A young stray has demonstrated amazing parental instincts after adopting two poorly kittens just hours after losing the last kitten of her own litter of five.

Cleo with adoptive kittens Orea and Coco

Cleo was taken to Yorkshire Cat Rescue as a pregnant stray and placed in foster care with Amanda and David Atkinson from Doncaster. Just hours later, she went into labour and delivered five kittens at Petmedic in Adwick. But they were unwell; two were still born, another was so deformed he had to be put to sleep, and the last two died only a few days later.

Amanda was heartbroken, as she explains: “Petmedic were amazing; they made a fantastic effort to help her first litter make it, and supported us throughout.

“Cleo was such an attentive mother; it wasn’t her fault that her kittens died and she was so distressed when the last one slipped away – desperately calling for them. I cried buckets for her and for them as we buried the last one under an apple tree in the garden.”

But just hours later, the charity called – asking if Cleo still had milk. Two kittens from a home in Leeds, just 19 days old, were starving because their mother had developed mastitis and was unable to feed them. The family were doing their best to hand-feed them, but could tell they were struggling and so they called Yorkshire Cat Rescue. Amanda didn’t hesitate to say yes when asked, and within 90 minutes, the kittens arrived at her home.

She says: “We wrapped the new kittens in a blanket from Cleo’s babies and carried them inside. Immediately she could hear them and began calling out for them. When we put them into her bed, she smelled the air to determine where they had come from, and then instantly rolled over and invited them feed. They were starving and clearly desperate for milk and care from a mum, so they practically launched themselves at her.

“We just watched with amazement; I didn’t think we’d be smiling so soon again but it was a real little miracle unfolding before our eyes. They are little fighters but the road to recovery is long and rather slippery for these two.”


The two kittens, Orea and Coco weigh less than half a kilo between them. They were from a litter of three but sadly, one had already died. A trip to the vet confirmed that they were suffering from cat flu and eye infections. Both were treated with antibiotics and are under careful monitoring.

Amanda explains: “They are both so full of cold that they are struggling to latch on and feed properly because when they do, they can’t breathe. We have to supplement the milk they get from Cleo with milk from a bottle to make sure they get enough. It’s an effort around the clock but I’m not giving up.”

Amanda cleans their faces every hour, but says: “Whenever I pick them up to clean their eyes, Cleo demands that I put them back. She is very protective of her babies who she has already adopted as her own. I can’t help but be proud of her.”

Sara Atkinson, founder of Yorkshire Cat Rescue says: “Amanda and Cleo are both amazing and deserve recognition for what they have done. It is unlikely that these two kittens would have lasted much longer without help, despite the owner’s best efforts. The best place for a young kitten is always with a mother and these two are luckier than many to have found that in the nick of time.

“This story paints a picture of the cats and kittens we try and help as a priority; where it really is a case of life and death. It might help those who can’t keep their pet cat understand why we might not be able to take them in or why they might have to wait a little before we have space.

“Kittens from cats that become pregnant outside regularly suffer from complications so sadly, Cleo’s story is not unusual and one of the many reasons people need to neuter their cats. But this could be a story with the happy ending that everyone deserves. Our hands and paws are firmly crossed while they battle on, one day at a time.”

The kittens will remain in foster care until they are old and strong enough to be neutered, vaccinated and put up for adoption.