It was over 100 degrees the day a car pulled up to the Southeast Volusia Humane Society in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. When the driver and passenger got out, they carried a plastic storage tote. They’d found kittens in their neighborhood, the people said, and they wanted to bring them here.

“I looked up and saw this kitten peek his head up from between the two flaps of the tote, and for some reason, they [the people] were trying to push the kitten back in,” Karen Morgan, executive director of Southeast Volusia Humane Society, told The Dodo. “A staff member and myself ran outside quickly. I grabbed the tote from them, and came in and opened it.”

Inside were nine panting tuxedo kittens — and none of them were doing well. Morgan suspects they were in the container, which didn’t have air ventilation, for at least an hour. “It is really meant for shipping — it’s not meant for anything that’s alive,” she said.

To make matters worse, the kittens had been driven in a car with a black interior, which may have made them feel the heat even more.
“They were on black leather or black vinyl in that car, so that’s pulling heat down on top of them,” Morgan said. “Those kittens were in direct sunlight. There was nothing protecting them at all.”

As the result, the kittens were dangerously overheated. In fact, Morgan believes they were minutes from death.

“If you’ve ever left a Coke can in the front seat of your car in the hot sun, and you came back a few hours later and feel how hot it is — those little kittens felt like that when we touched them,” Morgan said. “One of them, his little tongue was hanging out and he was panting in my hands, and I thought he was going to lose consciousness.”

Everyone at the shelter rushed to help the kittens.

“We all went into emergency mode,” Morgan said. “We brought in wet towels, water and milk — anything they might be interested in to get some fluids back into them. Our concern was getting their body temperatures to come down, and we wanted to make sure it came down properly and slowly so it didn’t give them shock.”
Each kitten was wrapped in a wet towel and closely monitored. Thankfully, all nine kittens cooled down — and stabilized.

The shelter itself was actually full, so Morgan arranged for the kittens to go home that night with a foster mom, Jan Wenger.

“I brought them into my home last night when they were scared and dirty, so our first plan of action was to give them a nice bath,” Wenger told The Dodo. “I got them cleaned up, fed them and got them ready for bed.”

Despite everything they’ve been through, the kittens love being around people, Wenger explained.

“This little troupe is extremely friendly,” Wenger said. “Most come running up to you when you go into the room. They love to cuddle.”

The kittens have also gotten names.

“I decided to name them after the ‘Little Rock Nine’ — Ernest, Elizabeth, Jefferson, Terrence, Carlotta, MinniJean, Gloria Ray, Thelma and Melba,” Morgan said. “I will be using color-coded collars so I can tell them apart.”

“We’re really grateful to everyone who’s rallied behind them, because they were really just a few minutes away from expiring, unfortunately, in a very, very excruciating and painful way,” Morgan added. “It really does take a village.”

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