Day 50 - 18 July 2002
There is a
movie for today
Libby was due to kitten yesterday (it's 66 days since the first day of her mating). However, though there have been some minor contractions during the day, the evening has brought only some slightly more obvious contractions. I was hoping that she'd 'pop' before I wanted to get to bed, as I've spent four pretty sleepless nights with her now, and I'm beginning to feel pretty flattened. Ah well, the temporary bed on the floor in the kitten room is still there, so I may as well use it. I slept there last night as Libby missed Ellie and the babies too much on Wednesday night so spent most of it wingeing - not something you can really sleep through. By the looks of the contractions the babies will be born tonight so at least I can sleep tomorrow! I'm keeping Ellie from feeding her babies if I can help it, and Dudley is beginning to take more interest in his food. For the first time today both he and Katy ate from a plate without me having to corner them and tempt them for every mouthful. Obviously Ellie's milk supply is still too good for them to feel the need for solids.

Day 51 - 19 July 2002
Well, that was quite an eventful night. After Ellie fooled me into thinking she was having 10 kittens and then turning out to be more fat than cat, I wasn't expecting a very big litter from Libby, even though I knew she wasn't overwieght like Ellie had been. I knew there would be an odd number of babies as she had been looking noticeably lopsided over the last couple of days. At 2.30 am, she produced her first baby, and with a couple of long-ish rests of about an hour during the night (and some kittens who gave her a real struggle) she went on producing kittens until about 6.15 this morning. In all, she produced NINE.

2.27 am - 97 gms

3.20 am - 91 gms: difficult delivery

3.33 am - 81 gms

3.51 am - 92 gms

4.10 am - 72 gms

4.36 am - 62 gms

5.30 am - 61 gms: a long time coming

5.38 am - 84 gms

6.05 am - 78 gms

Only one didn't look too good at first, all the others were kicking and screaming - No. 7 was a very slow starter (I thought he might be dead, but he did move a bit). Libby didn't show much interest in him, and as another one arrived almost immediately I was left to look after 'Seven of Nine' (OK Trekkers, laugh!). He was gasping rather than breathing, and was very cold. no amount of rubbing seemed to warm him up, so I placed him in a bowl of warm water (no, not his head!) and fairly quickly he started to kick and struggle, when I took him out and dried him. He was still gasping a bit and I think his lungs hadn't emptied properly of fluid. He seemed like a fighter, but was tiny compared to the others (they were coming in at 72-97 gms, and he was only 61), so I kept him out of the increasingly busy nest, on top of a micro-heater inside a fleecy nest. Later when everyone was born, and cleaned up, and I had changed the bedding, he went in with the others, though I have been watching him like a hawk. Libby was a model mum, cleaning up everything like an old pro, with only minimal help from me (this mostly involved keeping the clean babies out of the way when a new one arrived), though she had trouble deciding where to have her babies, and kept changing from one nest to another, though she did end up in the kittening box eventually. Here she is counting to make sure I gave them all back...

So there I was with nine new babies and the washing machine doing overtime. However, it didn't stop there. Unfortunately Libby very suddenly developed an acute case of mastitis in all eight teats - they were hard as rocks, like large boiled sweets under the skin, and had probably been filling up during her protracted labour. The only way to relieve mastitis is to express milk (though there are things you can do if the situation becomes really bad, like hot compresses of Epsom salts), but until the kittens have started it, it can't be expressed. So it was up to the babies. If you've ever tried plugging a kitten onto a teat you'll know how pointless it is. They can be impossibly stupid about it. However, I spent the next 2 hours crouched over the nest patiently plugging them onto her, and then plugging them onto her again when they dropped off because they couldn't get any milk out of ther rock-hard teats. By about 9 am I had got them all suckling except Seven, and the teats were just beginning to soften. I nipped down to the vet after a phone consultation for an antibiotic in case there was an underlying infection, though Libby was remarkably chirpy for a cat who'd just been through labour nine times! I felt a lot more wiped out than she looked. While I was there he checked Seven, who was still rather cold in his extremities, though clearly his lungs were fine to judge by the fuss he made about the stethoscope. His heart was not audibly faltering, so home we came again. I have been hand feeding him as often as I can get him to take milk, and he's still here and fighting, despite my feeling that he's not destined to last. I'm dying to get to bed, but daren't leave Libby as I have to keep plugging kittens into the harder teats or they just go for the soft ones. I'm also reluctant to let Seven take his chances on his own yet. I'm longing for bed-time!
See them in motion

Ellie and the big babies were very tactful and stayed well clear, though after Seven and Eight were born, Ellis, Katy and Dudley woke up and started to bucket about the room. Libby was convinced they should be in her nest and kept trying to drag them off by the neck in between contractions. I shut them in the kitchen in the end, and the remaining kittens were born to the sound of Ellie wingeing through the glass door, and the kittens destroying what was left of my supper. Here's Ellis with Katy, pretending they're not thinking wicked thoughts about the telephone wire! (
watch the movie!)

Day 52 - 20 July 2002
There is a
movie for today
Although I'd hoped for my first quiet night all week, Libby was crying downstairs, so at 2 am I grabbed my pillows and went back to join her. I moved Ellie's family upstairs to the real kitten room yesterday as Ellie was making such a fuss about separation, even though she wasn't interesed in Libby's babies. Just has a thing about closed doors. Libby however was missing her and worrying, and all I could do was try to distract her and persuade her to stay with her own kittens. Sleepng with them also meant I could keep an eye on Seven, who is still with us despite not having gained any weight at all (unlike the others). He has a small little sister (BTW, I haven't really sexed them yet - there were just too many and too much to do!) a similar size, but she seems to be eating better. He's very slow on the uptake when I do get him onto a teat, though his sucking is improving.

