Just look at these two sweet little kitten faces. Their names are Pippin and Merry – two ginger (yellow tabby) kittens that we have cared for for five months.

A lovely lady, with a tender spot in her heart for cats, takes care of three feral cat colonies scattered around Aiken. As she makes her “rounds,” she scoops up the kittens and adults that appear weak or sick and brings them to us. If she did not intervene, they most likely would struggle and silently pass on with no one taking notice.

Her instructions for us are simple: “Make them well.” When the kittens are healthy, spayed or neutered, we then face the dilemma of what to do with them, especially those that we have had for months. Does she take them back to their colony for release? Does she place them in a specially designed building with beds, toys and dedicated meals to live out their lives? Or, best of all, can we find loving homes for them? We all try our best and know that something is better than what was. At the least, wild and sick cats are not suffering or spreading disease amongst themselves.

Pippen and Merry are brothers and weighed barely a pound when they moved in with us. Fearful and sick, they clung to each other, curving together like pretzels with entwined legs. They hid inside boxes, under towels, in their large double cage placed in the middle of our busy hospital. We actually didn’t see them for a couple of weeks as they lived secreted away from the scary world.

Socialization is very important with kittens, especially by 12 weeks of age. We didn’t ignore them. Everyone who passed by would murmur something, open the door, pat a head. As they grew larger, the two were picked up and hugged.

Slowly, they emerged from their towels like a beautiful butterfly from its cocoon. They began to purr. They began to play, and we began to smile.

There is nothing better than to see fear melt away and a sweet, happy personality unfold.

I fell in love with the orange kitten named Pippen. He became “Cheeto” to me. Each morning I would pick them both up but hold Cheeto a little closer. He would snuggle in the curve of my neck or curl into my lap.

I tried to convince my husband that it was time for another cat in our home and that I had found the perfect one. Cheeto and Dora would become great buddies. We would be amused by his kitten antics. However, he would have none of it. A second act (cat) to our lovely Chloe would not take place. And, really, how could I argue? I’m so busy and take care of pets all day long. When I come home, I enjoy the quiet and my red devil dog, Dora (Ed too!).

Besides, how could I split up these two brothers?

The phone calls went out to our cat-crazy, loving clients, trying to convince someone to adopt not just one but two kittens. Oh happy day, when a favorite client of ours barely hesitated and said, “Yes”! She visited them on Friday and fell in love. Their new names are Laurel and Hardy, and they have already moved into their new home.

Our celebrations were short lived though. As we arrived for work on Friday, we found a box sitting at our front door. It was taped shut, with a tiny, bedraggled and sick kitten inside. Yes, as fate would have it, another ginger kitten, another Cheeto.

What has happened to our humanity? I suppose one could argue that there is no better place than a veterinary hospital or an animal shelter to leave the animals you don’t want anymore. I disagree. I argue that people should spay and neuter and not allow their animals to roam the countryside. That’s being responsible. That’s being kind.

And so we start again with saving a tiny life.

Dr. Holly Woltz (Doc Holly), Chief of Staff at Veterinary Services, has practiced veterinary medicine for 30 years and specializes in senior care. A former teacher and writer, she enjoys talking and writing about the human-companion animal bond and its importance. Visit her at www.aikenpetvet.com.