Kittens – The Birth – Tuesday, 10 July 2006

5 August, 2006


The kittens were born on Monday, 10 August 2006 between 7.35pm and 9.30pm.

They were due to be born on Tuesday which is day 65 and the average gestation period for a cat (actually it can be anything from something like 60 days to 74 days).

I was expecting them on Tuesday because last year their mother was spot-on day 65. But no, this year she was a day early. (not sure why she was early … maybe because there were 7 kittens? Maybe because it was a full moon and it’s a documented fact that more babies are born at the full moon?)

On Monday morning I woke up and found my girl rooting round the foot of the bed. Oh-oh … that was what she did the previous year just before giving birth. So I watched her carefully, but she wasn’t nesting or settling, so I went off to work.

I decided to play safe and left work early. Good thing too. I got home and she was restless and unsettled. For two hours I shadowed her (she probably thought I was mad and just wanted to be left alone!). Finally at about 7pm I took her into the bedroom and she jumped on the bed and started crawling under the blanket and moaning. I’d got two boxes ready for her, but of course, being a cat who knew her own mind, it was a comfy bed she wanted, just like last year. So I spread towels and Pampers Babychanging Mats, plonked her on them, and prepared to wait.

At about 7.30pm I went out of the bedroom to speak to Hubby. I was gone just minutes. When I returned to the bedroom she was gone from the bed. Oh no! Relief when I saw she’d gone into one of the kitten boxes I’d prepared.

Then I heard a squeaking noise, and I realised that she’d had a kitten in the five minutes I was away!

I looked in the box and mum was busy doing everything she had to do – she didn’t need my help at all until a few kittens on. (for last year’s litter I’d had to break the sac and cut the cord for the first kitten).

Anyway, there were seven of them. Was I expecting seven? Well, last year there were six kittens in the litter so I was hoping for six. But for me, it was more important that she have a safe delivery so six, four, three kittens – the number wasn’t important. At least two kittens would be good though, so I could at least cover the stud fees.

The first two kittens arrived in a hurry, within 10 mins of each other. Then there was a long wait of about 30 mins, and I remember thinking “two’s a good thing really – means she’ll have plenty of milk for them.”

After number four arrived there was another long break and I was honestly happy with just four. Mum did seem rather big for just four kittens, though. Maybe it had just been pregnancy fat.

Then after another long wait came kittens five and six. For kitten five I had to cut the cord because she was getting tired.

I almost lost kitten seven.

By then, my girl was (not surprisingly) exhausted. I was counting placentas and wasn’t sure if the sixth placenta had come out or not. So when she gave a throaty cry I just thought she was giving birth to the placenta, especially because she swung round and then lay down abruptly. Hubby who was watching said “isn’t that a kitten behind her?” I said “naw, that’s the placenta”. Mum just lay there looking exhausted. A few minutes later I looked closer at her and saw something sticking out under her. It looked like either the end of a cord or … a tail.

I immediately lifted Mum up and it was a kitten. I felt as though I had been kicked in the stomach – it was a kitten and still in its sac. I pushed it towards Mum and she sniffed it but didn’t do anything. So I tore open the sac and cleaned the kitten up.

It wasn’t breathing.

I pushed it towards Mum and she just ignored it. So I had a dead kitten on my hands and it was all my fault.

Out of desperation I did something I’d read about but was hoping, as a novice breeder, never to have to do. I picked the kitten up and put it between my hands, head secure between my fingers, and I flung my hands down to try to shake any fluid out of its lungs.

Still no signs of breathing and Mum couldn’t understand why I kept pushing it under her nose. It was a black kitten, it was perfectly-formed, there was nothing wrong with it. Just that it wasn’t breathing, and I was probably too late to save it.

So I held the kitten between my hands and shook it again. Then massaged it with a towel, trying not to cry.

Suddenly its sides expanded. Just once. Then again. Mum nosed it.

I had a homeopathic remedy on hand, carbo veg (aka “The Corpse Reviver”). It squealed as I picked it up. Yes, it was definitely breathing! I did debate whether or not to give it the carbo veg, but decided to be safe, and gave it a drop.

I put the kitten down and Mum started cleaning it.

