While working at a neighbor’s barn one day in April, our 12-year-old son, Johnny, navigated around a bunch of newborn kittens and their moms. As he worked, he started to hear a plaintive cry in the corner near the hay, far away from where all the other cats were. As the meowing continued, he ventured closer and found one tiny white ball alone, one eye matted shut, the other just a slit. By the time he completed his chores, the kitten was still pitifully alone, barely moving.
So naturally, he brought it home to our barn, where he tried to coax the little one to eat food and drink a saucer of milk he had sneaked out of the house. He made multiple visits to the barn that day to try to persuade the kitten to eat. In the evening, he pirated the kitten into the house and put it in his closet. But by 10 pm, it was meowing again and Teddy, his roommate brother, suggested coming clean to my husband, Josh, and me.
Johnny’s confession rolled out with urgency. “I’ve been trying to feed him all day. He won’t eat and he looks sick. I’m sorry I hid him, but can you help me, please?” We contacted the neighbor who “owned” the kitten. He estimated that it had been born around April 2, and was emphatic about its fate: “No, I don’t want it back. You want more? We have kittens coming out our ears here!”
We next called a friend who is a small animal vet. His advice? Feed kitten formula via an eye dropper and use cotton balls with warm water on its eyes. Due to the virus, all the stores were already closed for the night, so we just tried to keep the kitten warm and gave it a little cow’s milk and prayed. Josh figured out it was a she as we cleaned her off and snuggled her. We doubted that she’d survive the night; nevertheless, the boys set an alarm and woke every hour until morning, coaxing her to eat each time.
When the sun rose, the kitten was still alive! So we stocked up on supplies, consulted more with our vet friend via text and camped out on the kittenlady.com website. Johnny was the one in charge of the kitten’s feedings, at first every 2 hours through the day and night. He set his alarm and woke for every single night-time feeding with me just helping with the very first and very last shift of the day.
That first night, the boys had named her Corona ten Boom, Corrie for short. Throughout quarantine and the “safer at home” time, we have been reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Corrie, a godly woman who risked her own life to hide Jews in her home and work with the Dutch resistance in the Netherlands during World War II, is a hero to our whole family, so we all agreed we loved the name and thought it was super appropriate given our current situation.
Boy, did Corrie grow quickly! By the time she was six weeks old, her eye had healed, she was putting on weight and she’d become super spunky.
We have horses and chickens and barn cats, but other than a couple chinchillas who peacefully live in the basement storage room, no indoor pets. Five years ago, when we moved to our ranch and kept our soon-to-be-barn cats in the house for a few months when they were just kittens, we discovered that Josh probably has a cat allergy. But even as we started Corrie on solid food (a trigger for allergic reactions to cat dander, we hear) we noticed that he could cuddle her with little to no allergic reaction! It seems that Corrie is half-Siamese, and Siamese are apparently somewhat hypoallergenic. So a house cat she will remain.
But we quickly realized that we might not be able to give this active kitten all the stimulation she needs to grow up happy and healthy. I started to consult cat-expert friends – should we get her a sibling? Most everyone said yes.
So the hunt began. We knew we wanted a female, an at least half-hypoallergenic cat, and a kitten who was similar in age to Corrie.
Unfortunately, hypoallergenic breeds or mixes were few and far between, and cost in the hundreds or even thousands. And we felt an urgency; we knew that the longer we waited the harder it might be for her to accept a sister. She was very much our little furry princess, doted on by our entire family of seven. So while I found a couple possible leads on families of just-born kittens that wouldn’t be able to leave their mom until July or August, I knew waiting that long probably wasn’t ideal. I even considered going back to the neighbor’s barn for the one remaining Siamese-mix kitten, but I knew it would be wild and possibly diseased and that might not end well.
Finally, after two weeks of pursuing various dead-end leads, I found a kind man who lives three hours southeast of us and who breeds Manx (a semi-hypoallergenic breed). He had two female kittens for sale for a semi-reasonable price, ready for adoption on June 9th. We set up a video call to meet the kittens the following evening.
Meanwhile, I had started to think about what to name Corrie’s sister cat. Corrie’s name was just so perfect, we had to find something equally meaningful for these unique times as well as reflecting our spiritual values. No doubt Covid is a popular pet name these days, but I didn’t think it would fly in a family so weary from the quarantine. Besides, our little Corrie has a surname too.
And there was the solution: We could give our new kitten the name of the human Corrie ten Boom’s sister – Betsie. Betsie is just as much a hero to us as Corrie is. (If you read The Hiding Place, you’ll understand why.) Then it hit me: Betsie’s real name was Elizabeth. And I had a really sweet friend named Elizabeth, who had passed away on May 19th (you can read her sad but inspiring story here.) That could be the new kitten’s name – Elizabeth ten Boom, AKA Betsie. My family all readily agreed that this was perfect.
The afternoon after I talked to the Manx breeder, a couple of my kids and I were getting ready to run errands when a friend texted me that a nearby cat shelter was hosting an open house that day. Since the shelter was literally on the way to some of our errands, we decided to pay them a visit even though they probably wouldn’t have what we were looking for.
As I drove, I thought about how cute those Manx kittens were and what a long drive it would be to get one. So I prayed out loud with my kids, “Lord, if there is a kitten at this place for us, make it really, really obvious.”
After praying, I looked at the clock on the dashboard. Shoot, it was later than I thought, so I called Josh and told him it would be best if we just met at the shelter. Still, by the time we all got into the little fair, our assigned adoption counselor informed us that there were no more female Siamese or otherwise hypoallergenic kitten mixes available. My heart sank.
Even so, as long as we were there, we let her take us around. Just as we were wrapping up our tour, still kitten-less, a car pulled up next to us. As the driver got out of her car, our tour guide was commenting about our hope of finding a Siamese girl kitten.
The driver, whose name turned out to be Mary, interrupted us. “You’re looking for a female Siamese kitten? I have one right here. I just got back from getting her spayed and she’s ready for adoption!” She opened the back door and gingerly slid out a travel cage.
I noticed a tag on the cage.
“Does that say April 2nd?” I asked. “Is that her birthday?”
“And is that her name?”
“Oh yes, but you could change it, of course.”
Her name? You guessed it: Betsie. We had found Corrie’s sister!
We quickly filled out the necessary paperwork, paid the shelter and, the next day, brought Betsie home, whereupon the kittens immediately fell in love with each other.
There are multiple morals to this story.
First, God often blesses His children with the sweetest gifts. We wouldn’t have thought adopting a kitten during the coronavirus quarantine would be just the thing to calm and comfort our family. Corrie has been such a gift!
Second, God LOVES to tickle us by answering specific prayers. “You wanted obvious. How about a bit suspenseful and dramatic on top of obvious?” I could just hear Him chuckle.
Third, God is sovereign. He brought Mary to the adoption fair with Betsie at just the perfect time to meet us. He works His plans out, even when I’m running late.
Fourth, I believe God cares about all His creatures, even a couple of little kittens who weren’t born sisters but were so clearly meant for one another.
Finally, we will never forget the amazing story of our kittens’ human namesakes, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, and believe God will use that story in our lives and the lives of people who meet and hear about our kittens.
If you haven’t yet read The Hiding Place, you really must! You’ll find a free online pdf of the whole book right here.