Large litters vs Small litters

17 June, 2007

AnandaKittens1Ananda recently kittened and this litter had just two kittens. It’s not a criticism of the cat, but compared to previous litters where she had six to seven kittens, this one was smaller.

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?



  1. I am currently waiting on my Bengal queen Layla Of Kyro to give birth to her first litter. she is so big now and looks unconfortable. by my dates im pretty sure she should be having the little ones beginning of next week. I was so worried because its her first litter and i have two other cats *boys neutered* and i really dont want her to feel she is not safe. i have set up a nesting box in every room of my house so she is spoilt for choice. Her sister actually lives in a house not far from me with my friend. she was telling me she ate her litter after the first day so i am kind of worried about me not being here when she has them. any advice much apprichated! 🙂

  2. Hi Victoria,

    Thanks for reading my blog.

    OK, first, every queen is different, and most queens don’t have any problems at all for kittening.

    As Layla is a maiden queen, it might be a good idea to take time off and be there at the birth so you can help her and be with her. If she feels secure, she won’t harm her kittens. Make sure the box is in a secure place, away from the main goings on in the house, make sure it’s got that cave-like feel. She may surprise you at the end of the day and have her kittens on your bed, if she’s close to you. Keep your two boys away from the room where the kittens are, once they’ve been delivered. If you can’t be with her, i.e. you have to go to work, then lock her up in one of the rooms when you’re not around, with a nice dark box so she can’t get out and get nervous. Make sure there’s a litter tray and some food and water available. Maybe put some catnip in the box so she associates the box and the room with something nice.

    Just keep an eye on her the day before, the day of and the day after the kittens are supposed to be due. Apparently there is a drop in temperature just before the kittens are due, so I don’t know if you want to have a word with your vet, and get a thermometer and measure her temperature (if she’ll let you). You need to check with your girl’s breeder to see how many days your girl’s mother took before she kittened. Also, your girl’s sister – how many days did she take?

    For the birth, once the first kitten is born, put it near her/under her nose if she doesn’t start licking it. If the sac isn’t broken, and she doesn’t break the sac, you will have to break it for her. It tears easily. You may have to break the cord too by squeezing it between your fingernails, in the direction of the kitten. If she still doesn’t want to know, then you may have to dry the kitten. Encourage her to smell and lick the kitten, and offer her the placenta to eat if she wants it. Some queens will eat the placenta, some don’t. Some breeders say you shouldn’t let the cat eat the placenta because it can make their poo runny. Encourage the kitten to suckle. For each subsequent kitten, make sure that she doesn’t lie down on the existing kittens and squash them.

    Are you in contact with other breeders, e.g. is there someone you can call when she starts kittening? What about your girl’s breeder – does she have any advice about cats eating kittens?

    I think you’ve done all the right things. The first time is always the most nerve-racking because you don’t know how it will go, but most births proceed without any problems. Just be there for her, and don’t forget the vet’s number.

    A good group to join is the Novice Breeders Advice group – it is a yahoo forum. No matter what time of the day or night there is always someone surfing the forum and they will give you good advice.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if there is anything else I can do.

    Best wishes,

    There were subsequent e-mail exchanges which were sent directly to Victoria.

  3. Hi, my tom cat who is neutered, has adopted a female stray, well assumed stray with no response from found articles and an un registered microchip. I took her to the vet today and she’s pregnant with 2 kittens, only around 8 months old herself. They told me it was difficult to tell with her being small her self weather she was around 30 days in, or 50 days in with tiny kittens. Not very helpful really. She seems to have adopted our house and my cat only leaves her to do his business out side and comes running back.
    I was wondering if first litters and small litters carried different gastation times or is it still around 64 days.

  4. I was surfing the internet looking for advice on raising large litters of newly born kittens. We volunteer with a foster program that assists our local public animal shelter in socializing and spay/neuter surgeries for dogs and cats (I do cats, usually with litters of kittens). This litter came to us a week after its Mama, Creamsicle, delivered a litter of 9 kittens. We call them the Solar System Babies and promptly named them after the 9 planets (we included Pluto because we are just that old). Creamsicle, of course came with them. They are now almost 4 weeks old. We have lost one (Uranus or “Uri”) due to failure to thrive and we have one more, Neptune, who seems to be having problems. We are feeding her supplemental pet milk and increasing Creamsicle’s diet with goat’s milk and raw meat. Both seem to have helped, but Neptune has not yet fully recovered. Any suggestions for a successful raising of a large litter?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: