I'm having kittens?!?!!
February 2, 2009 8:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm fostering a sweet affectionate girl cat who's also very, very pregnant. Although I've had many cats before, I've never had a pregnant one, and I've got a couple questions.

I inquired about fostering to a local rescue group, and immediately they asked me if i'd be willing to take in this sweet girl. I couldn't say no. But now that I have her, I have a few questions. According the the woman at the shelter, she's probably 18 months old or so, is due in about a week-ish, and was probably dumped by her original owners in a barn when they found out she was preggers. She's way too affectionate to have not had a home previously.

1) She's got a bit of diarrhea. She came to me this way. I'm not sure what to do about this. I was sent home with dry cat kibble and cheapo Friskies wet food, but when I saw the loose stools, I stopped the wet. She doesn't seem to miss it, is still eating and drinking, and doesn't appear sick otherwise (except for the odd sneeze.). She's really affectionate, and all her other pregnancy symptoms seem to be by the book. Does this warrant a vet trip? I've googled, and the answers I got ranged from "don't worry, it's normal" to "OMG she and the kittens are gonna DIE". Not exactly helpful. Because she's a foster, they pay for everything, and want her to go to their vet if anything arises. (Which is also about 30 mins away). But they're also a relatively broke foster group, and the general feeling I got was unless it's life threatening, please don't. Now, I don't mind paying out of pocket even at the vet down the street if it'll save her life, but I'm not sure a little diarrhea is quite that serious. If it was a regular not-pregnant cat, I wouldn't even be considering a vet yet given the lack of other "sick cat" symptoms.

2) Should I go out and buy her kitten kibble instead of the stuff the foster group gave me? If so -- any brand recommendations (available in Canada?) Every site I've read about taking care of pregnant cats says she should be eating the higher protein kitten stuff.

3) How does one pick up a very very pregnant cat? I'm petrified of harming her kittens, and am avoiding picking her up unless absolutely necessary. But when I do (to get her off my countertops, for example), i've been trying to lift her up by all fours and sort of cradle her belly in my arms. Is this ok?

4) Is there anything else I should know about the birthing process? My plan is to simply let mother nature take it's course -- i'm not comfortable stepping in and performing kitten CPR, for example. She's got several approved-by-me options she's trying out for a birthing location (I had to discourage and block off the path to behind my couch.) I've googled extensively and think I've got a handle on what's going to happen, but if you have any "I wish I'd known that before" thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

posted by cgg to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If she's really got diarrhea rather than just loose stools and it's been more than 24 hours I would take her to the vet. A few loose stools is different than serious diarrhea - you don't want her to get dehydrated.

Kitten chow is a good idea - she'll need the extra protein and calories while she's nursing as well. We've only had one cat who had kittens. She was quite mellow about letting us be there when she gave birth (in my daughter's closet) - we did set up a warm towel lined spot and she stayed there with the kits for a week or more before moving them around the house several times. Picking her up by cradling her is fine - you can put one arm behind her front legs and then use your other to support her hindquarters and tum.

And good for you for fostering!
posted by leslies at 8:46 AM on February 2, 2009

I'm not sure about this, but I would not cut off her moist food. One of the main problems with diarrhea is that it can lead to dehydration, and for some cats, moist food is an important source of liquid. In fact, I'd consider putting her on 100% moist food (and getting some really great moist food for that, too).

It's probably worth calling the vet down the road, or one that you trust/like, and explaining the situation. They may be willing to give you a little information over the phone, particularly about the food situation.

You'll want really good food for when she's nursing, too - those nursing mommy cats get so skinny sometimes!
posted by amtho at 8:51 AM on February 2, 2009

Thanks for the answers so far. I guess I should clarify -- it's probably not diarrhea per se; her stools are resembling chunky pudding, but isn't watery.
posted by cgg at 8:56 AM on February 2, 2009

1) I'd call a vet you trust and ask some questions. Explain to them that the shelter is sort of broke and see if there is anything you can do on your own before bringing the mother in.

2) You could totally buy her kitten food. Our fixed cats now will occasionally get kitten food because of some brain-blip where I picked up the wrong can/bag. It won't hurt her at all and she'll need those extra calories after she gives birth. I know people will debate brands and quality, but do what you can afford. If you are so inclined, you can Google "kitten food brands" and see what the results are.

3) I am sure there's some standard way, think you are handling her okay.

