Wild African kitten rejected by parents, raised by zoo staff

March 27, 2012 3:28:08 PM PDT
A story of survival at Brookfield Zoo: He may be tiny, but a baby black-footed cat is alive and thriving.

"We have a little black-footed cat kitten here at the zoo that was rejected by his mother when it was born so we've been hand rearing this animal. He had a little bit of a rough start to life," Dr. Michael Adkesson, Brookfield Zoo veterinarian, said.

The black-footed cat is from the southern tip of Africa and is the smallest wild African cat. When fully grown, it will weigh only five pounds, but this baby, which was born on February 14, had an extra, extra slow start.

"It was born at just about two ounces. A very low weight -- but since then he has gained a lot of weight and is about half a pound right now which is ... he's doing very well," Jay Petersen, curator of carnivores and primates, said.

The zoo staff has given the kitten around-the-clock care since his birth, feeding him and keeping him warm and giving this little wild cat one extra life to add to his already nine lives.

Over at the Fragile Kingdom Building, the kitten's parents-- Butch and Cleo -- are totally oblivious to what's going on. And while the kitten will survive, he will not rejoin his mom and dad.

"No, after cats leave their mom they don't go back because his mom loses those maternal hormones. She's not interested in having the cat back either," Petersen said.

The kitten appears to be as gentle as a domesticated cat, but don't plan on bringing this tiny prince of the beasts home.

"Not a good idea as a pet. He would tear up the house and would tear up you," Adkesson said. "Still very wild."