Meet the babies

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 are born. The desk is at the end of my bed, so day or night I am on hand for the big event. The kittens stay in the big box under the desk 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!

Born 9 Feb, 12.15, 12.30, 1.15, 2.05 am
Photographed 9 Feb 11.00 am
DAY ONE, 9 Feb
(thank goodness!)

DAY TWO, 10 Feb
Kittens not gaining much weight, so it looks as though Missie is still quite stressed by the birth, and her milk isn't coming down too well yet. They suckle more-or-less constantly, so they're hungry but not getting a decent meal.
Missie has eaten well, had a good drink and used the litter tray, and I've given her some kitten milk supplement which is good for encouraging milk production. I'm keeping her very quiet and warm in the box under my desk. She is a bit anxious normally, and tends to sit up if I look in, so I'm trying not to disturb her too much and to keep the other cats quiet and out of the way, even though she obviously misses their company and would be happier with them here. They have other ideas ( " nasty aliens ... HISSS! " ).

Things are not going quite as smoothly as they could be. Although the kittens feed almost constantly, a zero weight-gain over their first 48 hours had me quite worried, so yesterday evening I did hand feeds every 1-2 hours until 2 am. Missie seemed quite down: she wouldn't purr, and stopped washing herself and the babies for a while. The babies were VERY hungry and guzzled everything I could get down them - more than I would have expected them to eat. I got up to feed again at 6 am, and had another go at 9 am, then took Missie in to see the vet, though she's looking a bit happier this morning. He said she had no temperature and couldn't find anything to suggest a retained foetus. However, he agreed that her milk is not coming down so gave her a very small shot of oxytocin (she could have used her reserves of this up as it was such an exhausting delivery), and I rushed her back home to the hungry beasts in the hopes that this would start the milk flowing properly.

She looked a lot more relaxed, and the kittens suckled and have been doing a bit more sleeping than they were before when Missie is in the box. However, tummies still look a bit small. I didn't do any hand-feeding as I needed to find out if they were going to gain anything from Missie and supplementing them would confuse the picture. Missie was pulling at her bedding this afternoon, which is odd. I waited until 4 pm to weigh, which is my usual time, hoping desperately that the oxytocin had worked. Lack of milk would mean hand-feeding every 2 hours day and night for a while, and Missie would probably get mastitis because of the milk not coming down. Weights at 4pm showed a 10 gm gain over the last 24 hours (in fact over the last 12 hours as there was no overnight gain), so obviously the milk is improving. Huge sigh of relief, but not out of the woods yet.

The kittens are still very active and look fine, though I would prefer their little tummies to be a bit fatter! The little dark kitten now has brown nose-leather so he's obviously a brown, not a blue. The others all seem to be developing blue nose-leather. Only time will tell though!

DAY FOUR, 12 Feb

The Oxytocin has done the trick. Missie has masses of milk (her underside looks like an eiderdown, all quilted), and overnight and 24-hour weighing showed good weight gain. The kittens sleep far more of the time, which means they're not hungry any more - they suckled non-stop the first two days. As things went so well yesterday and overnight, I was able to leave the house for most of the day to visit a show. There was an ulterior motive to this: it meant that Missie had a completely quiet and undisturbed day, which I think she needed as she tends to try and follow me around the house if I leave the room. Obviously this is stressful for her because she also wants to be with the babies. She certainly looks very relaxed tonight, and evidently didn't miss me.

The little brown one is the smallest (and is getting rather a lot of attention), then the smallest of the three 'whites' (who seems to have brown nose leather now - probably a variant pointed pattern, though he could possibly be a chocolate), and then the two big fellas, who are getting blue nose leather. It's still too early to tell for sure, and I still can't sex them properly, so they're all boys for now.

DAY 5, 13 Feb

Wonderful quiet day. Babies all put on 10-11 gms which is great. It looks (at the moment) as if I have three girls (the white kittens) and one boy (the little brown). Little brown is beginning to open his eyes, so he'll be looking around before long. When they're awake they're amazingly busy, rushing around the box and climbing over each other.

DAY 6, 14 Feb

I got up this morning to 4 bright pairs of eyes. Everyone had opened their eyes overnight, and they are looking around at their semi-dark world in the big box under my desk. They seem to be much more active today too, rushing around seemingly for the sheer hell of it!

DAY 7, 15 Feb

All except the little brown have gained weight well again today. A single day of insignificant weight-gain is not usually important: at this age the weight is affected by whether they've just fed or not, and also whether Mum has emptied their bladders! However, it's an indication to keep an eye on his feeding. Missie is still immensely happy and pleased with her family. This is the time when most mothers decide to move the litter, so I'm keeping an eye on her, but she's showing no signs of wanting to move house.

Rogue's Gallery (in order of birth)