Advice on a young pregnant kitty.
November 17, 2006 9:15 PM   Subscribe

We've adopted a stray kitten. I took her to the vet 2 weeks ago and yep, she's pregnant. I'm actually quite excited! I couldn't find a ask-mefi thread on pregnant cats, so I thought I'd ask for advice.

She's a young one. She's a sweet little grey kitten with the most awesome white markings about her body. Very loving and our hard-ass old male cat has excepted her quite well. She stays indoors almost constantly. She's in the kitchen right now batting around a pen on the floor =).

Anyway, while I have been around cats since day 1 of my existence, I've never actually been through a birthing, so I want to query for advice.

She's been to the vet, she's very healthy, she's on kitten food, plenty of water, a good place to give birith, all the standard stuff... what I want is the deep insight mefi often gives.

So let me know: what advice would you give for a soon-to-be pseudo-father of kittens?

I'm honestly a bit nervous about the actual birthing process and what part I should play. I have read many an article on what can go wrong and how to react, but, once again, I'd love to hear some real-world experiences.
posted by killThisKid to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
Don't let the old male cat near the kittens. He'll kill them.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 9:23 PM on November 17, 2006

Sometimes an old male cat can turn quite fatherly, though, especially if he's fixed and hasn't any designs on becoming the mom cat's new mate. Lactating cats, especially underage ones, often need extra calcium. The vet should be able to provide suitable supplements that aren't too expensive.

Set aside a little extra money so the kittens can be seen by a vet and get their first shots and checkup, because kittens that come with a clean bill of health are more attractive adoptees. When the kittens are six to eight weeks, casually invite friends who like cats over to see just how adorable your kittens are.
posted by zadcat at 10:12 PM on November 17, 2006

Make sure you have a safe, warm, dark place for her to go to have kittens. Keep an eye on her when it's close to her time - she'll start exploring all the nooks and crannies in the house. Direct her to your preferred birthing arena and hope she takes your advice. If you have a strong bond with her, she will likely welcome your presence during labor and delivery. Speak in low, reassuring tones, and give her gentle pets if she is okay with it.

Also, first time kitty moms don't always know what to do at first; she might not know to lick the kitten and clear away the sac, so be prepared with a clean towel to (very gently) clean the kittens' faces and make sure their noses are unobstructed.
posted by Addlepated at 10:22 PM on November 17, 2006

Kitten eyes don't open for a week or so, that's normal.

Also normal is for a cat to seem to have finished birthing, but the next day you find she's added another in the night. Apparently this might be an adaptation so that the cat can at least rear one kitten if the others are eaten by a predator who scents the birth.
posted by zadcat at 10:30 PM on November 17, 2006

Make sure that she stays indoors at least until the kittens are able to eat kitten food. If she gives birth outside, the kittens have a poor chance of survival, and new queens occasionally have very little maternal instinct.
posted by owhydididoit at 11:34 PM on November 17, 2006

Generally, let the mother decide everything. If she likes a certain spot, that's where her box should go. If she wants to move the kittens, maybe she's right -- consider where she's taking them and decide whether it's a good idea. Make sure she has plenty of food and water, an always clean litter box, and privacy. When it happens, she will automatically do what she needs to do, mainly lots of hairy-tongued licking.

Just don't overhandle the kittens or piss off the mother. You don't want her to start sneaking off with the kittens because she's aggravated and nervous.

But don't leave drawers open (or even openable by sneaky little paws) unless you don't mind bloody cat placenta in your favorite boxers. I can vouch for that stuff really happening.

If you don't intend to keep them all, start looking now for potential owners of new kittens. If you wait until they're born, you may have trouble finding people in time. Predict the date at which they'll be old enough to give away, then start asking around for promises to adopt potential kittens at that time. If they're friends or neighbors, you can invite them to see the mother before and whole family after the birth.

If there are kids (or goofy adults) involved, you can make birth certificates and take baby photos. If you're having trouble finding early promises of ownership, a birth certificate and early photos ("Awwww....") could do the trick.
posted by pracowity at 1:25 AM on November 18, 2006

It might be a long night. Ordering a pizza might seem like a good idea. It's not. Trust me on this.

We also found a pregnant stray. Having kittens around the house was one of the most fun things I've ever done.

Keep the number of an animal hospital handy. My wife had to help deliver a breeched birth.
posted by bondcliff at 6:32 AM on November 18, 2006

Cats are pretty good at the kitten thing on their own. With my cat -- back when I was a kid -- we knew it was time because you could literally see the contractions happening on her sides and there was this sticky stuff on her vagina that you could see when you peeked at her tail.

Agreed with what everyone has said, if there are a few dark quiet places your cat likes to go, you might want to help out by putting maybe a carboard box with a towel in it in the place [something removable and washable, I would not go for the fluffy cat bed], or maybe even putting a few of them out around your house. If she picks one it will definitely be easier than if she decided to have her kittens under the couch or someplace inaccessible.

