Archive for March, 2011

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Part 12 – So you want to be a Cat Breeder – The Kitten Birth Kit

25 March, 2011

OK, your queen has managed to get through her pregnancy without any problems and she’s about to go pop.  

So here’s what could help you get prepared so that if a suprise does happen during the delivery, then you’re prepared.

By now you’ll have put together a Kitten Birth Kit, if not, please read my earlier post about what you might like to have in the kit.

A very quick summary:  your Kitten Birth Kit can be as expensive or as back-to-basics as you want to make it.  If this is your first litter, and you’re not sure you want to carry on breeding, then I would advise you not to invest in expensive kitten pens or expensive kit. 

Estimated cost of Kitten Birth Kit:  £50 to £250.

BASIC KIT

THE KITTENING BOX

Good excuse to buy a new TV ...

1. Box for mum to have kittens in.  My first kitten box was a large TV box.  So make friends with Currys or Comet.  All you have to do is cut a hole in one half for mum cat to go in and out.  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.  Cost of box:  Free. 

(oops – I’ve just realised one problem:  most TV boxes nowadays are quite flat because TVs are flat-screen.  So unless you’re breeding Singapuras, a better substitute would be a PC box, or read on …)

Snowsilk uPVC kitten box

The alternative would be a beautiful uPVC purpose-built kitten pen (like the one above, from Snowsilk) with add-on modules or clear perspex sides so you can keep an eye on the kittens.  The advantage is that uPVC is easy to clean, and you can use this pen again for the next litter.  The disadvantage:  costs about £200 upwards.

 A compromise is to buy a disposable kitten box.  I use these and find them a good size for Maine Coons.  I also prefer boxes that aren’t see through (i.e. plastic sides) because queens like it dark and cosy.  Cost:  about £20.

Disposable Kitten Box (the box NOT the kitten!!!)

If you buy a cage with mesh, please make sure that the mesh is quite small because kittens will climb and paws can get stuck in them.

Temporary housing for kittens

Remember, after about the first 4 weeks, the kittens are going to be out and about, so you’ll have to think of another way to confine them if you need to.

(box and cage available from Purrsonal Touch)

2. A smaller cardboard 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

3. Newspaper to line box – you may need to change this often if it gets soaked during the birth process.  Cost:  free.  Or £.150 if you read The Sunday Times.

4.  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).  A good substitute is soft kitchen towels.  These have the advantage of being disposable.

5.  Larger towels (bath size) 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.  I made friends with the housekeeper at the gym I go to and she gave me a batch of towels that were worn out and going to be thrown away.   Cost:  free-ish.

6.  Kitchen towels – for general cleaning up

7.  Torch in case it’s dark (many births occur in the evening/early morning)

8.  Bin bag(s) to get rid of the waste stuff

9.  Weighing machine (preferably digital) in 5g increments to weigh kittens – this is a very valuable piece of equipment.  It will enable you to track the weights of the kittens and know which ones are not getting enough milk or not feeding properly.  So don’t skimp on the weighing machine.  Cheap ones can be inaccurate. 

Very accurate digital postal weighing scales

Try out the machine before you buy it.  I used to go to the baking department and “borrow” a bag of sugar and then weigh it on different machines – the discrepancies in weights on the different machines was an eye-opener.  A 1.5kg of sugar wasn’t always 1.5 kg on another machine.

When trying out weighing machines, a bag of sugar is a good substitute if you forget to bring your kitten along ...

You can afford to be inaccurate in baking, but not when your kittens’ lives depend on you!

OPTIONAL

10. Small pair of blunt scissors and surgical spirit to sterlise it, for cutting the umbilical cords if you are squeamish about doing it with your fingers.  I have never had to use scissors so far.

11. Dental floss to tie ends of umbilical cord if necessary.  Again, I have not had to use this.

12. Bulb syringe to suction fluids out of kitten’s airway.

13.  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 you are seriously 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 or an emergency.  Helios does a childbirth kit for about £20 (depending on which web store you buy it from).

14.  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 milk replacement

15. KMR kitten replacement milk – only necessary if mum cat isn’t producing enough milk or there are too many kittens and she can’t feed them all.  It’s not something that’s stocked by the local pet store so I order it in advance.  It’s not cheap though – about £20 for a tin.  But I still think it’s worth it for the just-in-case.  It’s a small investment and you can always still feed it to mum as a supplement.  An alternative would be Royal Canin kitten milk and feeding kit.

16. Kitten feeding kit – this is usually a bottle with a variety of teats.  One brand is Catac’s Foster Feeder.  I only use this if a kitten falls behind in its weight and needs topping-up.  Some breeders don’t believe in topping up, preferring to let nature take its course.  I haven’t got the nerves of steel for that.  Cost of kit:  approx. £12.

Catac foster kitten feeding bottle

17. Nail polish to paint claws of kittens if there are more than 2-3 kittens of the same colour, so you can distinguish between them. Or you can use food dye in the ears.  Or small coloured pony tail bands over their paws.

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I’m published! Cat Fancy article – “From birth to your home – your kitten’s journey”

7 March, 2011



I have an article published in the April 2011 issue of Cat Fancy, the leading cat magazine in the US.

Entitled “From birth to your home – your kitten’s journey”, it is about the first twelve weeks of your kitten’s life.

I got the inspiration to write the article after a friend of mine who loves baby-sitting my kittens remarked that most kitten owners seldom get to see how their kittens grow and look like during the weeks before their go to their new homes.

The article is chockful of photos of Catswhiskers Sorrel, a beautiful red silver girl.

Thank you to Sonya, Adi, Den and Francesca who helped in the writing of the article, for letting me use your photos and for your patience in reading all the drafts and giving constructive feedback. 

And a huge thank-you to Annie Shirreffs, Editor of Cat Fancy for her support and encouragement in writing the article.

And thank you to all the kittens and cats of Catswhiskers without whom this article would not have been possible!

To celebrate, I’m giving away my kitten guide, “Taking your Kitten Home” to anyone who leaves a comment on this post.  Please note that the guide was written for British kitten owners, so the sources for food and cat products will have a UK slant.

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Part 11 “So you want to be a cat breeder” – While waiting for the stork to arrive …

5 March, 2011

OK, now that you’ve forked out for the stud fees surely it’s plain sailing until Kitten Day?

FOOD

A pregnant cat will eat a lot of food.  Loads more.  So count on at least double the usual food bills for your queen, especially in last few weeks of the nine-week gestation period.

VET BILLS

All going well, there shouldn’t be a need to visit the vet for any reason.  However, this being cat breeding, you have to be prepared for every eventuality.  And vet eventualities, in my experience, cost money.

So what can go wrong? 

Your queen could develop an infection of the womb called pyometra.  This is one of the greatest fears of cat breeders.  If you catch it early then it’s curable, by using drugs.  If it isn’t treated, it can be fatal.

The problem is that pyometra can be hard to detect.  With an open pyo there may be a discharge.  But with a closed pyo there may not be any obvious signs.  A cat breeder I know only realised her queen had a pyo when she stopped eating.  Treatment for pyometra can be expensive.  And she may yet lose the kittens.

Your queen could also develop other infections that will involve veterinary intervention.  Sometimes, these infections can cause her to miscarry. 

Or your queen could absorb the kittens – this tends to happen early on during the gestation, but it is still a sad event and a disappointment.

I can’t place a figure on how much these bills are.  These are just expenses that cat breeders are prepared to accept.  So every time someone thinks that cat breeders are minting it, it’s good to bear in mind the fact that the money is there … for a rainy day.