Kittens, kittens, part 2.
March 25, 2012 6:07 AM   Subscribe

In need of young kitten help and advice please!

As some might remember (or notice), I posted about a month ago regarding the sudden, unexpected pregnancy of my young female cat and the nearby veterinary not having recommended a emergency spay. After reading all of the comments, I did wind up taking her to another clinic, looking for a second opinion, but things didn't go swimmingly (both me and the cat seemed to hate it there) and well she had her kittens about a week ago.

Birth went well, without any complications for the mother and there are now five newborn fluff balls inhabiting my house. From what I can tell, the kittens were born at a nice size/weight, and seem to be doing decently (at least they survived their most trying first week).

I am, however, going sick with worry over them:

- Although at the time I didn't catch it, a few days before birth, the mother started showing signs of being sick. Sneezing, slightly watery eyes and infrequent/rare coughing were the symptoms (I say were, because she has recovered and is now almost a hundred percent well again). Immediately, I rushed to the vet, only to be told it was most likely something viral and, as long as she didn't seem to be getting worse, to not worry about as it would go away on its own. She was not given medicine/antibiotics. The issue now is, that the kittens (at least a couple of them, not all) are showing the same symptoms their mother was: sneezing and congested nose mostly, since their eyes are still closed. Now, I trust the vet and am glad for their advice, but I am seriously questioning whether I should rush the littler to somewhere else? (Just for the record, the kittens seem to be gaining weight and getting bigger, in general).

- The mother cat seems to be full of milk, and the little things don't seem to have trouble nursing from her, however, there's a white, yellow crust that seems to have settle on the skin around her nipples, leaving me wondering what the heck it is? (Google doesn't seem to be much help here).

- Whereas the kittens looked like they were nursing 24/7 during the first couple days, they now seem to be sleeping a lot more than feeding. Not just searching for the nipple, they lay around and sleep in the funniest poses (sometimes completely buried under their siblings), which is not very concerning, if it weren't for me not seeing them nursing much at all any longer (I check on them every couple hours). It's possible I am simply missing it, but how can I tell that they are well fed? Google seems to tell me they'd cry like crazy if they were hungry, which they aren't doing... but, concerned kitten grandmother here.

This are mostly my questions. Thanks for the help in advance!
posted by Trexsock to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
The crust around her nipples just might be dried milk. You could use a warm washcloth to remove it if you think it might be interfering with feeding.

Do you have a kitchen scale? Weighing the kittens daily or every few days will tell you if they are eating enough.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:56 AM on March 25, 2012

If you're sick with worry, call the vet. I have never regretted calling the vet when I was worried about one of my kitties.
posted by something something at 7:54 AM on March 25, 2012

Yeah, I err on the side of vet-going pretty consistently.

But a couple things:

* It is pretty normal for kittens to sleep intensely and constantly. Like, seemingly for days. They're growing! It's exhausting.

* It's also pretty normal for them to have sneezing or eye-goop or what have you: viral or bacterial infections spreading among a litter is pretty common, and not necessarily dangerous. Though it's nice to treat when it can be identified, which is often hard.

* DEFINITELY get a kitchen scale. Weighing and charting our young cats was really helpful, when we couldn't tell if they were still growing or were too thin, etc.

If you've found a vet that seems attentive and useful, that's great. You can always call them and ask their opinion before deciding to visit.

Very angry about lack of photos here.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:59 AM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

The best way to see if the kittens are gaining weight is to weigh them. They do sleep all the time. This will be good because you can then tell if the nose goop is something you need to worry about, and also because you will have actual information to bring to the vet if they do stop growing/start losing weight.

Be sure you're feeding the nursing cat enough. I've been told to feed her kitten food.

Also, I hear that kittens absolutely thrive if you post photos of them online.
posted by jeather at 8:03 AM on March 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yeah, you gotta relax and trust nature. It sounds like all is going swimmingly, which it will, unaided, the great, great majority of the time. Our cat gave birth to 3 litters last year (! Spayed now.) and it was SO much fun to watch the fascinating and fun process of birth to weaning. Relax and have fun!

Any, yeah, PHOTOS!
posted by primate moon at 8:13 AM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Meant to say, "And yeah, photos."
posted by primate moon at 8:35 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

If the mother has a virus then the kittens probably caught it too. If they're growing and eating still that's really good, but diseases are more troublesome in kittens than they are in full-grown cats. Maybe watch them for another day or two and if it's not clearing up go call your original vet. If they're not helpful get a second opinion?
posted by schroedinger at 9:33 AM on March 25, 2012

NOT saying this to worry you because we have two happy cats who were suspected of having this illness early on (10 weeks) and are totally fine...but you might want to ask a vet about something like feline herpes virus. Not the same thing as the people herpes, and it's not something we can catch from them. They can live totally normal lives with it, except for the random bouts of snotty noses and watery eyes. I really doubt this is the problem, and agree with RJ Reynolds...little viruses like this can pass through a litter like wildfire, just as it would at a daycare in a group of kids. You're cooped up with everyone all day, you're bound to catch it!
And I have got to say that jeather's post "Also, I hear that kittens absolutely thrive if you post photos of them online." is the funniest thing I've read in days. And also true.
posted by PeppahCat at 10:03 AM on March 25, 2012

My best advice, after fostering cats for some time, is to mainly let mama do her job. She and Mother Nature know what's best for her babies. I found over the years, for example, that no matter what kind of nice, private box I prepared for the impending birth it was never good enough for Mama and she'd always choose a preferable (for reasons only known to her) location like behind the toilet in the bathroom. Don't panic if she leaves them for long periods of time even before their eyes have opened; she needs a break and some exercise and food and water and "alone time." She'll be back before the babies have missed her. If there is a sick baby who is failing to thrive, Mama will know it before you decide it's looking thin and start weighing it; she will take any such babies away from the next and leave them. Sounds cruel, but that's what she does. I learned after rushing the first couple such abandoned wee ones to the vet that they were suffering from "fading kitten syndrome"...we treated a few extensively and expensively but they succumbed nevertheless. The vet told me that often there is some unseen birth defect involved, or a nutritional deficiency that occurred in utero. In any case, in retrospect it seemed more traumatic to take that tiny fluff in the car and subject it to needles and other clinical harshness than to just let Nature take its course.

YMMV, of course.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:40 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

As solitary predators, a lactating cat would once have needed to go and hunt like mad. Babies left behind are going to sleep a lot, because it's safe and really, they're not just lying there. They're growing like mad.
posted by Jilder at 2:06 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

- Young kittens can't control their own body temperature. Sleeping in kitten-heaps (which you should definitely post photos of!) helps them keep each other warm.

- One concrete thing you can do i(to reassure yourself) is test the kittens for dehydration. Gently pinchpull the skin at the nape of the kitten's neck. When you release it, the skin should immediately spring back to normal. If it stays tented or settles slowly, the kitten is likely dehydrated & needs to see the vet. Use the same test on the mamacat & give her easy access to plenty of fresh water; she has fluffy parasites sucking out all her fluids!

- This site is geared toward hand-rearing orphaned kittens, but has lots of info on kitten health, etc.

- Congratulations! Take lots of pictures; kittens grow amazingly fast.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:05 AM on March 26, 2012

I think everything will be fine. If things were going to go wrong, they probably would have already.
posted by gjc at 6:18 AM on March 26, 2012

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