a kindle of kittens

It is cold these days. Sometimes down to Professor Celcius´ blue twenties, minus four for Mr. Farenheit. I stay snugly warm inside. The rescue shelters are all full of cold animals, some with ears frozen off, tails frozen stiff. One horrific story today of a grown Tom frozen to the ground. Being homeless is not a game.

And we got two very pregnant cats in from the cold.

Snip your cats, people. They, or their offspring will die painful deaths in these temperatures.

I took one of the mothers-to-be into my flat. She is a tortoiseshell, and without the enormous belly, she would have been a petit miss.

We know nothing about her. How old she is, if she has had kittens before. What she has eaten, where she has lived. What diseases or injuries she may have. At the bursting-point of pregnancy, is not the time to transport, stress, poke, medicate or hassle a homeless cat. She will have her kittens, then we shall see. So I figured I had to build trust and get to know her fast. I belong to the school of thinking – let animals be left in peace, and when they are ready, they will come to you. No time for that here.

I could feel the kittens kick, roll and do somersault in her belly. She was remarkably friendly, considering she was homeless and had been for some time. She wanted to be petted, but seemed unfamiliar with the idea of sitting on a human lap. I let her snake around my feet, I would get down on the floor and she would head-butt and scent-mark me.

She acted more and more pregnant. She snored, she fell asleep in the middle of something, she farted, burped, ate like a docker and after a few days began to make strange little noises of presumably discomfort. She would growl oddly, rest for hours, stagger around the flat on four stilts, overloaded with a bulging, pendulous belly full of little terrors. They would wake her up when she slept. I could watch the alien-like multiple movements in her belly, and I could see them waking up their long-suffering mum. She would whimper in her sleep, and wake with a jolt.

I have never been present at any kind of mammal birth, so I scoured the internet and read the same patently obvious advice over and over. Cats usually manage fine on their own, do not meddle, observe. The thing is, I suspect some of the advice is pointless or invalid when you deal with a homeless cat you do not know, and that does not know you. You have no medical history, no history, you have no bond, you do not know how she will react to things, or if she is afraid or aggressive towards various things and objects. I made her a nesting box, turned up the heat in the flat, and packed a maternity bag with all sorts of sterile doodads.


And waited.

And waited.

And waited.


Then the night before valentines, I noticed she altered behaviour slightly. Then she tried to dig underneath my duvet, and within three minutes, contractions started. She wanted to give birth in my bed but I was not so keen on that, so I managed to gently convince her otherwise, but she wanted to lie as close to me as possible. Two golden kittens popped out in quick succession, and mum had all under control. Then a black one partly appeared, she was getting really tired, so we pulled him/her out. Then number four a good while later, she pushed out and just lay there. The poor kitten in its little sack, with placenta and umbilical cord still attached.

I tied the umbilical cord, cut it and removed the placenta. Mum had dutifully eaten the previous ones, but she just seemed exhausted, and made no effort to clean the wee thing, so we did. After a little cajoling, she began licking him.

Mum had a little break, ate a little, and seemed to get a little more comfortable and regain some strenght.

My co-midwife went home, and as she was out the door, kitten number five effortlessly popped out, another little golden treasure, two hours after the previous. Mum was back on track, and did the placenta & umbilical cord business, but then ignored the wee thing, wet, slimy and brand new.

I put him under her nose, nature resumed, and she licked him clean and dry. The thing is, I read every daft article on the internet about kittening, but what they all seem to fail informing about is how long one particular thing could or should last. For example, they say “..if a kitten is stuck…”, but what does that mean? how long is it ok for a kitten to be half-way out, or how long for a kitten to stay in the sack, connected to the placenta? I have no idea.

Anyway. At six in the morning I decided I needed some sleep and the family needed some rest and quality time. One little golden creature kept screaming though, and I just wanted him to find a nipple. I found one for him, and tried to nudge him towards it. He started going after my fingers instead… daft little thing!

I had a fag, a pee, some water, and when I came back all was quiet. Good or bad sign? If I  started to fiddle around in her pile of kittens, fur and nipples, I would have upset more than I fixed. I decided to put my faith in good-man Darwin, and I went to bed.

Next morning, the shelter vet called me as I had requested, and on two hours sleep, I went to see if we had five..or four kittens. I was relieved to find five little adorable terrors hassling their mum.

Every time I walk into the nursery (kittenry?) to sit quietly to watch, she takes the opportunity to get out of the box to eat, leaving me between her and the pile of live fur. Her litter crawls around, squealing for her, and she eats and eats and eats…  here she is, a homeless cat, she has been for a good while, trusting me with her kittens.

One cool cat.


For the record:
Chilli, Safran, Mango, Marmelade, Kanel.
(Chili, Saffron, Mango, Marmalade, Cinnamon)
13.02.12: 23:39 orange
13.02.12: 23:47 orange and white
14.02.12: 00:50 black
14.02.12: 02:00 orange
14.02.12: 03:47 orange