Archive for May, 2008

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Sexing the Kitty

30 May, 2008

The easiest way to sex a kitten is to compare the litter and the differences will then be obvious.  However,even experienced breeders and vets have been known to get the sex of a kitten wrong, so that George eventually ends up Georgina.

For the male kitten, the bum looks like a colon, with the top dot the anus and the bottom dot the sheath for its penis.  Also, sometimes the bulge of the testicles can be seen.

With female kittens, the bum looks like an upside down exclamation mark, with the top dot the anus and the vertical line the vagina.

Here is a photo of one of my male kitten’s bum.  The kitten is lying on its side, the tail is on the right.  The bulgy bits are just above the lower dot.

Here (photo below) is the female kitten’s bum.  She’s lying on her side as well.  Her tail is on the left.  As you can see, it is altogether more discrete and neat-looking arrangement than the male’s bum.

Another method is to sex using colours.  Red (ginger) is linked to the X chromosone.  Chances are most kittens with some ginger in them tend to be boys.   Most tortoiseshell cats are girls.  However, if both sire and dam carry red, then there is a strong possibility that there are female ginger kittens. 

And this has seemingly proved the case with this year’s litter of 5:  the 2 boys are the classic tabbies, while the 3 girls are a red silver shaded and two red tabbies.

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Peek-a-boo!

29 May, 2008

A little kitten peers out of its pen and wonders at the wide world outside. 

 

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Keeping track of kitten weights

29 May, 2008

(I attended the annual seminar organised by the Novice Breeders Advice Club on 24th May 2008, and this post is one in a series of words of wisdom which I hope to share with you, gleaned from the experts at that seminar) 

I currently keep track of kitten weights using pen and paper.  It allows me to see whether a kitten is gaining weight on a constant basis.  However, at the recent NBA Cat Club seminar, it came to light that a more accurate way of tracking weights could be critical in monitoring a kitten’s progress.

The speaker was Dr Susan Little, and she was discussing flat-chested kittens, a physical problem in which the kitten’s chest is flattened.  This restricts space for the lungs, and as the kitten grows causes breathing problems and eventually heart problems.  Flat-chestedness varies in its severity and may sometimes be overlooked.  However, flat-chested kittens tend to lose ground from about week 2 onwards. 

Dr Little cited the example of a breeder who recorded a litter’s weights using an Excel spreadsheet together with a simple line graph charting each kitten’s weight.  It was instantly obvious that while all the kittens gained weight, one kitten started falling behind from week 2.  This kind of comparative discrepancy can be hard to determine on paper because kittens don’t always gain at a constant weight, and it looks like all the kittens are getting heavier.

So I’ve started using Excel to track this current litter.  Here’s a snapshot of what mine looks like:

 

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Kittens – 2nd week – learning to walk (video)

29 May, 2008

 The kittens are now exploring their pen and moving from just crawling to using their legs.  At the moment, it’s more wobbling than walking. 

Here is a video clip of one of the kittens trying to use all four paws to walk!

 

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Kittens at play – 2nd week (video)

29 May, 2008

The Kittens are now two weeks old and their eyes are open.  They are moving away from crawling to taking their first steps.  It’s more difficult than it looks because it’s a balancing act involving four paws and a large head.  When they take each step they wobble, and it’s hard to believe that by next week they’ll be walking with confidence.

Here is a video of the Kittens at Play.

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Why radiators may be bad for pregnant cats

28 May, 2008

(I attended the annual seminar organised by the Novice Breeders Advice Club on 24th May 2008, and this post is one in a series of words of wisdom which I hope to share with you, gleaned from the experts at that seminar) 

One of the discussions at the NBA Cat Club seminar was on feline fertility.  The speaker was Dr Susan Little, a veterinarian and internationally-known lecturer on feline medicine.  She mentioned a case in which a breeder had Sphynx queens who could never carry kittens to term.  They did the usual casework to try to determine whether there were any physiological reasons for the infertility.  In the end, it turned out that it was extreme heat and cold that was affecting the cats’ fertility.  The Sphynx cats had a habit of going outside where they would get cold, and then come indoors and jump onto one of those cradles that hook over a radiator.  The bed was of course extremely warm.  Once they stopped the cats from using radiator beds, or indeed any heated beds, fertility returned.

The message is obvious:  extremes of hot and cold could have a negative effect on a female cat’s fertility.  And I would go even further and question whether heated beds should be used by pregnant cats.

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In a huddle

22 May, 2008

 

Kittens moving to form a huddle

Newborn kittens have limited ability to regulate their body temperatures.  Until they develop such control, they spend a lot of time cuddling next to their mother. 

When their mother is absent from the nest, they huddle together in a pile to conserve heat.  It reminds me of the behaviour of Emperor penguins who cluster together in a snowstorm.

If the kittens’ body temperature drop too much, this inhibits their suckling reflex, so it is important that they should be kept warm enough.  Some breeders use heating pads or hot water bottles wrapped in towels or infra-red lamps.  Some believe that artificial heating should only be supplied if it is snowing outside and the temperature in the room is cold. 

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Maine Coon Kittens – 4 days old – sense of smell

21 May, 2008

Maine Coon kittens – 4 days old enjoying mum’s bounty

The kittens are now 4 days old and (touch wood) doing fine, which is to say, they’re suckling loads and sleeping loads.

They seemed to have sorted out the teat hierarchy because they’re shuffling into place much faster now with fewer squabbles.  Occasionally I still hear them shouting at each other, but it’s much quieter. 

I peeked into the box yesterday and there they were, good as gold, two kittens on the top tier and three kittens on the bottom tier of teats, neatly interleaved like sardines in a can.

They’re beginning to take more notice of their environment, even though their eyes aren’t open yet and they can’t hear anything. 

When I’m nearby I’ve noticed that one of the kittens will lift its head, open its mouth and snuffle-in the air. 

I’ve discovered this snuffling action is called the flehmen reaction.  It allows air to pass into the mouth and contact a special sensory organ called the Jacobson’s organ which is located just behind the teeth on the top of the mouth.  It allows a cat to analyse the scent molecule by molecule, almost as though it is tasting the air.

Ananda, the mother cat, is a little bit more relaxed too because the kittens have sussed out where the teats are and are getting full bellies faster.  While they slumber she’s been taking time out to get out of the kitten box and lying outside and washing and cleaning herself.

This is the most relaxed she’s ever been.  In previous years I would open the bedroom door and she would charge frantically out of the box, shedding kittens from her teats, wanting to be let out.  So I was pretty much stuck in the bedroom with her as I didn’t want her to get agitated.  This year, by leaving the bedroom door ajar, she can still hear me wandering round the house and is happy to stay in her kitten box.

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Kitten Nappy Change (video)

21 May, 2008

(Best not read if you’re eating!)

One of the delights of cat motherhood is washing a newborn kitten after its fed.  The action of the mother cat’s tongue on the kitten’s belly and bottom causes it to relax and release pee and poo.  This is then hoovered up by the mother cat.  The equivalent of a human nappy change (but without the nappies)!

In the wild, getting rid of the waste in such a scrupulous manner is a precaution to make sure that predators don’t pick up the scent of the kittens.  It also keeps the nest clean.

Here is a video of Ananda cleaning one of her newborn kittens [takes you to YouTube].

Some kittens must find it ticklish or intrusive because they squeal and try to get away.  Mum then pins them down with a paw and just carries on doing the business.

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A Mother’s Love

20 May, 2008

Ananda is the gentlest soul but sometimes her protective instincts take over and she wraps herself around her kittens, furls her tail over them so as to hide them from my gaze.  At moments like this I tip-toe away softly and leave mother and kittens alone.