Newborn Diary

At the Rogue's Gallery you can see their week-by-week development without having to wade through the daily pictures

What do I have under my desk? Kittens. This is where all my litters used to be born. The desk was at the end of my bed, so day or night I could be on hand for the big event. (Now my bedroom and study are separate, so the babies are born in the box beside my bed - or sometimes on it!)

This is how it all worked in 2000 though. The kittens stay in the big box until they're about 2 weeks old (assuming the mother is prepared to hang around that long without moving house), when they start screaming and demanding more space to exercise, then they move across the room, but still very close at hand for my work and sleeping space. They don't migrate to the nursery (across the passage) until they're 3-4 weeks old, when no box is big enough to hold them, and they need a lot more space, and a cork-tile floor which can be easily wiped! They're allowed the run of the house as long as I'm nearby to prevent accidents, but the nursery is a nice warm safe place to grow up, and I can see through the mesh door from my seat at my desk.

You can skip all the boring 'words' below and go straight to the pictures of the babies now if you like!

If you've never seen young kittens, you will never know just how fast they develop and how much fun and WORK they can be! If you've ever thought of breeding 'for fun' there are many many things to consider, and an awful lot you have to know about feline diseases and genetic problems before you start. Nobody wants to put their precious girl at risk, but ignorance of breeding and the problems you may encounter is the biggest killer of new queens. You need to know your bloodlines and pedigrees before you can even choose a queen or a stud cat for her, but the help of other breeders is the best way of learning all this.

Most of this diary consists of daily picture updates of Missie's first litter (Rameses Kismet) with some brief progress notes, but immediately below I have given a short description of the labour and birth, which weren't exactly text-book!


Missie started out by going into labour a day late (one sleepless night lost - you must never leave an expectant queen alone in case she has complications in labour which could kill her), then she started having big contractions at 8 pm and didn't start pushing really hard until 10 pm. It should all have been over by Midnight, but Missie was having a lot of trouble and the first kitten was not showing himself. After a while I decided she was struggling so called the vet out. Picking up the phone usually shifts the problem, but this time it didn't. When she arrived, liquid parraffin in hand, Sarah had a quick 'feel' and to my relief found a tail (which meant that though it was a rear-presentation, it wasn't a real 'breach' birth. About 40-50% of kittens are born feet/tail first. A true breach is when the kitten presents his lower back first).

Sarah watched for a while and we agreed that Missie was becoming more distressed and exhausting herself. She was migrating around the room trying to find a place to escape what was happening. Feeling inside her seemed to have dilated her a bit further, and we began to see a bubble of the anmiotic sac, and then a tail. However, even pulling hard on the tail during contractions didn't shift the kitten, and it looked as if his head was jammed further up. Sarah gave a shot of calcium to try and strengthen the uterine contractions, and we decided to wait for that to take effect before taking the drastic step of deciding on a caesarian section. It was evident by this time that Missie was being very brave, but she was in a lot of pain.

A c-section is not desirable because of the stress to the queen and the delay in the milk flow starting. However, if you wait too long, the queen is too exhausted to survive the operation. It's a difficult decision to make. Sarah called up one of the practice nurses just after midnight, and after persuading her it wasn't a joke, asked her to get the surgery ready for an emergency c-section.

As if on cue, Missie decided that this was no longer a joke, and 'Cochese' as he came to be known, stuck his bum and ankles out into the light. (Another reason for his name was that he appeared to have a black tail with a white tip, like a red-indian head-dress feather!) I managed to wiggle one of his ankles out enough to get a leg out so that he couldn't get back inside, and from there things moved much more normally. After such a long time coming, Sarah and I didn't hold out much hope for this one's survival, but once his body was out, though his head was still inside, Cochese started waving his arms around, and it was clear he was planning on arriving kicking and screaming, which he did at about 12.15 (am). It seemed that the Calcium did the trick (thank you Sarah!). Cochese is a big strong kitten: within hours he had had a long walk around his kittening box, and exercised his lungs well. He has a slight depression about half-way up his tail which could be damage caused by pulling on it. I'm hoping it is due to swelling and will go down soon, though it could be more serious - perhaps a break.

He's not a huge kitten, certainly not large enough to have warranted the trouble he caused, so next time Missie is pregnant I'll be treating her with Red Raspberry Leaf (RRL) capsules to strengthen her uterus. The other kittens were quite slow too, and it seems that the internal contractions were painful but not really strong enough to get the kittens moving. Some people use RRL with every pregnancy, but I have concerns about its safety, and I also don't believe in tampering with a process that should work well naturally. Missie is old to be having a first litter as she was very late to call, and that may have been another contributing factor in the slow and tiring delivery. I was very relieved that she only had 4 babies, as she was really too tired to have any more. She had finished by 2.15, but I stayed up for another hour to make sure she was really finished and not just having a rest. Poor little mouse, she was so relieved it was over!