Kittens – the first week – Teat Wars5 August, 2006
Well, I’d taken two weeks off work to make sure Mummy Cat, Ananda, was OK, but also to keep an eye to make sure that my other cat, a Bengal neuter, called Maya (aka Thuggy, aka Here’s Trouble) didn’t bully my Maine Coon girl. We’d been having problems between Maya and Ananda – Maya had been bullying her and there’d been fights. The last thing I wanted was for Maya to attack Ananda when she had her kittens.
I wish I’d started this blog while I was off work and events were fresh, but ah well … there’s a reason why I didn’t, and maybe I’ll go into that in a later blog.
Anyway, as far as I can remember, after the drama of the birth and saving the little seventh kitten, the first week was fairly uneventful.
I couldn’t detect any difference between the kitten that had to be resuscitated and the rest of them. In fact, the morning after the birth I couldn’t remember which of the black kittens was the seventh one – they were both about the same size and were suckling well.
Having time off work meant I could pander to my girl’s timetable. Having seven kittens meant that she was hungry, trying to produce enough milk for all of them. She would wake up in early in the morning and wake me up too, wanting to be fed. So there I was, at 3.30am, stumbling round in the kitchen trying to feed her and my two other adult cats who were excited that I was up that early. After I fed them I would then crawl back to bed and sleep until a more civilised hour.
With seven kittens and only eight teats, that first week was taken up by Teat Wars.
Kittens are born with their eyes closed (their eyes don’t open until from approx. a week to ten days’ old) so I assume it must have been smell that led them to a teat. At first there was no order to their positions on the teats. Sometimes one would be on the teat nearest the hindlegs, but later you’d find it on the middle teat. Apparently, after awhile, kittens all settle on a specific teat and they keep to that teat after that.
It was quite interesting to see how the kittens managed to arrange themselves in two tiers. I called it the Top Table and the Bottom Table. During the first week, they were still quite small and placed themselves neatly one next to the other. Later, when they grew it became more of a scrum, and sometimes kittens got left out and had to wait for the second seating at the milk bar.
I was surprised by how aggressive newborn kittens could be. They could barely crawl, but when a kitten was after a teat, it would try to push another kitten off a teat, or push a kitten that was getting in its way of getting to a teat. All this done blind. Sometimes a kitten would be shoved off with such force, it would tumble off mum, squealing away. My goodness, those kittens had loud voices for such small things. They squealed so loudly, I could hear them through the earplugs I wore. I would be awoken two, maybe three times a night, and worry that a kitten had been squashed by mum. I would drag myself out of bed, shine a torch in the box and find a kitten lying on its back like a tortoise, paws flailing like mad, squealing away as it tried to right itself. And when I got hold of it, oh my … the squeals would intensify as though it thought I was some predator, until I put it next to Mum’s head. Mum would open an eye, give the kitten a good lick, and the kitten would quieten down and crawl off to find a teat.