“Do not disturb!”
You will know by the way your cat is acting that she needs to retreat and be alone now. In case of giving birth in nature, she would now look for a secure, secluded place.
After giving birth, a wild cat even changes the nursery often, so that natural enemies can’t track down the little ones by their smell.
Shortly prior to giving birth, your cat will therefore retreat to a quiet hiding place within the flat; favourites are wardrobes and drawers, as they provide a safe space where no one can observe them.
If your cat prefers other spaces instead of the birthing box, you can also place a big box or basket with towels near her chosen spot to give her the option to deliver her kittens there.
A room temperature of 21-22 degrees is ideal.
This is important because the kittens depend on a constant room temperature during their first days. Just like human babies, they are not able to keep their own body temperature on a constant level in the beginning.
Prior to the expected delivery date, the birthing box should be ready. Here is an example:
However, those with a knack for crafts are free to design their own.
Post delivery, you should install a heating lamp, so that the little ones will feel warm and cosy at all times.
The entry should be elevated, so that the mum cat can enter and leave at her leisure, but the kittens remain safely in the box. The floor should be clean, slip-resistant and fitted with puppy pads, newspaper, as well as blankets and towels that are easy to clean.
Please avoid terry towels! Cat claws are prone toget stuck in these. Newspaper is the classic solution for keeping the box clean: There is usually some around in every household and it is highly absorbent and easy to discard after use.
TIP: Start to collect newspapers early on, you will need a lot of it!
When the birthing box is safely installed and fitted, the aspiring mother can take some test naps in it. That way, she can get used to the box and make it hers because it smells like her already. Make sure she will find her litter tray, her food and fresh water nearby.
The distances to litter tray and food should be kept short so that the kittens are not left on their own for too long. They will stay warm with the help of the heat lamp, but there is no replacement for the natural warmth of their mum’s body. By the way, it might still happen that your cat chooses another spot for delivery at the last minute – don’t be cross with her if that happens.
As you know, cats follow their own mind – especially when it comes to their offspring!
Keep a protocol of the birthing process. Write down both order and weight of the kittens at delivery.
Give them names. Take a picture (camera or smartphone), so that you can match the data more easily later on.
In case the kittens all look alike, recording the data can be hard lateron, while a variety in appearance makes things a lot easier.
To weigh the tiny new kittens, a digital scale works best.
On delivering the babies, they are covered with a membrane which the mother usually cuts with her teeth, just like the umbilical cord. She will then lick the newborn to make sure it starts breathing.
If your feline friend becomes tired or irritable, you can help her: Take a clean towel and gently wrap the little ones dry – thus the membrane will be opened automatically and you will trigger both the breathing and the circulation.
If the mother fails to bite through the umbilical cord, you can also be of help: Clamp the cord at a distance of ca. 1 cm from the belly and use the sanitised scissors to cut it above the clamp.
If the towels are soiled with fluids and blood after birthing, exchange them with clean ones so that the “cradle” stays dry, clean and warm.
The newborns must be snug and warm at all times. Additional warmth can be generated by heat lamps.
These should however not be flooding the entire box, but only a certain part. Otherwise, it can get too warm and the little ones could loose too much body fluid through the constant radiation.
Heat cushions are also a good idea. They should be wrapped in a towel to protect both cushion and kittens and to avoid giving off too much heat at once.
If the best heating source – the mum – is not around, you can help keeping the kittens warm in various ways. Especially efficient are grain pillows which can be warmed up. Hot water bottles are not ideal as they may fall victim to growing teeth and claws which need to be tested...
Every newborn kitten should be weighed.
If you do this regularly, you have the necessary control on their development. Kittens of the same litter can vary in size and weight and develop in different ways.
Not all of them search and find their mum’s nipples at the same speed – there are the “go-getters” that are always first at the source; others may take their time or are more reticent in general.
Temperaments vary, also with kittens! If one does not gain enough weight and or grow sufficiently over the weeks, you should consult your vet.
Most newborn kittens weigh between 80 and 120 g.
The kittens should grow by 5-10% in weight daily. Within one week, they should have doubled in weight.
On delivering the newborn, the cat mum licks its fur dry and eats up the placenta.
One placenta per kitten should thus be taken care of by the mother.
Watch for each placenta to appear and be dealt with.
