We took the kitten to an animal clinic today - turns out there's a clinic literally ONE BLOCK away from our front door - and got some advice. According to the experts, our little orphan is a girl. The doctor put some wet food on a tongue depressor and put it right in front the kitten's nose, and she began eating immediately. She's hasn't learned much about her eyes yet, so we have to get the food within smelling and touching range. After practically inhaling half the can, she lost the frantic expression she'd worn almost constantly since we found her, and became much more relaxed.
The vet explained that a kitten's liver is bad at storing glycogen - meaning that underfed kittens are at high risk for going into hypoglycemic seizures. Kittens must know this instinctively, because when a kitten's not getting enough food it makes a particular kind of yowl. It's a loud cry that sounds alarmingly similar to the noise your stomach makes when it's empty - and you can hear it across a room. Our bottle-feeding kept that yowl away for hours at a time, but not permanently. Once the kitten got solid food, though, the sound vanished, and we haven't heard it since. Just chatty mewing and purring noises.
When La got home from classes, we gave the kitten a bath, and picked off almost a dozen fleas. We dried her fur a section at a time using a blow-dryer, held some distance away on low heat.
Now that she's getting good meals, we can keep her in a little pen with a heating blanket. Now we can go about our lives while she naps contentedly. (Yes, Mike, that's your armoire serving as a house!)
We have no idea what we're going to do with her. I'm hesitant to ask around the neighborhood because I wouldn't feel good returning her to her previous owners -- they obviously didn't take good care of her. The household has become attached to the kitten, and seems enthusiastic about having a pet. They've even volunteered to split the cost of a full medical package at the animal clinic.
I guess it's ironic that even though I found her, and spent the most time with her, I'm actually the most undecided about keeping her. I've known many cats: neighbor cats and visiting cats, cats owned by friends, and even rescued kittens meant for other people ... but I've only had one cat that I considered mine. She was the ideal cat, and a thing of beauty, and it hurt a great deal when she died. I don't know if I'm ready to go through that again.