A NEWBORN kitten had her life saved thanks to an eagle-eyed gardener.

Darryl Messer was mowing the lawn of his Whitehaven home, when he spotted a tiny bundle of ginger fur, hidden in the grass.

Discovering she was just hours - or even minutes - old, he bottle fed the baby feline through the night, saving her life.

The 25-year-old said he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“At first I thought it was a something like a dead weasel,” he recalled, “but I soon realised it was a kitten that was still alive.”

The PHD student scooped up the kitten, which he named Virgil after defender Van Dijk of his beloved Liverpool, and wrapped her up to keep warm.

“She was cold and wet and had a few slugs on her and was still attached to the umbilical cord,” added Darryl.

He quickly sought advice from a local vet.

“The vet showed me how to bottle feed her and make sure her bowels were working. She did warn me it was unlikely she would make it through the night,” he said.

Darryl chose not to bed that night, instead bottle-feeding Virgil every two hours and making a cosy bed to keep the tiny kitten warm.

His sleepless night paid off and the kitten survived.

Darryl originally thought the kitten was a boy, having been wrongly told all gingers were male. Despite discovering he was in fact a she, he wanted the name Virgil to remain.

“As lovely as Virgil was, I quickly came to realise that I was not going to be able to hand feed her for the next four or five weeks,” he admitted.

It was then that Jade Courty, a veterinary nurse and a volunteer fosterer for the West Cumbria Branch of Cats Protection, stepped in. Jade has taken on the responsibility of hand-rearing Virgil for the past two weeks, and has nicknamed her April.

Virgil’s mother has since been found, having taken refuge on the roof of a neighbour’s one-story extension. It is unclear whether she dropped her kitten when moving her litter or if Virgil fell from the roof.

The mother, who has other kittens, is being regularly checked on by neighbours and is doing well.

Jade now has her hands full as she is also fostering another mum Cleo and her litter of kittens, all born on the day of the lawnmower drama.

“All the beautiful kittens and mum Chloe are doing really well,” she said.

“All the kittens will be available for rehoming once they are old enough, while Cleo, who is a community cat, will be neutered, vaccinated and released back to the care of the neighbours who were looking out for her.”

Darryl added: “I’m seriously thinking about adopting Virgil when she is ready to be rehomed but I will have to think about the commitment involved.”

To enquire about adopting any of the cats in the care of West Cumbria Cats Protection call 01946 590 079.

For more information on the essential cat care work and fundraising done by the branch visit westcumbria.cats.org.uk/westcumbria