Once all of the babies are born, and Mom and babies are doing well, the important thing is to make sure the babies latch. If the litter is large, there will be some jostling for position and smaller, weaker babies may struggle to feed and keep feeding. With her fourth litter, and two big babies (94g and 103g is HUGE for a Persian Chinchilla/ Original Longhair queen!) – there was no problem with ‘latching’. These two little ones got right on with it.
Instinct is amazing. New babies have an instinct to suck. A new mommy may need to be stroked gently and encouraged to spread herself out, making the nipples available, but, if left to herself, she will probably get it right. An experienced mommy knows how to position herself to make her nipples available. Gently brush the kitten’s cheek against a nipple until the baby latches. Exhausted mommies and babies will need more support; often the human midwife is also exhausted by this time! Remember to ensure that mommy has whatever sustenance she wants most – offering her full cream yoghurt, slightly watered down kitten mousse, or whatever she likes best!
Ensure there is clean “linen” in the kitten basket or chosen “nest”. I put a linen saver under a flannelet baby receiving blanket, in case there is more bleeding from the queen. (Anything more than a few smears of blood stain needs a vet’s attention. Your queen should not be bleeding after all of her kittens and placentas have been delivered.)
My job – once the linen is clean, mom is comfortable and babies are feeding – is to make sure that Mommy always has fresh water and food available. No other pets should have access to her at this time, and she should have her litter tray available. However, the queen with newborn kittens is likely to use the litter tray that is furthest from her kittens. She does this because instinct warns her that predators may pick up her scent. Lady Arwen Evenstar only started using the litter tray in the nursery when her babies were five weeks old!
This year, as mentioned in my previous post, Lady Arwen was very restless the day after giving birth to her babies. It hadn’t been an easy birth, and I felt as if she was in some shock. Shutting her in with the babies for the day helped her to settle and bond with them.
For the first two weeks, the part I play is i.) keeping Mommy well fed – fresh water and dry food, plus kitten mousse slightly watered down twice a day for Lady Arwen Evenstar. For Princess Bella, it’s kitten mousse, kitten food and oven baked chicken breast. ii.) Changing the nest linen – smooth flannel receiving blankets are best as tiny kittens have long claws that may get stuck in fleecy or towelling fabric. The babies need to be weighed at least once a day to ensure they are putting on weight and thriving. (A desirable weight gain is 10g per day. This may fluctuate, but should be monitored.) I weigh twice a day at first. If a kitten doesn’t put on any weight in two days, or loses weight in a day, this baby should be monitored carefully and may need supplementary feeding. This was NOT necessary for this lovely healthy pair! Of course, it’s important to keep a meticulous record of weight gain daily.
For two or three days, Lady Arwen Evenstar is happy in her chosen “nest” (for her, as mentioned, an old suitcase nicely lined – first with newspaper, then a towel/ fleece, then linen saver, then flannel baby receiving blanket.) After a couple of days, she feels predators may have picked up the scent of her babies, and she needs to move them.
I generally make suitable places available, and prepare the new place with suitable “bedding”. After a couple of days there, I return her to my preferred place for her.
On around Day 8, I moved Lady Arwen Evenstar’s babies into this plastic sand or water mould. This gave the new babies more space to shovel their little bodies around (they start crawling!) for the next week or so. (Princess Bella Joy will have nothing to do with this shell!)
The babies eyes will begin to open around Day 8 or Day 9. Lucy’s eyes opened first on Day 8 – Jack’s eyes only started to open around Day 10!
Once the babies start moving (around two and a half weeks or so), I set up the inside of our main bedroom en-suite shower as a bigger space for them. I place a box in it and line the rest of the floor with soft bedding (i.e. towels, fleeces and baby receiving blankets.) These get changed once every two days. Some appropriate toys are included.
When the kittens are three weeks old, I set out a baking tray lined with paper towel and filled with Cat’s Best (organic) litter. I use this in case the kittens ingest the litter in any way. I also set out cool boiled water. At four weeks, I set out cool, boiled water and Royal Canin Mother and Baby Cat dry food. Jack and Lucy started to lap water some time between 4- 5 weeks. They started to use the litter tray between 4 – 5 weeks; around 5 weeks for sure!
More to come later … As I write, the babies are just over 7 weeks old.