In the case of placentas remaining in the womb, they must be removed by the vet to avoid infection.
Sometimes, birthing can get problematic.
Young and inexperienced cats especially can
be prone to complications.
If the aspiring mother suffers labour for too long and nothing happens, or if the kittens are positioned in a problematic way, things can get dangerous for both mother and offspring.
In that case, call the vet, who will be able to help.
Sometimes, there is not enough mother’s milk and the cat is not able to feed her offspring sufficiently.
In this case, you need substitute formula with colostrum – that is what the newborn kittens need in the beginning.
As soon as the kittens are busy with their first meal, the mother starts cleaning herself. The little ones have searched – and hopefully found – the nipples and are happily drinking away. Often, they just fall asleep afterwards, in the same position. Or their mum starts washing them to trigger metabolism and digestion.
The first mother’s milk entails colostrum, which the little ones must not miss out on, because it strengthens their immune system and protects them from infections.
Many mother cats instinctively transfer their kittens to a different place after giving birth, to protect them from predators who could smell both the blood and the newborns from far away. Perfect therefore for the new mother: A second clean and warm nursing box, ready to move in to.
Place both toilet and food nearby to keep the distances short and allow her to return to her kittens quickly.
The little ones don’t need their own toilet at first because her mother take care of cleaning them up.
Only by the time that you give them extra food parallel to the mother’s milk, an extra litter tray should be placed in a corner of the nursing box.
TIP: The ideal cat’s toilet should be made from high-quality, easy-to-clean and recyclable plastic. It must allow for sufficient space because the kittens like moving around. In addition, they like to leave their excretions in various different spots. Kittens need a special cat toilet, which is smaller and easier to access. It must have a lower rim and an entry aid.Exchange the litter tray after a maximum of two years at the latest. The constant scratching on the surface causes it to crack after a while and the plastic is then not hygienic any more.
The kitten toilet should be filled with non-clotting litter that is well tolerated.
Cat's Best Comfort is perfect for this.
This equals their habits in the wild, where they would eat from their freshly caught prey immediately. Provided that they are good hunters, of course.
Having food available three times a day is ideal for a grown cat, while kittens need to be fed five times a day.
The mother cat needs high-quality food after giving birth as well. You may increase the usual amount and add small portions of cream and egg yolk now.
Always take very fresh eggs and skip the egg white. Feed your cat the egg yolk only, after having separated it from the egg white.
Allow for some relaxation and peace for your cat now, so she can recover. Make sure that everything is provided for both mother and kittens and that the surroundings are quiet and peaceful. Especially visits by other pets are taboo for now – and human flatmates should also respect the space that the new family needs in the beginning.
Obviously, everyone and anyone will want to take a look at the new offspring and maybe even take it out of the box for a cuddle – because the little ones are beyond fluffy and cute! But be aware that for them too much attention means stress at this point and is not doing them well. The cat mother especially will not be amused and may even try to move her kittens to a different place all the time.
You have weighed the little ones right after they were born – that was their “start weight”.
They should have doubled in weight after a week approximately.
If you weigh the kittens daily and always at the same time, you can monitor their weight gain sufficiently. Gaining 10 to 20 g per day is normal, while it can also sometimes be less or stagnate for a day – that is no problem as yet.
However, if a baby suddenly doesn’t gain weight for two days or even looses some, you should monitor it more closely and consult the vet.
Sometimes, a kitten is neglected or not looked after by the mother cat, or there is simply not enough milk for all.
Then, you need to jump in and feed the little one every two hours. Do not forget to lightly massage belly and butt after the meal to trigger digestion.
At birth, the kittens are still protected by their mother’s antibodies which they take in with the milk.
However, the protection weakens over time and at 8 weeks, they can be vaccinated for the first time.
A second vaccination can be conducted after an additional four weeks.
Vaccination means that the organism is confronted with pathogens.
In case of a future infection, these are identified by the immune system as “hostile” and can be fended off. The minimal dosage of pathogens transmitted during vaccination should cause no harm.
Load down the Cat’sBest Vaccination Calendar here. It will support your cat over the whole lifespan and remind you always when it is time for the next vaccination.
The first weeks are the most important ones – when they learn everything a cat needs to know through play and interaction with their mum and siblings and their two-legged friends.
We wish all the kittens a happy, long life, filled with everything that cats love and desire!
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