The colours and sexes of the kittens: Two tortie-mackrels (girls), one silver mackrel with smoke (girl), three cream tabbies (boys) and one red (i.e. ginger) tabby (boy).

To date, all healthy, breathing and suckling well.



  1. my cat’s kittens are due in 1 – 2 weeks.What equipment do i need? And how old have the kittens got to be until you can hold them ? Would appreciate any replies to this message

  2. my cat’s kittens are due in 1 – 2 weeks.What equipment do i need? And how old have the kittens got to be until you can hold them ? Would appreciate any replies to this message . thanx

  3. Hi Josh – I’ve sent you an e-mail to your address. But here is the reply again:

    Hi Josh,

    Congratulations on your forthcoming kittens!

    What breed of cat do you have?

    OK, first, the average gestation period is 9 weeks + 2 days, sometimes a few
    days earlier, sometimes a few days later.

    You will notice signs of impending birth – sometimes the waters break and
    you will it run down her hind legs, sometimes, you notice it when she licks
    her bottom more. She will be restless and some days before start looking
    for dark, safe places in which to kitten.

    Here, in summary is a list of what you will need, and then a longer
    explanation if necessary of specific items:

    – Box for mum to have kittens in.
    – Maybe smaller separate box to put kittens in if you need to dry them
    while mum is busy having kittens and you don’t want her to roll on them
    – Newspaper to line box – you may need to change this often if it gets
    soaked during the birth process
    – some small face towels (cotton) to dry the kittens, and also to clean mum
    up after everything’s done.
    – larger towels for mum to sleep on after she has kittened – you will need
    to change these everyday – mum will appreciate this as cats are clean
    – kitchen towels – for general cleaning up
    – list of emergency tel numbers, e.g. vet, other breeder friends
    – interesting book in case the birth takes longer than expected
    – book/articles on cat birthing
    – torch in case it’s dark (many births occur in the evening/early morning)
    – bin bag(s) to get rid of the waste stuff

    – small blunt scissors and surgical spirit to sterlise it, if you need to
    cut the umbilical cords and are squeamish about doing it with your fingers.
    – dental floss to tie ends of umbiilical cord if necessary.
    – bulb syringe to suction fluids out of kitten’s aiway
    – homeopathic remedies: carbo veg (to resuscitate kittens or kittens that
    are having breathing problems), arnica (good for post-natal swelling and
    bruising for mum cat). If really into homeopathy: caullophyllum and
    cimicifuga. Do not use any of these remedies as a preventative – they are
    to be used only if there is a presenting problem.
    – nappy changing pads – these are large, absorbable pads which I use to line
    the box, under the towels – they save the cardboard base from being soaked
    in case kittens pee etc.
    – KMR kitten replacement milk and feeder – only necessary if mum cat isn’t
    producing enough milk or there are too many kittens and she can’t feed them
    – weighing machine (preferably digital) in 5g increments to weigh kittens.
    – nail polish to paint claws of kittens if there are more than 2-3 of the
    same colour, so you can distinguish between them. Or you can use food dye
    in the ears.

    So, first … THE BOX: If you have Maine Coons like I do, the box needs to
    be quite large, long enough for mum to stretch out in so that the kittens
    can nurse from all the teats. Cardboard boxes used for TV sets or PCs are
    good – start looking for them now. Alternatively, you can buying whelping
    boxes from specialists:

    I like cardboard boxes because after the kittens have left home, you can
    just get rid of the box.

    I use another box about the same size and cut that down to make a cover for
    the main box. This allows you to lift the cover off to do general
    housekeeping for the cat.

    You make a hole in the front of the box that is high enough so that when the
    kittens are just born and blind and crawling they won’t accidentally wander
    out of the box. When they start getting older and look as though they will
    fall out of the box, then you start cutting the hole to lower it. I
    partially cover the hole with a large towel/blanket so that it is dark and

    If you are serious about breeding, you may want a re-usable box, e.g. a
    Snowsilk pen.

    Boxes will only confine the kittens up to about 3 weeks. After that, they
    will crawl everywhere. At which stage you may need to put some panels of
    wire around the box with an entrance for mum cat to get in and out, but high
    enough to stop the kittens.

