Kittens – the first week – a question of weight5 August, 2006
What I didn’t realise was that the top teats of a mother cat (the ones located just underneath the forelegs) have less milk than the bottommost ones (the ones located closest to the hindquarters). So the kitten that ended up there would have less milk than the rest of them.
Of the two black (tortie) kittens, one got the top teat and one the bottom teat. I can’t be sure, but it could have been the seventh kitten that got the top teat.
I’d weighed all the kittens when they were born, and they ranged from 110g to 132g. I wasn’t conscientious about weighing them and keeping records, and there lay my mistake.
By the end of the week the heaviest kitten weighed in at 210g. The smallest weighed 150g. That was a good 60g difference between them. And of course the smallest was the little tortie girl.
So I resorted to topping-up the tortie’s milk. Some breeders say you shouldn’t hand-feed kittens because in the wild, it’s not something mother cats do, that really, kittens should be allowed to fight for their teats. Others said that as long as it wasn’t more than eight kittens, mummy cat would be fine feeding them. But I was worried that if I didn’t top-up the kitten it would continue to lose ground to the larger kittens. 60g may not seem much but in terms of proportion it could be significant later on.
The milk I used was the powdered variety, a brand called KMR, and supposed to be one of the best on the market. I had a Catac kitten bottle and teat – the bottle was the type that looks like a banana and open at both ends.
In theory, you made the formula up (one spoon of powder to one of water for newborns), filled the bottle at the wide end, slipped the silicone teat over the small narrow end, and there you were … all ready to feed the kitten.
In practice, it’s a messy business in the beginning. The kitten can’t see you, it thinks you’re some sort of evil predator when you pick it up and squeals for its mum to save it. Mum who’s lying down feeding the other kittens comes to its rescue. In the meantime, the other kittens are still tenaciously suckling off her when she charges out of the box with them dangling from her belly, so you’re forced to quickly rescue the kittens before they fall.
And when you manage to get the teat into the kitten’s mouth it mumbles round the teat and the milk goes everywhere, especially if you’re wearing pyjamas.
The good news is that afer I widened the hole on the teat, the kitten got the hang of the yummy stuff coming out of the bottle. There is a danger that if the kitten drinks too fast, the milk could go down the wrong way – into its lungs – so that’s something to watch out for. Me, being paranoid and cautious, every time the kitten moved its head, I thought it was choking and immediately removed the teat.
Despite topping-up two to three feeds a day, the kitten still wasn’t catching up with the others, so I consulted my homeopathy books. I still wasn’t confident of my ability to get the correct remedy so I consulted a homeopath and was recommended calcarea phosphorica.
I gave it several doses of calc phos, but can’t say I noticed any difference.
The kitten has put on weight, but hasn’t caught up with the other kittens. It’s fine in every other way – it’s lively, and meeting all the kitten milestones. The only difference between it and the others is size, and even then, without weighing it, I wouldn’t be able to detect the difference.
A breeder I spoke to says that it will probably just be a small kitten. Having said that, last year, the smallest kitten in the litter is now a grown-up young lady, very long and muscular and as large as the other two adult cats in the owner’s household. So I really must stop worrying.
By the way, because the kitten always squeals and rushes to the edge of the pen when it sees me and won’t stop squealing until I’ve picked her up, I’ve named her Squeaky until I manage to get a posh pedigree name for it.