By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
My family is trying something new this spring: we are hosting a pregnant cat as part of a local foster cat program. Destiny, now known affectionately as Lucy, will be in residence until her kittens finish nursing, are eating well on their own, and weigh two pounds each. Before she came to our home, we attended a training class on how to care for cats and kittens.
Since Lucy was a foundling, no one knew when to expect the kittens. The situation was very different than in “What to Expect When You are Expecting Puppies,” where Tallulah’s litter was a planned pregnancy and we could calculate a delivery date quite accurately. Tallulah performed admirably, whelping (the dog word for the birth of puppies) on the middle day of the three days we anticipated delivery. Not so for Lucy. When I picked her up she seemed big as a house but wasn’t showing any nesting behavior. By the second weekend of her stay, I could tell the time was coming. She would go into one of the two cardboard boxes we strategically placed around her room, scratch and hang out in the box a few minutes. At the beginning of her third week with us, she started to produce milk.
Food motivated Lucy’s life, and no wonder, since she was eating for eight. She delivered six live kittens and one stillborn kitten, so she is now nursing a large litter. Before the kittens came, I noticed she would come into the kitchen while I was making dinner and yowl for food. I purchased a clicker at my neighborhood pet store and took advantage of her food motivation by clicker training her to come. I gave two clicks when she came into the kitchen and rewarded her with Greenies – her favorite treat. Pretty soon, she learned two clicks meant a Greenie and now she comes quite quickly when she hears the clicks. Now we are working on sitting on a mat for a Greenie.
Expecting No More
The kittens came three weeks to the day after Lucy arrived at our house. The morning started normally, with Lucy following me into the kitchen, but she refused even a Greenie, so I thought something was up. We had collected several cardboard boxes for use as potential queening (the cat word for birth of kittens) boxes. Being a New Yorker, Lucy chose to deliver the kittens in a Fresh Direct delivery box. [Fresh Direct is one of the most popular New York City online grocers]. The front of the box was covered with a fleece for privacy, but she removed every blanket, towel and pad I gave her for bedding and chose to deliver on the cardboard. I was glad I had collected other boxes before the kittens came. The Fresh Direct box was soiled and needed to be thrown out, so I was able to move the new family to another familiar, but clean box after all the kittens had come.
To see a video of the new family, click here.
The foster care program provides spaying and neutering for Lucy and her family when they are ready for adoption. I predict there will be seven very delighted cat-owning families sometime in the very near future.