Archive for the ‘Newborn kitten’ Category

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How to feed seven kittens

25 July, 2009

Kittens Day 2.1

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!

Kittens Day 2.6

There are more photos on the Catswhiskers flickr album.

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Kittens Day 1

24 July, 2009

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Seven Catswhiskers Maine Coon kittens, born on Friday 25 July.

Their mother:  Mullycoonz Eowyn (black smoke tortie) (“Ananda”)
Their father:  Ch. Noracoon Vespasian (red silver and white – owned by Fiona Nicholls of Koonikki Maine Coons).  Vespa was also the stud for the 2008 litter.

Colours to be confirmed, but they look like 3 mackrel tabbies, 1 tortie tabby, 1 red tabby and white, 1 red silver tabby and 1 red silver shaded tabby.

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The photos above shows Ananda on the bed which is where she finally decided she wanted to have her kittens.  However, because the bed is so much more comfortable than the kitten box, even after the kittens were placed into their box, Ananda kept jumping onto the bed and going “ehh … ehh … ehh” as if expecting the kittens to be there.  Delightful as it would be to have kittens on the bed, I decided that it would be safer if they were in their box.  Imagine if they fell off the bed!  Or if I rolled onto them!  And imagine what would happen if these bed-bred kittens went to their new homes and turned their noses up at anything but their owner’s beds!

There are more photos on the Catswhiskers flickr album.

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2009 Kittens have arrived!

24 July, 2009

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The kittens have arrived!  All seven of them!

To say that I’m relieved is an understatement.  In my post on Wednesday it looked as though Ananda was going to kitten on Thursday.  That would have been 65 days after mating, and her usual gestation period.  So even though she was displaying all the signs of impending motherhood, nothing happened on Thursday, and I was beginning to get anxious. 

I read and re-read my notes on the delivery process – bad move.  They were full of information on what could go wrong.  But she was eating and drinking, and even going for ambles in the garden.  There was no sign of distress or undue straining.  So I decided to wait just one more day before calling the vet.

In previous years she’s always kittened in the early hours of the morning.  So when I woke up just before 6am this morning (Friday), I thought that this was another day of waiting, that it was past her usual time for kittening. 

She was lying on the bed next to me and turned over so I could rub her belly.  Apparently she finds that soothing.  A couple of days ago, I could feel bumps in her belly when I stroked it. Nothing like that this morning, just firm, smooth belly and muscle.  I even fell asleep half-way through, and when I woke up, she gave me a few grunts as is to tell me off.

Imagine my surprise when she started straining, stretching her hind legs back, and panting.  I realised that she was going into the second stage of delivery.

She jumped off the bed, into the kittening box, then out of the box and onto the bed, finally deciding that the bed was where she wanted to be.  Fortunately I’d placed Pampers nappy-changing sheets and towels on the bed for such an eventuality.

To cut a long story short, the first kitten arrived at approx. 6.30am.  Then three more were born until 7.10am.  She was a fantastic mother, and managed to clean all the kittens.  Four kittens I thought – that’s a nice number.  However, her belly still felt a bit bumpy when I palpated it.  So I decided to wait. 

In the meantime I fed her pipettes of water to help replace the water lost from bleeding.  and a liquid pick-me-up called Animal Magic.  This latter contains royal jelly, honey and ginseng.  I felt that the sugar would give her some energy.

I also re-read my homeopathic notes and decided to give her a dose of Arnica 200C.  Helios’ guide says of Arnica:

“Encourages healing; controls bleeding … .  Reduces exhaustion, gives “second wind”, particularly during long, slow, painful labours, where tiredness makes contractions weak/ineffectual. …  Give routinely after birth to speed recovery.”

So was it a coincidence when barely 5 minutes after I’d given her Arnica Kitten no. 5 popped out?  Followed by Kittens no. 6 and 7 within the next 20 minutes?

I don’t know … was it the Arnica?  The only other thing I have to add is that Ananda has made a remarkably quick recovery this time round, even though she’s had seven kittens.  She’s not been as tired as on previous occasions.

Kittens and mother are, at this time of writing, still doing well.

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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 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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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.