    You may want to offer your queen a choice of boxes located in different
    areas – cats are funny about where they want to have their kittens, and
    often where you think is a good location could be too draughty, too cold, or
    too noisy.

    Some breeders confine their mother cats in a pen just before and during the
    birth. If you are using a cage, be very careful that the mesh of the cage
    is quite small because if the mesh is large, wandering/climbing kittens can
    get their paws and heads stuck in the mesh and suffocate. The cage should
    be large enough for litter tray, food and water.

    HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES: I will write a separate post about this. A good book
    is Richard Moskowitz’s “Homeopathic Medicines for Pregnancy and Childbirth”.

    SCISSORS AND SURGICAL SPIRIT AND FLOSS: you only need this if you don’t
    want to break the umbilical cords with your bare fingers. Usually mum will
    do that by chewing through the cords, but if she doesn’t, and do give her a
    few moments to try, then just squeeze the cord (about half an inch from the
    kitten) between your fingernails – just doing this will seal the cord – if
    it still bleeds, then tie it with the dental floss. Do not pull cord away
    from kitten or you could cause a hernia.

    WEIGHING MACHINE: sometimes in a large litter some of the kittens may not
    get enough milk. When all the kittens are small it is difficult to tell
    which is losing weight, or losing ground to its siblings. By weighing
    everyday, and keeping a record of their weights, you can soon determine
    which kitten isn’t getting enough. Some breeders disagree with this method
    believing that if a kitten isn’t strong enough to fight for milk then it
    shouldn’t be helped in any way – i.e. let nature take its course.

    Here are some very good articles on giving birth in cats:


    How old do kittens have to be to hold them?
    You can hold kittens as soon as they are born, just be careful with them so
    that you hold them gently, but securely in your hand, and respectful of mum
    cat in case she does not like you handling them. I would handle the kittens
    everyday, several times a day, so they get used to being handling. Or just
    stroke them gently. Kittens are surprisingly robust.

    Hope this helps.

    I will post this as a reply on the site, plus as a separate post – many
    thanks for asking this great question!

    Best wishes,

  4. would just like to say thanx for the replys to my questions. It’s been a great help. And will keep you posted when the kittens are born. expecting any day soon.

  5. Thanks, Josh. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any other questions. I’m looking forward to hearing about the kittens – do send photos! Big hug to mum cat! Best wishes, Rona (www.catswhiskers.uk.com)

  6. In quick order, three weeks apart, two stray young cats came to stay: and the first was Not Happy that the second one came to stay too. They looked not more than three months old. We fed them and they were immediately affectionate. Then we find that they are both female and probably pregnant.
    Advice from friends who love cats and a vet in a different country said that if we are sure the cats are less than 5 months old, they will still probably have difficult births and being so immature there is a risk that the kittens will die or be malformed, and there is also danger to the mother.
    We are in the difficult position of having to decide whether to abort them immediately [the decision was anyway to spay at 7 months] or allow the pregnancies to continue.
    One of them became big tummied soon after she had been well fed for about a week, meaning that the babies are likely to be quite big already.
    Very difficult decision, and would appreciate your advice
    Thank you

  7. Dear Compline,

    I think it’s wonderful that two stray cats have chosen you as their owner. The world should have more people like you who are willing to open homes and hearts to animals.

    Now, about the cats being pregnant at a premature age.

    I am not a vet, and have to confess I am not experienced in this matter. My experience is that most cats don’t come into first heat until about 6-8 months. The Orientals may come into heat earlier, maybe from 5 months onwards. So I was very surprised when you said that the kittens were pregnant from 3 months’ onwards.

    Have you checked their nipples – are they erect and pink and maybe a bit swollen? Pinking up is one of the signs of pregnancy. Have you palpated their abdomen and felt kittens?

    I think in this case, my advice is: take them to a vet asap (if you haven’t done so already) and have him do an abdominal examination to make sure that they really are pregnant.

    Another thing the vet can do is give you a better idea of how old the cats are. It could be that they are older than the age you think they are.

    Also, sometimes with stray cats, worms can cause the bellies to swell up quite a lot. So you may think they’re fat, but it’s worms. If they are pregnant, and have worms, then you need to use a wormer that is safe for the kittens (i.e. recommended by your vet. Not something off the supermarket shelf).