The mastitis is no longer hard, but she has gallons of milk, so I'm not hand feeding at all except for Seven. He only takes less than a ml of fluid at a time, and dribbles quite a lot of it, though at lunch-time he managed a really good suck on the teat. He's probably just a bit premature - over four days of mating, he was probably conceived on the last day, so he's that much younger than the bigger ones. He DOES suckle now, particularly when there's not much competition. I just had a quick peek and there he was!

Ellie and her babies love the kitten room - it's baby-proof, with no nasty sharp bits or tight corners, and filled with kitten toys and climbing frames. Although their weights have been very wobbly for nearly 10 days, they are improving as I'm bringing Ellie downstairs to keep Libby company for several hours at a time, so the older kids just have to eat. Dudley is suddenly stuffing his face, in competition with Ellis, so I reckon he'll be catching up a bit as his tummy looks fat again. Katy is still a secret eater (I've caught her at it a couple of times, so now I know!), and thinner than I'd like, but not unhealthy. I can't believe how HUGE they look and feel in comparison with the new babies. It really brings home how fast and how much they grow in the short time they are with me.

Day 53 - 21 July 2002
There is a
movie for today
Definitely a good day (and a good night). Ellis now weighs well over a Kilo (at seven and a half weeks) and Dudley is now stuffing himself with whatever food I put under his nose. Katy is still being difficult, but her tummy is fat and full so I'm not very worried as I think she's helping herself when I'm not watching. Both Katy and Dudley are now 150-180 gms lighter than Fat Ellis, who has eaten consistently and now laughs about being the smallest baby for so long. They have discovered the radiator hammocks too...

Meanwhile downstairs there are still NINE magical babies. Yesterday afternoon one of them opened his eyes completely - usually they take several days to unstick, and today two more are opening theirs. This is VERY early as usually eyes only open from 7-10 days. There are three small babies (including Seven), but they are all gaining weight now. After gaining nothing at all since he was born, Seven managed 3 gms overnight (which is the time when I'm not supporting him) so I'm very happy with him now - his suckling reflex seems to have started working and I've watched him climbing over everyone to get to a teat. I'm supplementing him and his two small siblings just to make sure they have the energy to continue to fight for their food and to hang on once they've got it. Libby's mastitis has all but gone, and she seems very well and more confident by the day.

Ellie and her kittens seem fairly indifferent to each other - they don't curl up together noticeably when they're in the same room, and Ellie seems happy to be downstairs with Libby. Last night I left her with Libby and her kittens were alone, but there was no sign that this was a problem for any of them, and Libby was much happier with the reassuring presence of Ellie, even if Ellie is determined not to get persuaded into Nanny duties with the new babies. Ellie decided at about 4 am that she did in fact need to see her babies, so tomorrow night I'm going to try leaving each mother with her own babies and pray for my first undisturbed night for over a week!

Day 54 - 22 July 2002
The three musketeers have discovered the joys of playing 'pirates' (going all the way around the room without touching the floor). Fortunately the kitten room upstairs was pretty much designed for this, so they can do it as much as they like. All three gathered around the food plate today, so I think they have a much more normal eating pattern emerging.

Libby's babies still amaze me with their strength and vigour, however No.5 has decided that teats are definitely not on, and he will only eat from a syringe. This could be a problem... The purple colour is from Gentian Violet - this is a disinfectant with the fortunate side-effect of producing an almost indelible purple stain. I have marked the three smallest babies so that I can pick them out easily: the one you can see here is 'Five'.

Day 55 - 23 July 2002
There is a
movie for today
Ellie's brood get more lovely daily - they now purr a lot more when I stroke them - this has been a long time coming as they were clearly far too contented downstairs! They are very good with visitors and show no signs of hiding and I'm sure a lot of that comes from their dad.
No.5 is definitely a problem. The small ones (6 & 7) are both now helping themselves to milk and have gained the strength to hold their own against their bigger siblings. 5 is a reasonable size but is incredibly stupid about milk. He refuses to take a teat, even though he hunts over Libby's tummy to find one. I'm having to supplement him with a lot of KMR during the day, but during the night he has to take his chances, which means he's STARVING by the morning. The others are
feeding very well

Day 56 - 24 July 2002
Ellie's lot are now 8 weeks old - the time is really flying with these ones. In fact, looking at them I'd say they would easily be able to go to new homes now as they are eating very well, and seem quite independent - Dudley is often to be found fast asleep quite apart from the others. However, they aren't going anywhere until they are vaccinated, which means first jab next week and then a booster 3 weeks after that. It also gives them time to become mature and self-confident cats, with a well-developed immune system, before making the big move to a completely new environment. Here is their 8-week-old Rogues Gallery: Ellis, Katy, Dudley.

I made a breakthrough with 'Five' today: I discovered that he is addicted to KMR (well, who can blame him!). I now dab a bit onto a teat and he grabs it and suckles immediately. this is a really big improvement and is far better for him than a milk replacement, no matter how good it is. By the late evening I could see him going for teats without me making them taste nice first - the big test will be the night of course.