Infant Kittens Returned to Their Mother
March 24, 2003, 2:00 PM
The kittens are still doing fine. They never wake up meowing to eat though, so I wake them after 6 hours. Once I start rubbing them, the get to wiggling and squirming and start mewling. Maybe that is a safety thing in nature with the very young infants whose eyes are still shut, to keep predators from being attracted to them when the kittens can’t even see what’s going on. So I now would say to anyone with kittens whose eyes are still shut to do wake them after many hours to feed them. I wipe them off first with a damp cloth, which gets them active. Then they seem to want to eat. The mother cat probably “grooms” them awake in nature at that very young age.
When I called the vet’s office, he wasn’t in and wasn’t going to be in until this afternoon. Then the mother cat was in my yard, seeming to be looking for her kittens. When I went out, she ran to me meowing, though still staying back a few feet. But she braved coming up by the cat pen, where all five of my cats were staring at her, and Jolie was growling. She really seemed to know, or hope, I had her other kittens and seemed to be asking for them.
I hadn’t had all that much success getting the smallest kitten to eat and didn’t feel it would do so great with me, so I gave it back to her. She snatched it up and took off. She obviously cares a lot about her kittens, and had a lot of time to set up a new nest somewhere. Plus it’s not predicted to get below the mid 40’s for the rest of the week at night, so I felt it the best thing to do. She already has the 4th kitten stashed somewhere, so may as well have a sibling for it to help it stay warm when she leaves the nest looking for food. And, as I said, it wasn’t eating well with me. I was also very worried about that other one with no other kitten to snuggle with. Plus, I have no experience with feeding such a tiny kitten who won’t suckle and I have to go back to work Monday. I couldn’t leave them all those hours without them getting fed.
I’m not sure if it might not be best to give her back the other two, when and if she comes back later. If she has a safe place for them, being with their mother at this age is the best.
I have now given the mother cat back all her kittens. She kept coming back about every three hours, definitely for them. She would sit waiting by my latticed-in back porch, facing the door into my house. I am convinced she was hoping I would reappear with the rest of her kittens and I am also convinced she knew there was a better chance I’d notice her if she was in sight of the door (which also has a window). She was right about that helping me to notice her sooner than later.
I brought them out one at a time, since she could only carry one at a time. I am so relieved, as they really didn’t have the hang of nursing from a bottle, and drop feeding takes so long. It would have been foolish, and wrong for the health of the kittens, for me to not return them, since she clearly wanted them and kept coming back. Once she took the last one, she didn’t come back, so she knew how many she had. I hope she did find a good, safe place, but she had time to do so last night, without needing to just stash all the kittens somewhere in the cold while she searched. I hope I was helpful, for that regard. It really is best to interfere as little as possible. I just didn’t know if she was going to come back, after the shed got destroyed and she snatched up that first kitten, and then with it getting cold. My husband said that the bucket he found the kittens in was about 5 feet off the ground, up on a shelf. I still can’t fathom how the mother managed to fit in to nurse them. I don’t know how it would have worked out once the kittens got bigger in that bucket and were at the walking stage. Their moving around likely would have toppled it onto the junk, and there were some things that could have hurt or killed them, like an old tiller with big, blades exposed, and some wooden stakes. So, I guess it all did work out for the best.
Hopefully I’ll see all of them again. My own cats are full of peace now. It is also so nice to not have lots of tensions with five big cats. The change in Jolie is amazing- for the better.
Some things I’ve learned from this experience:
Don’t assume a mother cat will not come back for her kittens. Be on the lookout for her. If she does come around, put the kitten as near as she will let you come, then retreat to that same “safe” distance or even further back, or she will not come close enough to the kitten to get it.
It is not true that mother cats will reject their young kittens if they were touched by humans, at least not always. So do give it a try for the mother to reclaim her kittens.
Trying to bottle feed/dropper feed very young (under two/three weeks) kittens is very hard and might not result in enough nutrition getting in, especially if you never did it before. Be sure to have several nipples, as making the correct sized hole is difficult and some will get messed up.
Making infant kittens pee is not hard. Rubbing their butts with “normal” pressure (something such as how hard you might rub your face to get a smudge of flour off) works well, and quickly (at least if the kittens’ are healthy and all systems are working correctly).
It takes a LOT of time to care for infant kittens. It doesn’t fit in with “normal” life, so life will not be normal for the duration. Don’t assume they will wake up crying when hungry. The ones I had NEVER woke up unless I stroked them. If several hours go by without them waking, do stroke them to wake them and try to feed them and make them urinate. Set two alarm clocks, separated by a few minutes, to wake you for feeding and potty time, or you might sleepily turn one off and oversleep (I did. I’m so sorry little kittens).
Infant kitten claws are not sharp. Just slightly prickly. Infant boys can be distinguished from girls. They have tiny tell-tale bumps in the correct place.
Accidentally heating a bottle of milk in the microwave for more than a few short seconds will make the bottle burst and splatter formula all over the inside of the microwave. Better to heat a glass of water in the microwave, then put the bottle in the hot water to heat the formula. That’s probably better for the formula anyway. Of course, do test how hot the formula is on your wrist first before feeding.
March 25, 2003
Mama cat just came back a little while ago to eat, as usual at the usual time! Her nest must not be too far. I suppose that she will bring the kittens around to eat along with her when they are older. I call her Pretty Little Kitty, but I think I will name her Penelope.
This makes me think to warn people who are trapping cats to check out the females for signs of nursing so that there really won’t be orphaned kittens.
She let me squat just 3-4 feet from her while she ate, and then sniffed my outstretched fist! Interestingly, when she was done, she walked around me, and then right past my cats who where in their pen, as opposed to going around the shed to be less noticeable by them. Guess she wants them to notice her. Not sure they liked that.