    Finally, from a purely practical point-of-view, if the cats are pregnant, another good reason for an abortion is the challenge of looking after kittens, especially if the mothers have problems giving birth to them. And of course, the problem of finding good homes for the kittens.

    I wish I could help you make a decision about what to do with them. But I think first you need to establish if they are really pregnant, and what their ages are, and if you want the hassle of taking care of kittens and finding homes for them.

    I hope this helps. I don’t know if I’ve been too blunt or not, but unless you absolutely want to have litters of kittens, it is a lot of hard work, and as you’ve mentioned, if there is a risk to the mother’s health, it’s not worth it.

    Please let me know how it all goes.

    Wishing you and your furry family good luck and health.

  8. Hi there…..just have a few questions for you!

    On Suday July 20th, we found a cat! Well, actually she found us!
    My husband noticed her and then the day I noticed her I went outside to pet her!
    Well the poor thing was skinny as a bone and had a very tight colar on (I couldn’t even get my pinky finger between the colar and her neck)
    I immediately took off the colar and then my husband brought a saucer of cat food.
    Well she ate the food so fast! I knew it had been awhile since she ate!
    So I brought her in my home…….as I picked her up, I knew she had a swollen belly…..assumed she was pregnant.
    Brought the cat into our spare room and put a bowl of food out for her and a bowl of water!
    She ate and ate, and then drank about a 1/2 a cup!
    Well….she is definately with kittens……I can see and feel them move.
    today is Friday and her milk came in on Wednesday!

    How long should I expect her to have the kittens!

    I’ve been feeding her kitten food since monday, and also have her a bed (which she’s been using)
    I’m thinking she’s probably having 3-4 kittens as she’s a small breed!

    Anyways, thanks so much!

  9. Hi there Nicky,

    Many thanks for reading my blog. How nice of you and your husband to give that kitty a home – I’m sure she knew that she would find love and security with both of you.

    I can’t tell you the date when your cat will have her kittens because you need to have the date when she was mated, and as she’s a stray, it’s hard to gauge the date when she met the stud cat.

    The average gestation period of a cat is about 59-70 days.

    The only way you might be able to tell is by going to a vet and he might be able to palpate her and give you a guesstimate.

    The other signs of impending pregnancy are:

    1. a drop in internal temperature – “Twelve to 24 hours before she is due to deliver, the queens rectal temperature may drop from 38.5 to 37.5 degrees Celsius” (taken from the pregnancy calendar calculator on http://www.purrinlot.com/preg.htm)

    2. According to this calendar, milk is produced from about 5 days onwards before birth.

    3. There may be a clear or reddish discharge from the cat’s vulva – that’s the waters breaking. Most of the time you may not see this because cats are such clean creatures.

    4. Finally, she may start nesting and looking for dark secret places to have her kittens, so watch her closely (but not too closely), give her a nice dark box filled with towels, located in a place where there isn’t too much noise or traffic. Not too much newspaper because she may just shred it up.

    Good luck and please let us readers know when she’s had her kittens!

    Best wishes.

  10. I heard a rumor that tortoise shells are always female, and ginger tabbys are always male. Is that true?

  11. Also, my tortoise shell is about to have kittens, and I can already feel the kittens moving. Do their litters increase each pregnancy? Her first litter was 1 kitten (ginger tabby) and her second was 4 (two grey tabby (female), a black and white (male), and a ginger tabby (story to follow about this one). Unfortunately she chose to fall asleep on one of the girls, so we lost her. Her next was also 4 (again, two grey tabby (female) and two black and white (male).
    She feels bigger this time, and my daughter thinks she will have 5.

