Large litters vs Small litters17 June, 2007
I don’t think there’s anything bad about a smaller litter. In some ways, it’s been interesting this time round, to just have two kittens.
Last year, with a litter of seven there was great competition for milk. As you know a cat has eight teats, and the ones at the top (near the front legs) tend to be smaller and have less milk. Needless to say, it was the smallest kitten who ended up having to suckle from that teat. Because it got less milk it fell behind in the weight-stakes, so I had to hand-feed during the daytime, every two hours. I also used to be woken up several times at night by the cries of kittens fighting to get at the teats – I would shine my torch on the squirming mass of kittens to see the larger ones use their huge paws to shovel the smaller ones out of their way. It was a brutal demonstration of Nature in practice.
And because there were seven kittens, Ananda’s teats got sore and painful. I don’t know how she put up with it for so long.
Seven kittens also meant seven bums and other assorted bits to clean. As you know, a mother cat licks her kittens’ bums to stimulate them to poo and pee. She then swallows the stuff up. Doing it seven times was a bit much and there were times when Ananda would stop and pant vigorously.
It was non-stop with seven kittens too. And Ananda would sometimes go downstairs and flop down the floor, totally exhausted.
So, this time round, with just two, Ananda has actually been more relaxed and been able to give the kittens more attention. As there are only two, each has the choice of four teats (“ooh, I think I’ll try the chocolate-flavoured teat today”), the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet. So because they’ve not had to waste energy fighting for food, and because it’s food-on-tap, they doubled their weight in seven days and their eyes opened after just one week. They don’t keep me up with squealing and squabbling. They’re really a contented litter.
Last year, in order to feed seven kittens a home-prepared raw diet, I would spend 2-3 hours two evenings a week, plus one at the weekend at the meat grinder. I found it exhausting and would have preferred to have spent that time playing with the kittens instead. Hopefully, with just two this year I won’t be chained to that meat grinder.
Teddy, my boy neuter is a little disappointed though. Last night I took the kittens out of their box in order to change their bedding, and I put them on this warm plant propagator I have at the side of the box. Teddy began investigating the kittens who were squealing. He started licking them and cleaning their bums. Last year he had seven bums to clean, and he took to it with an expression on his face reminiscent of a wine sommelier (“ah, eau de chat 2006, full-flavoured, tongue-tingling … .”). He used to pursue those kittens around the house until he cornered them and pinned them down with a huge paw so that he could get his quota of kitten water. After doing last night’s two, he looked up, licking his lips as if to say: anymore, mum?