People who volunteer at shelters or animal rescues typically have a rough job. Not only do they have to deal with the heartbreaking reality of neglected animals, but they also have to deal with aggressive animals. The Belgian volunteers quickly learned that their job can also send them on crazy adventures just to figure out what kind of animal it is that they’re handling.
Martine Vos didn’t hesitate to help when she was called about a kitten that needed rescuing. She didn’t realize at the time that this wasn’t an ordinary kitten. Once she decided to figure out the truth, she was met with quite a shock – one that she’ll remember forever.
Marine absolutely adores cats and spends a lot of her time volunteering at her local shelter in Genk, Belgium. One evening in April, Marine received a call from the shelter. The Cat Shelter, in the nearby town of Limburg, had received a call about a kitten in immediate need of help. But the place where the kitten was found was closer to Genk than Limburg. The shelter asked Marine to help and she didn’t hesitate for a second.
The man who called the shelter in Limburg told them that he had found an extremely young kitten that needed to be picked up. Even though they sent their own volunteer, Martine got there first because she lived closer. As soon as she saw the kitten she realized it was probably less than a week old. But where was mama cat?
Martine and the man looked all over the area where they found the kitten to see if they could find its mother or any siblings. A kitten that young should remain with its mother because she can nurse them until they are old enough to eat food on its own. Sadly, they couldn’t seem to find any other cat in the area. Martine would have to take the kitten by itself.
Martine took the time to inspect the kitten. She wanted to make sure that it didn’t have any infections or injuries. That’s when she realized something was a bit off. This kitten was unlike any other kitten she had ever met. “When I took the baby in my hands, she seemed really big and it felt totally different how a kitten should feel,” said Marine. The kitten’s appearance was pretty different, as well.
The kitten was entirely black and had small pointy ears. It also had huge paws. But it was its face that threw Martine off. Its snout was more distinct than any other kitten that age. Marine had no idea what was going on, but luckily she was able to get some help. Finally, the Limberg volunteer arrived. They decided it was best to get the opinion of an expert.
Hoping that they could get an answer about what kind of animal they had, Martine and the volunteer drove to the local veterinarian’s office. After the doctor examined the creature, they still had no clue about what they were dealing with. All the vet could tell them was that the animal they had was a female. But that didn’t really help them figure out what she was.
The volunteers knew that they couldn’t bring the mystery animal back to the shelter. And they definitely couldn’t place it in foster care if it wasn’t actually a cat. They were even looking at legal trouble if this animal was illegal to keep captive. They were confused about what to do. But then Martine recalled a wildlife rescue center that was close by.
Located in Opglabbeek, The Nature Help Center isn’t too far from Limberg and Genk. They specialize in the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured wildlife. The shelter has been running since 1976 and is the largest of its kind in Europe. Once Martine and her colleague brought the little animal to the shelter they were finally able to find out what she was.
The Nature Help Center was able to tell Martine and her colleague that the animal they rescued was actually a fox cub. Most people don’t realize that the fur fox cubs are born with is actually much darker than the adults. Their coat begins to lighten as they get older. Their facial features are definitely similar to a kitten’s, which is kind of weird considering they’re related to an entirely different animal.
If you’re looking at the genetics, dogs and foxes are actually cousins! They both may come from the family Canidae, but foxes have more in common with cats! They stalk and pounce their prey, they’re nocturnal, and some of them of them even have retractable claws just like cats. Foxes are sly and mysterious animals, so it’s not really surprising that most people couldn’t recognize one. But Martine was excited by the adventure.
“Firstly, because I am really interested in the native wild animals. And because of my surname ‘Vos’, which means ‘fox’ in Dutch. It was my dream to meet a fox in real life. So holding this little baby fox in my hands and preventing it from a certain death was a dream that came true,” explained Martine. But what was to come for the little fox?
Like many other animals, foxes are entirely dependent on their mother for food, but also how to survive in the wild and hunt. Fox cubs typically stay with their mother until they’re around 7 months old. The experts at the Nature Help Center knew that the cub would die if expected to survive on its own, so they took her in. Martine was more than happy about that.
“As a volunteer for Cat Shelter, I am committed to helping animals in danger or in need, especially the very young kittens. In this case, it made me feel good that I was part of the rescue of this baby,” said Martine. But foxes are meant to live in the wild, not in captivity. Luckily, the shelter has a plan for the little cub.
The experts at the shelter are hoping to raise the fox and teach her to be able to survive in the wild on her own. “Now she has a good chance to get a life in her own habitat. And I hope she will be released into the wild again and have a lot of baby foxes of her own,” said Martine.