Cat family finds help at a local construction site

A hand reaching down to pet the mama cat with the kittens in the foreground
When construction workers spotted a litter of newborn kittens in the middle of their work zone, they made sure they got them somewhere safe.
By Sarah Thornton

An active construction site probably wouldn’t be high on most lists of “best places to raise a family,” even if it put you in a good school district. But to a pregnant momma cat looking for a place to have her kittens, an elementary school being built in Kanab, Utah, seemed perfect. It had four walls and a roof to keep out the elements and as well as any predators, and it was quiet and felt safe ― at least until the work resumed in the morning.

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It didn’t take long for construction workers to spot the pile of tiny, orange fur balls in the middle of their work zone, but momma was nowhere to be found. The kittens were clearly newborn, their ears still flat to their little heads and their eyes were firmly shut. They couldn’t do much more than squirm around and squeak for their mom. Worried for the kittens’ safety around active construction equipment and bustling bodies, workers gently collected and placed them in a cardboard box labeled: “Careful, kittens.”

Throughout the day, workers stopped by to check on the kittens. And whenever they turned off the loud equipment, momma showed right back up, too. She was young herself and also small, lithe and just as orange as her babies. She was friendly with the construction crew, happy to purr and be petted as she looked over her kittens, but as soon as the mechanical noises started back up, she’d dart off again to hide.

Meanwhile, the crew sent out word about their unexpected discovery. One worker contacted a friend, Meaghan King, who works at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary just 15 minutes north of town. Meaghan began a search for the momma cat’s people on local social media. But as evening approached, no one had come forth to claim their missing tangerine tabby.

News of the feline family in need also reached the supervisor of Cat World at the Sanctuary, who was more than happy to offer them a place to stay. So, when momma returned after construction ceased for the day, she had a ride waiting to deliver her and the kittens in style to their new home-between-homes. “I went back after hours with the foreman and she was so sweet,” Meaghan says. “She let me pick her right up, and her babies, too.”

[Tiny but mighty: a kitten’s journey]

At the Sanctuary, momma cat (who was given the name Makita) and her seven kittens got a thorough checkup and received a clean bill of health from veterinary staff. Caregivers then set them up with soft, warm bedding, fresh water, and a filling meal for momma (which she quickly gobbled up).

Finally, a day that had started with new life, loud noises and uncertainty, came to a close with the quiet rumble of Makita’s purr and the snores of her contented kittens.

Photo by Molly Wald

Building a good foundation for a feline family

Rose Molina, senior project manager of canyon operations at the Sanctuary, says she had been following Makita’s story as it unfolded: “I saw they got picked up (and) I saw the cute little cardboard box with the plumbing fittings and the itty-bitties, so I reached out and asked, ‘Do y’all need a foster?’”

[Survivor kitten turned teacher]

The kittens were four days old when the family moved into Rose’s house. They were still barely able to move around by their momma’s belly but they grew fast under Makita’s close care. “They are tubby, well-fed little kittens. They are doing so well,” Rose says. “I was thinking about it, and if there wasn’t a mom, I would need two other people to manage seven very needy kittens. She’s such a trooper.”

By four weeks old, the kittens had found their feet and were crawling and climbing all over the place, including scrambling up Rose’s pant leg whenever their blurry eyes saw the opportunity. “Kitten burrs,” Rose affectionately calls them. It was all Rose could do to give momma Makita a little break now and again by snuggling with her in the one place the rambunctious kittens couldn’t reach: the bathtub.

“She is the biggest lovebug,” Rose says. “When she’s away from the kittens, she’s like, ‘Love on me, love on me.’ She just wants to sit in your lap and chill. She likes little shoulder massages ... She’s so wanting and deserving of her own TLC.”

Watching over the kittens has been a team effort from the beginning, and Makita seems happy for all the help (and snuggles) along the way. An active construction site might not be high on the list of places to raise a family, but it certainly became a solid foundation for this one.

Photo by Molly Wald

This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of Best Friends magazine. Want more good news? Become a member and get stories like this six times a year.

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