Here is a photo of the kittens, just over a day old. They are in a grouping called a “huddle” which helps them to conserve heat.
This is the second litter of seven kittens that Ananda has had. The first time she had seven kittens, I had to top up one of the kittens with special kitten replacement milk because it wasn’t getting enough milk. Or at least I thought it wasn’t.
A mother cat has eight teats, two of which are located next to her front legs, and which are smaller. So any kitten getting one of the front teats may be getting less milk.
If you have a small kitten that isn’t as robust or good at fighting for its place at the milk bar than chances are that kitten will not gain as much weight proportionally as its siblings.
And believe me, its like a wildlife documentary when it comes to seeing who can get the best teat. I have seen two kittens fight over a teat, scrabbling away with their little paws, shoving the other’s head away. The struggle is made all the more intense by the silence in which the fighting is conducted.
Opinion is divided amongst breeders as to whether topping-up is a good thing or not. On the one hand, it allows the smallest not to fall behind. On the other hand, some believe in letting nature take its course and letting the kittens fight it out amongst themselves. Others feel that it is better to “feed the mother cat” who will then hopefully be able to produce enough milk to feed the kittens.
This time round I’ve decided to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. And touch wood, there have been some monumental kitten squabbles, but so far they seem to have found their place in the teat. Sometimes there has been more than one sitting at the table, with the kittens who missed out on the best teats getting a second chance when other kittens are satiated.
Sometimes I’ve had to smile at Ananda’s method of dealing with kittens who won’t stop fighting over who has which teat. What she does is change her position, or even get up so that all the kittens tumble off their teats. She then lies down again, so that the kittens start on a level playing field. As one of my friends said, it’s like pressing the restart button on the PC.
Here is a photo of that rare moment – all the seven kittens with a teat! A peaceful moment. Long may it last!
There are more photos on the Catswhiskers flickr album.