By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
After last week’s blog on my litter of foster kittens, I received a surprising number of questions about raising a litter of kittens. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since most families are not lucky enough to have the fun of raising a litter of kittens from day one. I thought readers of Tales from the Pet Clinic might find the answers interesting.
Q: How long did the delivery take for seven kittens?
A: I had planned to carefully record the color and sex of each kitten as it was born, but they came so fast and Lucy seemed to tire after the third kitten, so I took over rubbing down each new kitten with a clean towel to get it to begin breathing. Once it was breathing well on its own and moving vigorously, I gave each one back to Lucy and collected the next newborn. The details of the delivery are a blur. I can remember the first kitten was dark-colored and stillborn, the second orange and the third dark, but with the litter consisting of two female dark ones and four male orange ones, I have no idea which one came first. I noticed the first kitten arrived at 7 a.m. and the last kitten was born at about 8:45 a.m., making each delivery a brief 15 minutes.
Q: How big are newborn kittens?
A: I must confess that as the labor and delivery staff of one, I did not weigh the kittens until they were about 48 hours old. At that time, they ranged from 136 – 160 grams. But a picture is worth a thousand words and they were about the size of a sick of butter.
Q: Can the kittens meow?
A: These kittens are incredibly noisy. First, they have no manners and slurp when they eat. The slurping is audible across the room. If they wander too far from the rest of the litter, the wanderer mews and whines until Lucy responds; the kitten gets is bearing and heads back to the group. They also have a distress call–piercing, sharp, and the volume of a lion’s roar. They don’t make this noise often, but if they do, their mother comes immediately and moves the distressed kitten back to the nest box, picking it up by the nape of the neck. Separating a kitten from the litter to photograph it near a stick of butter will provoke this cry!
Q: How strong are the kittens?
A: Much stronger than you think and yet not so strong. One of them hooked a toenail in a towel I was using as a bumper to keep them from wandering too far outside their nest box. Poor little thing was not strong enough to unhook the toenail from the loops of thread in the towel, and mewed until I unhooked it. But, when I tried to restrain the kitten for a pedicure, it seemed like I was holding a 150 gram tiger and I was rewarded with the lion-sized distress cry once again.
Do you have more kitten questions? Ask them in the comments below.