4) As a kid, at 2 different times, we had pregnant cats in the house. The first litter (born in a bedroom closet) had a runt that needed CPR. A little cleaning off with a warm damp facecloth and a little CPR. The "runt" grew into a chubby cat who lived to be 13.

The other litter (born behind a couch) produced 4 kittens, one of which was stillborn and got stuck on the way out. The mother was growing tired trying to push. She needed assistance by way of a little tug. We took the stillborn away from her too. I don't know if that was necessarily the right thing to do, but the mother cat trusted us and it worked out.

Nature might be able to take it's course, but you might need to help.

Couple things: Try to encourage a trusting relationship with her, it will help her trust you more after. She might move the kittens several times, and it's totally okay. You can also provide her with a cardboard box with an entry flap door propped open so she can get the kittens in without leaping. Leave the flap so you can close it if she decides to make that their little secure home base for when the kittens start opening their eyes and stumbling around.

Also, after the kittens are born, try to avoid having a lot of people or strangers in the house. It will make the momma cat nervous. My grandmother hosted my baptism reception at her house. Her Siamese cat had recently given birth. The amount of new people in the house freaked out the mother cat and she ate the kittens.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:57 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

You should reintroduce the moist food. Just make sure you're getting a good brand, like Wellness. Diarrhea = dehydration, pregnancy = nutrient drain, wet food = quick fix to both.

Stress and diet changes can cause (usually, in fact) tummy troubles for kitties. It can take them a while to adjust and get back to normal. Just be consistent with her food and water and keep an eye on it.

Definitely call the vet and see what info they'll give you for free.

For picking her, put one arm against your body and lean alongside her, then use your other arm to tip her into the cradle of that arm and hold her gently. This causes the least strain on her and the kittens.

At 18 months old and abandoned, this might not be her first litter. Either way, most cats are pretty good at knowing what to do. This isn't true for all cats, and even experienced queens can have a difficult birthing experience. The thing I had to do most commonly was to help clear the nose/mouth area of kittens coming out too fast for the mother to get to. This wall of text has great information on what to expect. You can also check out Youtube for videos of kittens being born, so that you're prepared for the mom's behaviour and everything else.

No matter what, have the numbers handy for whomever their emergency vet is and your contact at the rescue. If something starts to go wrong beyond what you can react to expediently, call them.

Good luck to you and the new momma!
posted by batmonkey at 9:44 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cannot add much to the good kitten-ing advice, but a little canned pumpkin (1tsp in each serving of wet food you feed or so) can help her with the poo issues. Soluble fiber!
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:17 AM on February 2, 2009

These are things that surprised me, but are completely normal, when I witnessed the kitty-cat birthing process:

1- Mom cat will clean the hair from her nipples.
2- Mom cat will eat the placentas. There is one for each kitten.
3- Mom cat may have picked out one birthing place, followed by another post-birth place. Our cat made the move the evening of her birthing day.
4- When mom cat makes the move, she picks up the babies with her mouth on the scruff of their necks.
5- Kittens are, like human babies, born mostly blind and mostly closed eyed. They are also born with blue eyes, and I *think* I remember that their pupils are round for a while.
6- As the kittens get older, mom cat might want to teach them to hunt, if mom cat was feral and taught to hunt by her mom. And mom might play-fight with the kittens- as long as no blood is drawn, it's probably ok. Might seem less than motherly, but mom cat has to get the kittens ready to be on their own in less than a year...

Basically, mom cat will take care of everything herself. Look to her for guidance- she'll probably tell you if something is wrong. If the mom cat is generally a smart cat, let her handle everything. Just provide her with ample food and water. If the mom cat is on the dumb side, you may need to help with corralling the youngsters...

Also, give her a second litter box to use for when the kittens start pooping.
posted by gjc at 3:46 PM on February 2, 2009

Oh, and take pictures. They grow up so fast...
posted by gjc at 3:47 PM on February 2, 2009

and link us to the pictures, too. Because I mean, really, squeeee! kittens!
posted by jerseygirl at 4:57 PM on February 2, 2009

A late note: Also ask the vet about calcium pills for the mom cat. She'll benefit from extra calcium when she's lactating.
posted by zadcat at 5:13 PM on February 3, 2009

The kittens were born! I've got follow up questions here!
posted by cgg at 7:52 AM on February 11, 2009

Also, I've set up a kitten cam!
posted by cgg at 1:34 PM on February 13, 2009

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