Meet the babies (4)
DAY 22, 1 March

I've discovered why Missie is such an easy cat to look after as a mother: every time I've thought, 'uh-oh, this will make her pick them up and carry them back...' she hasn't. This evening one of the big blue girls had a very long walk, and stood in the passage letting everyone know she was out. Missie came and talked to her, and walked back into the nursery looking over her shoulder, and the kitten followed a bit, but then decided the outside was more interesting. In the end, Missie did try to pick her up, but simply couldn't. She had absolutely no idea how to do it, which explains why she's never tried carrying them before. It's not something you can really teach a cat, either!

DAY 23, 2 March

Brothers are for biting, sisters are for smacking!
This is a delicate time for handling as their natural impulse is to run towards you - if you pick them up roughly or in a way that makes them frightened then they can become difficult to handle when they're older and you can put them off wanting to be around humans rather easily. It is possible to rescue a situation, but it can take a very long time and a lot of work, and I'd rather just not get it wrong, as they are so trusting at this stage.

DAY 24, 3 March

No-one has ever suggested that I might become bored with looking at my kittens. Perhaps that's because they can see that every moment with them brings something new, and they never cease to make me smile. They're easy to care for at the moment, as Missie still does everything, though the bedding needs changing more frequently because of the little puddles!

DAY 25, 4 March

One of the reasons that most breeders weigh their kittens daily is to make sure that they are aware of potential problems as soon as they arise. It's easy to confuse full-tummy contentment with lack of energy. I've been increasingly unhappy with the weight gain over the last few days: they should be gaining about 20 grams a day at the moment, and the last three days it's been only 5-8 grams, though they are not screaming for food and Missie appears to have a lot of milk. Yesterday, Missie got a large vitamin supplement and the kittens all had a huge 'bottle' feed last thing, which they guzzled and were obviously hungry for.

Today there is a huge weight-gain of 22-30 gms, so I'll supplement again tonight. One of the dangers with supplementing is that if you do too much the mother can get mastitis and/or lose her milk, so I'm checking Missie's teats every couple of hours as mastitis can come on very suddenly. Ideally they should only get enough supplement to give them the extra energy to suckle more. A once-a-day feed should help them to get back on track. Hand-feeding is far more difficult than you might think, as there's a lot of wiggling and chit-chat before they get the idea that the milk is for swallowing. If you get any of the milk in their lungs by mistake (easily done) they are likely to get pneumonia, and a young kitten has very little chance of survival if that happens. For that reason (and the others I've mentioned) I don't supplement unless I feel there's a really good reason to do so.

I managed a few pictures of me feeding them (or trying to with one hand!): usually my left hand would be holding their heads straight, but I needed a finger for pressing the button on the camera. Ideally, the rubber teat should go fully into the mouth and the kitten swallows most of it down the throat so there's none showing - if you're using both hands the kittens quickly work out what you're offering and hopefully don't choke on the teat or swallow it the wrong way!.

I'm going to be looking for fat little tummies and a lot more padding on the ribs in the next few days. I'm feeding them on KMR, not the more commonly found powdered formula, which is called Cimicat. KMR is expensive, but I've found it a better formula to judge from the results, and the kittens love it. Both products are fine for hand-rearing though.

 Yes, that's Cochese above (I really must rename her!) on the scales, complete with dangling broken tail. It will have to be amputated unfortunately, but not until she's old enough to cope with a GA. Although there is no movement in it at all and a clear break point, she does have feeling in it, so it will distress her in the long term just to leave it as it is.

DAY 26, 5 March

When I step into the nursery, the kittens rush out and straight towards me. They are feeling a lot more active today, and they're so funny now they can move so fast - they do keep falling over though! For the last couple of days, Reckless has been carrying the kittens a lot: bringing them to me and then just dumping them on the floor and looking at me as if to say, 'well, what about this then?'. I'm not sure why she's doing it, but she definitely does it more when they are feeling vocal.

DAY 27, 6 March

Litter training began in earnest today! The kittens have been allowed to establish a habitual corner where they pee: newspaper under the fleece soaks it up, and the smell, though not strong enough for me to notice is evident to them. Now they're active enough to get over the low edge of a small litter tray easily, and also they are showing signs of wanting to dig, I have put the slightly soiled newspaper in the bottom of the tray, added some newspaper pulp litter and put the tray in their habitual place. The contents of the tray won't be fully changed until they have developed the habit of using it, as a new, clean, smell might put them off. Most kittens actually want to litter train: their first 'puddle corner' from about 2 weeks of age is usually in a secluded corner of the sleeping nest, but by now they prefer to come out of the nest to urinate.

Most cat litters are laced with chemicals to mask the smell of adult faeces, but kittens will try to eat absolutely anything, so you have to be extra careful about what you use. Some breeders use Fullers Earth for early litter training but I've found that it smells terrible and makes the kittens stink unless you are constantly changing it (and even then it's not brilliant), so I use recycled Canadian newspaper (because the Canadians use non-toxic soya-based ink!) which has a low expansion ratio, and means that even if the kittens eat it they will not have any problems. I have no problems with smell using this litter either.

DAY 28, 7 March

Litter training? Hah!! However, 'picking up' is going very well: they no longer go rigid and scream when picked up, but now go nice and relaxed even without support under their back feet. They're already almost impossible to photograph for the rogues gallery, as they just move so fast and they're into everything. Reckless is still bringing babies to me from time to time, but it seems to be when she thinks I ought to be paying attention to them. On a more serious note, it's clear that Missie has insufficient milk, even though her teats are quite pouchy. When I come into the room they rush at me and try to eat my fingers, crying for food, and when the 'bottle' appears they just grab it in their mouths. Despite the potential for problems, I suspect I ought to supplement them a bit more than once a day, and then go for early weaning.

no, I won't pose!