    About Ginger tabby:
    When he was 4 weeks old, he had an accident and ended up with a large bruise between his eyes and was unconcious for a few days – I ended up having to feed him until mum started to nurse him the second day after retaining conciousness. He continued having seziures at widening intervals (Mum would scream and I would take over).
    At 7 weeks old, we noticed that he wouldn’t stray far from the nest, like his adventurous brother and sister, but he loved to chase a finger on the carpet. Also, he would always be last to the bowl, and stick to only going to three places – the nest, the food, the bathroom.
    We sold the other two, but something didn’t seem right about the tabby, so we kept him a little longer. After he was 3 months, we noticed that his eyes were cross eyed! Only slightly, but still noticeable. We bought him some jingle balls to play with and he loved them! He still has trouble finding them, but he uses his front paws to sweep infront of him, like a cane, to find his way.
    He is a gorgeous cat, and loves to cuddle with us and sleeps on his back!
    Since then, I have run over him in the car (I felt the bump and everything, I was so scared) but he survived! (ps, we don’t let him out the front anymore – and he can’t jump the fence)

    He is now 1 year old, and coping magnificently! surprisingly, he is very easy to look after for a half-blind cat. He can follow foot vibrations, and now finds his way around obstacles quite easily.
    We named him ‘Lucky’, but I think we are the lucky ones 🙂

  12. Well, it is 5.30am, and I have just been woken up by tiny mewing…Little Miss (my tortoise shell) has just had her kittens 🙂 …on my 5 year old’s bed! I moved them to a more suitable location.
    One tortoise shell, one black and white, and one mostly black. I will check their sex when there is more light.
    Lucky was very attentive, but I think he got hissed out of the room at the end. He made a wonderful big brother for the last litter, keeping them warm when she ate, and keeping them ammused when they were older, and a little under-foot. He also groomed them!

    So to answer my own question – No, the size of the litter does not increase with each litter. She was just fat. I guess it depends on how many times she mates while on heat.

  13. Hi Kelly,

    Many thanks for reading my blog and for sharing your life with your cats!

    The size of a queen’s litter depends on a number of factors, like when the queen was bred (i.e. at what stage of her cycle), whether she was mated on first heat or a later one (some say that with each call there are fewer eggs to be released), the quality of the stud’s sperm, the number of times she was mated, and of course, environmental factors like diet etc.

    In reply about whether tortoiseshells are always females and ginger tabbies male, the former is usually true, but there are quite a few tabby females. It is to do with genetics – not my strongest point! But most tortoiseshells are girls, though there have been cases of male tortoiseshells – they are usually infertile, though. Check out Koonikki Maine Coons (http://www.mainecoonkittens.co.uk/) for a mention of a male tortoiseshell, and I think that http://www.messybeast.com talks about the genetics of tortoiseshells and ginger cats.

    I hope this helps!

    Your account of Lucky is amazing – thank you for sharing it with us. I think it’s due to your care and love that he survived and has thrived. I think that he’s a very smart cat and I bet he knows how lucky he is too!

    Best wishes,

  14. thanks for the useful info

  15. Hi, my cat is pregnant but im not sure how far gone she is as i dont no wen she mated. She is pretty big, and so are her nipples but theres no milk in them yet. Ive been able to feel the kittens move for almost a week and ive been able to see them move for a few days, shes been really close with me throughout her whole pregnancy, shes been on kitten food for a few days now also, well my question is do you know how much longer she has left after the kittens started moving? Thnx

    • Hello,

      I can’t be precise, but I would guess she is somewhere between 4-6 weeks now. But the best person might be the vet.

      You’ll know when she’s going to kitten – there will be a discharge from her vagina, and she’ll lick her bottom a lot more, and she’ll start looking for places to build a nest etc. She may also get more clingy.

      Also, twelve to 24 hours before she is due to deliver, the queens rectal temperature may drop from 38.5 to 37.5 degrees Celsius. But to track this you would need a thermometer and keep taking her temperature (not easy!).

      Try this pregnancy calculator on purrinlot – it shows you how a queen’s pregnancy develops.


      Good luck!

  16. I’m not sure how long my cat has been pregnant. She is huge and the full moon is almost here. Can I expect her to have them around that time?

    • Dear Christine,

      Sorry for the delay in replying.

      I have never timed my queen’s birthing by the moon. None of my litters have been full-moon litters. The usual gestation period for a cat is approximately 57 to 69 days, with 63 days being the average.

      Signs she is about to birth – milk leaking from her nipples. She starts to nest, i.e. finding a place to kitten, her core temperature will drop (the only way to know this is to take her temperature every day when it gets to about 57 days). She may also get very cuddly with you.

      I hope that all has gone well with her birth and that you are enjoying the patter of little paws!

      Best wishes,

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