Your cat will likely be fine during the birthing process but you might want to know what to watch for. Here's some tips from ehow. When our cat had kittens I was sort of unreasonably nervous that she'd roll over and smush the little things but that was not a problem. Once all the kittens are born the Mom will likely just roll over and nurse them and not do much else. Having food and water nearby [but not right there] will be helpful to her so she doesn't have to leave the kittens for long to eat/drink.

Even when the kittens are almost brand new, they may be inquisitive and explore, so keep a rough count of how many there are and when you peek in, make sure they're all there. We found some of our kittens had strayed pretty far from the bed when they were only a week or two old. Seriously, I was amazed they could walk at all and they were already out in the barn.

Usually things go fine. Let your cat mostly do things her way.
posted by jessamyn at 6:35 AM on November 18, 2006

Cats pay no attention to your pitiful human "birthing place". She'll have the kittens wherever seems suitable to her, which will be on your bed, or in your clothes dresser, or some place like that, so you might as well accept it now. (Cat breeders will cage or confine the cat in a bathroom a few days prior to birth - this requires that you know enough about cat pregnancy to predict when a "a few days before birth" is!) After the birth you can try to move them - carefully - to a secluded place in your house. (Momma cat will be grumpy!) I don't think there's anything else you really need to do.

If you use something like the cardboard from a case of soda or beer, that will help contain the kittens for a while - can't leave the nest until you can get over the cardboard, suckers!

I don't think the male cat is likely to do anything to the kittens, but you might take some care in introducing them, just in case. The male cat will smell things going on and be very interested.

Don't forget to have Momma cat fixed! Roughly about the same time the kittens are being weaned and you're taking them to get their first shots.
posted by jellicle at 6:51 AM on November 18, 2006

Response by poster: She was going to be fixed... that's how the pregnancy was discovered. The vet looked at me and said: "I'll abort 'em but it'll cost you double and I don't like it."

I would've set no anyway, but I thought that was interesting.
posted by killThisKid at 7:03 AM on November 18, 2006

The two books by Roger Tabor on cat behavior are full of good information and cool photos. (Both books at the link: scroll down.)

One interesting comment on kittens: the critical window for human socialization is from age 2 weeks to age 7 weeks. If, during that 5 week period, they regularly spend 45 minutes a day playing with 3-4 different humans, with their mum nearby, they are well socialized and will trust humans and have a good attitude. So you might look to that. Also, it's great if you can keep the kittens together with their mum until they're 14 weeks old---they learn a lot from her and each other, and at 14 weeks they're ready to go off on their own.
posted by LeisureGuy at 8:12 AM on November 18, 2006

As an aside, you might consider getting them all fixed before they go to their new homes. You could pass it on to the owner as an "adoption fee." You would be doing a huge service to the community to make sure that none of your kitty's babies end up having more babies.
posted by radioamy at 12:15 PM on November 18, 2006

Find the neighborhood kids that like cats and have them over to play with the kittens every day once they are about 2 weeks old. Let these kids meet the kittens shortly after they are born, on the condition that the first few meetings require absolute silence (no need to freak the queen out). One kid at a time to play with the kittens, again, because mom is sensitive and doesn't like to share, and mom is a stray so may decide she doesn't trust people.

Now, I say kids, because kids will hold the kittens upside down, and kids will be a little loud and kids will pet them pretty hard. If you can arrange it so that the kids get a chance to interrupt the kittens eating a few times, you will have perfect adoptable kittens. You must find kids that have a concept of their own strength, because squeezing a kitten very hard for too long results in death, usually because of suffocation. I've never seen it and I would have a heap of sorrow if that happened to you, so let's say no younger than 5 or 6.

We bred tonkinese when I was a kid and I don't think I ever left a show with kittens left if they were old enough to sell (3 months). These people would see me turning the cats upside down, dressing them in dolls clothes, singing them ridiculous songs and they would just write a check. This is especially helpful if the person adopting your kittens has grandchildren or neices/nephews. Have the neighborhood kids on hand when prospective adopters stop by.
posted by bilabial at 1:04 PM on November 18, 2006

My persian chose the linen closet
posted by Pressed Rat at 2:44 PM on November 18, 2006

Toots (the best cat, ever) had her first litter in a drawer that had been prepared for the purpose (only safe place in a studio). Her second litter happened also in a drawer, unplanned. (oops). They like drawers. Both liters were 3 kittens each (cats can actually be "a little pregnant"). I hope yours is small as the mother sounds small, and it's easier to place them.

Never forget that mama cats require lots of love. Everyone will want to pay attention to the kittens. I've always found the queens to be especially receptive to my attentions. I figure they take it and give it back to the kittens, but I'm a sentimental slob that engages in magical thinking because I like it :-P
posted by Goofyy at 3:31 AM on November 20, 2006

It's a while later, and you probably have kittens by now! My kittens (from a stray I adopted two months ago) are just about ready to be given away--I've had a great time (first-time) 'fathering' them. If you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to share, email in profile.

For now, I'll recommend that you remember to keep your toilet seats down.
posted by carsonb at 10:56 AM on December 9, 2006

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