Thursday, April 21, 2016

Kitten Saga

Around 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Jackson ran upstairs screaming that Zelda scratched him. He was actually crying, then added, "and she pooped on the couch". Jackson can play rough with Zelda so I wasn't shocked about the scratch, but she has never pooped on the couch. I immediately went downstairs to discover the poop was actually a kitten about half the size of my fist!

To back track a bit, Zelda was born last May. She joined our family last July. Jesse and I went back and forth on getting her declawed. The plan was to get her spayed and declawed at the same time. We ended up deciding not to declaw her, which caused us to also postpone getting her spayed. Zelda spends a few hours outside every day climbing trees and jumping over fences. Even though we knew she wasn't spayed and she was outside daily, we didn't realize she was pregnant. She was slightly larger, but she was such a tiny cat and not even a year old, so we just assumed she was becoming a full grown cat. 

Now, back to the surprise kitten delivery! Zelda ran upstairs, leaving this bloody kitten and placenta on our couch. Jackson was hysterical once he understood that it was a kitten and there was blood. I called Jesse and he suggested I set up towels outside for them. I made a bed of towels on the back deck but Zelda was uninterested. She ran upstairs and nestled into the far corner of the linen closet. A few google searches revealed that the cat and kitten should be inside in a warm, quiet spot. The kitten wasn't making any sounds anymore so I carried her on the towel upstairs.

Zelda still wanted nothing to do with her. Aspen was more concerned than Zelda. I sprayed Lysol and used Clorox wipes all over the couch, then scurried around to make breakfast and get the kids ready.

When I went to check on Zelda and the kitten a half hour later, Zelda was eating the placenta. I had no idea cats even did that, so it was just another shocking part of my morning. Jackson had calmed by that point down and was already deciding on a name for the kitten.

We carried on with our regular schedule. The trio and I returned home around lunch time. I was curious if there would be another kitten, but there was not. Zelda had licked her baby clean and was finally nursing the kitten.

By late afternoon, Zelda still had not delivered any other kittens. However, she would get up and pace the hallway, then make deep meowing calls.  It seemed obvious that she was in labor. I called the vet to ask their advice. They said that is was not uncommon for kittens to be born twelve or more hours apart. If Zelda hadn't delivered another cat by Wednesday, mid-afternoon, we should take her in to get examined. 

After dinner Jesse and I could visually see Zelda's abdomen contracting and what appeared to be waves of a kitten moving. It was incredible to witness!

We went to bed, hoping to wake up to another kitten on Wednesday morning. (It's not that we wanted lots of kittens; we just didn't want to have to take her to the vet.) At some point during the night she delivered another kitten.

The real excitement for Jackson and I was around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning. We were sitting on the floor, outside the linen closet, watching the two kittens. All of a sudden, and with seemingly zero effort, Zelda delivered the third kitten. I was actually able to video the end of it because I was taking pictures of the other two kittens at the time. Here's a photo of the last kitten, just a minute old.

I had the unusual displeasure of watching Zelda eat that placenta as well. My stomach was churning a bit, yet I could not look away. Twenty four hours later, Zelda was nursing three kittens.

Wednesday afternoon I replaced the towels and bedding with clean ones and gently put the kittens back on the towel. Zelda kept close watch on my every move, but she let me pick her babies up with a washcloth.

It only took a minute for the three kittens to curl up together in a ball of claws and black fur.

The kids have been excited observers. They know they aren't allowed to touch them, but they blow kisses, talk, and get close to them.

Once we were confident that Zelda was finished delivering kittens, Jesse set up a large box with a blanket for Zelda and her babies in the office. Jackson was allowed to help transfer the kittens to the box. You can see his infatuation already.

At only three days old, the kittens spend the majority of their day eating and sleeping. I've kept a washcloth inside their bed where Zelda sleeps. I read that it's important not to pick newborn kittens up with your bare hands, and that you shouldn't confuse the kittens with your scent. I use the washcloth to pick up the kittens occasionally, for no other reason than I want to cuddle them.

I could stare at this face all day!

In the birthing video I was able to capture, Jackson compared the three kittens to the triplets. It's surprising to me how similar they actually are! I remember when the triplets were newborns, they would always snuggle together. If I put the three of them on different sides of the pack-n-play, they would gravitate towards one another and become a mass of babies. The kittens are the same way.

It's amazing to me how strong the maternal instinct is for Zelda. She wasn't even a year old yet she knew how to do everything. Another odd thing I've learned through extensive google searches is that kittens don't use the bathroom on their own. The mama cat stimulates them by licking them, then licks up any waste. So there's no odor or cleaning involved right now. Apparently kittens should become litter trained within 4-6 weeks. I hope that's another automatic thing that happens, though I haven't researched that yet. Jesse brought home another litter box and wet food for Zelda.

The kittens aren't very active right now. It takes 7-10 days for kittens to open their eyes, so they aren't too curious yet. One will occasionally try to climb out of the box, but Zelda grabs it by the scruff and puts it back in the box. It will be interesting when all three are moving around everywhere.

We will most likely keep one kitten and find new homes for the other two. We plan to let them nurse for eight weeks before we try to get rid of them. As soon as Zelda has weaned, she will be spayed. As exciting as these unexpected kittens have been, we don't want any more surprises!

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