My new little kitten, Brady, will not be made into bacon. He
won’t go to live on a farm. He won’t be housed in a barn.
Other than those details, he’s having a lot of the same
experiences, for a lot of the same reasons, that a baby pig of the same age
might have. That baby pig likely had a more auspicious and healthy start in
We do know Brady is a country boy. A family friend spotted
him along a rural road, down from a couple of farms, on her way to work one day.
She swung wide to miss hitting him and then checked in the rearview mirror to
make sure he was OK.
I joked with her that Brady sensed a kind heart. She said
she thinks he knew he had one chance to survive and took it. Whatever the
reason, he dashed into the middle of the road. Worried that he’d be hit, she
backed up and picked him up, thinking to turn him back out closer to a farm.
When she saw him, she knew he likely wouldn’t survive out in
the wild. How he made the dash to the middle of the road — or anywhere — is a
mystery. His little eyes were matted shut with infected material, and he clearly
was having some respiratory issues.
She took him to her job, which deals with wildlife and
nature, so the occasional baby animal rescue isn’t a big deal, and cleaned out
his eyes. She said when she gave him some food and water, he ate and drank like
he hadn’t had anything in a while.
Now, that baby pig would have been cared for even before
birth, with his mom getting the proper nutrition and care to not only make sure
she was healthy and could provide ample nutrition for him as he developed but
also after he was born. There wouldn’t have been a dicey gamble alongside a
The baby pig would get his mother’s milk and any immediate
medical care he needed both for his short-term well being and for his long-term
benefit. His mother would be prevented from rolling on him while still being
able to provide her reassuring maternal presence, as well as nutrition and
warmth. He wouldn’t be left to fend for himself or wander away from his mother’s
milk and care.
Any illness, such as my Brady’s respiratory and eye
problems, immediately would be spotted and treated with antibiotics, judiciously
applied. Those antibiotics might also, depending on the illness or injury, be
given to that baby pig’s brothers and sisters.
That’s one of the reasons that Brady didn’t come right home
with me. From experience, I know with animals that anything having to do with
respiratory illness is, as it is in humans, contagious.
My vet confirmed that, and we decided that the best course
of action, since Brady will come home to two other cats, one of whom is a senior
citizen, would be for Brady to stay at the clinic until he was safely past the
In fact, my vet and the vet techs told me to wash my hands
before I even petted or went near my other two cats. That’s called biosecurity,
whether or not we want to use the same term that we connect to the livestock
industry. True, it’s smaller in scope, but it’s still biosecurity.
One of the things I’ve learned from so many great teachers
and farmers in the pork industry is not only the importance of biosecurity, but
how viruses and illnesses can spread, especially in ways we don’t even consider,
such as on our shoes or clothing.
I immediately put my sweatshirt in the laundry and left my
boots in the garage, wiping them down later with an antibiotic wipe. It’s not
exactly shower-in, shower-out, but for what I’m dealing with, it’s enough.
Is Brady getting antibiotics? Yes. Two of them. He’s getting
oral antibiotics to beat his respiratory infection, and he’s getting an
antibiotic eye ointment to beat his eye infection.
And, although both of my cats have been vaccinated against
respiratory illness, they likely will be getting a medication, fed as powder
with their food, to boost their immune systems to protect against any
aftereffects of Brady’s illness.
They will live together, and it just makes sense. Like kids,
if one has it, the other ones will get it. That’s true in humans, hogs, cats and
It would cost me more time and worry to wait and see if Tom
and Kodi develop some illness than it would to give them something to protect
against it happening in the first place.
As I was talking to my vet — and livestock farmers talk a
lot to their vets, about care of individual animals and care of groups of
animals — I was amazed by how similar the things I was doing are to the things
that a farmer might do for a baby pig, how much effort and concern we both put
into making sure that these little guys get the best start in life that we can
give them, that they have every chance to grow and thrive.
Sometimes that takes one or two steps, and sometimes it
takes more, but for all the difference in the animals we’re caring for and their
different lives, we do many of the same things for the same reasons.
My kitten is not a baby pig. He won’t serve the same purpose
as that pig nor will his life be exactly the same. But how — and why — we care
for our animals is a common thread that unites all of us.