cats.
Ledyard Agri-Science student Lexy Monroe nuzzles Mitzy May, one of nine adult cats and 21 kittens currently in the care of students at the school, on Thursday. The cats were taken in last week from a Norwich resident who couldn't care for them. The adults cats will be spayed and neutered, and along with the kittens, put up for adoption.
Ledyard Agri-Science student Lexy Monroe nuzzles Mitzy May, one of nine adult cats and 21 kittens currently in the care of students at the school, on Thursday. The cats were taken in last week from a Norwich resident who couldn't care for them. The adults cats will be spayed and neutered, and along with the kittens, put up for adoption.

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