So we’ve told you about Raven & Squiggle’s kittens, but Jette’s kits arrived here undercover … hidden inside mummy’s tummy. She looked ready to pop when she arrived.
Then again … we’ve had enough experience to know that when they look like they’re about to pop there could well be another week or more to go. Perhaps because she was heavily pregnant and in a room on her own, she seemed to be the most stressed and anxious of the new arrivals. Raven & Squiggle had each other for support and had to be ok for their kits. On the one hand I wanted to take it slowly with Jette, on the other I was concered that if we didn’t establish a good relationship before the kittens were born it could be more difficult in many ways after the birth.
You may remember Hecate who arrived here with 4 x 3 day old kits almost exactly a year ago. She was very scared and reluctant to allow us to interact with the kits, and her anxiety rubbed off on them. It’s all good now … mum and kits all in loving homes and confident and settled .. but it was hard work and ideally not something we want to repeat.
Jette hid at first, but over a few days made friends thanks to some chicken. She quickly became very friendly and affectionate. We created a nice little cot with the “really useful box” that has served for all births here since Betty’s kittens. Jette refused to look at it. She alternated between her bed on a chest of drawers and perching on an almost ceiling height shelf. I anxiously watched her on the webcam from work, though I’m not sure how I was going to help from miles away, or what I thought I’d tell my manager as I rushed out the building.
She was unsettled for a couple of days coming up to giving birth, moving from bed to shelf to widowsill to my lap and I spent hours with her thinking the kits were on their way. However on Sunday 16 June, it was clear that things were starting to move. Thankfully the high shelf went off the list of places to sit and she switched between my lap and her bed on the chest of drawers, and finally (thankfully) the cot. As the birth got closer she settled herself in the cot, and I laid down on the floor at the other end of the room so I could give her some space but still be able to see some of what was happening and check she was ok. I used one of the blankets she’d been snuggling on my knee on as a pillow since the floor was hard. To my surprise, at the very last moment, she rushed out of the cot, threw herself onto the blanket I had my head on, and seconds later gave birth to the first kit within inches of my nose.
She clearly felt safer with me than I’d hoped to imagine. Things started to get a bit more complicated then though. For one thing, it was just after 8.30pm when she started to give birth and the light started to fade. I didn’t want to move and put the big light on, and didn’t really want to be shining phone torch at them either. The other thing was that the babies were coming quicker than she could sort them out …. and as they weren’t in the confines of the cot they could go anywhere. So whilst baby number two was being born, baby one had set off across the bedroom floor, dragging the remains of his placenta behind him.
I always avoid touching very newborn kittens unless absolutely necessary so was wary … but once off the blanket the floor was cold (hard to believe on the hot night I’m writing this … but a couple of weeks ago the room was chilly). I didn’t want to stand up and scared her, but managed to reach a spare fleece from the shelf. Jette seemed happy for me to sort him out and get him back on the blanket close to her. As kit number 3 was born, I was left with the responsibility for kits 1 and 2 … and so it went on. I gradually gained confidence with coralling kittens in the dark, and cheerfully managed 5 little ones as number 6 was born. Sadly the happy mood evaporated when it was clear that number 6 was not ok. Jette worked on him for some time, licking him and nudging him …. but he didn’t respond … and after a while we had to accept that however much love he’d been born into … he just wasn’t going to make it.
Once it was fairly clear that she’d finished we gathered them up an put them all safely in the ‘really useful box’.
In the morning I sobbed as I went up the garden to dig a small kitten sized hole. Dasher came with me to comfort me. Jette looked distressed to see her kit go … but was soon enjoying a clean fleece and getting to know her remaining five kittens better.
Apart from nipping out for a wee she never left them for the next 10 days. I’d check in her several times a day, and watch her on the web cam from work, and every time I looked she was there snuggled up with them.
Her hard work has paid off as they’re clearly much bigger by one week old. Kittens will normally double their birth weight in the first week and I’m pretty sure she’s achieved that.
Ps. I’ve just realised I didn’t end the post by clarifying the title. These little ones brought the total number of cats in our home to 24 … which is a record number of cats at 8 Lives … not to mention the few we have out in foster homes.