Cat Birthing Kit5 March, 2007
In response to a comment posted by josh on 4 March 2007:
“… 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”
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 (she will probably clean herself up though).
– 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 creatures
– 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 airway
– 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 all.
– 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 cave-like.
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 and bleeding at the navel.
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!