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Advice for possible new foster parents?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
My husband and I are moving into a new apartment at the end of the month. As such, we're considering fostering a cat or two, since we'll have the space to do so, at last. We're trying to decide one way or another whether we'd like to make ourselves eligible to foster a pregnant cat. Our concern is that neither of us has been around a pregnant cat since our youth, nor were we involved in the birthing process when we *were* around pregnant cats. As weird and crazy as it may sound, we're concerned about all the kittens dying in our care or something.

My question is, does anyone here know of any good books on the subject of caring for pregnant cats and newborn kittens, that I can read to better educate myself and feel more comfortable with the idea?
post #2 of 13
That is so nice that you are going to do that. I can totally relate to thinking you will be inept or something. But you wouldn't be. The cats do a lot of it themselves and with the right supplies you will be fine. As far as books I just came here and read. There are some people here who have been doing this stuff for years.

They seem to have loads of info. You sound like me. I love to research and be totally prepared. I asked my vets a lot of questions too.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the link. I really want to take in a pregnant cat, if possible, because I know that they're harder to find foster homes for. Though, my husband is concerned that my favorite kitten won't be his favorite kitten so we'll have to keep two of them, and then when we get our Jinxsie back (she's living in the U.S. with my mom for the moment) we'll have more cats than we can take care of, LOL.
post #4 of 13
That's always the biggest concern- will you be able to give them up??

I'm fostering my very first right now- a mommy and her 5 babies. They were 8 days old when we got them, now they're just over 5 weeks.

First, the advice I can give you. Read lots. Ask lots of questions. No one piece of advice is enough. Everyone will say different things based on their experience, and what it gets down to is what works for your kittens and mommy. Unless it's a big thing, then usually people have very similar ideas! But always get as much info as you can. I know this website is a good resource. And I used because it was all one page and easy to print out!

Second, things might happen. I know you're worried about them dying while you're watching them, and I won't say that that won't happen, but if it does, you will have done everything you could, and given them a good home. But, it's not likely to happen! Mommy, even bad mommies like mine, will do most of the work. You just do the basics, and love them!

And third, I tend to over react, so take this with a grain of salt, but I didn't hesitate to take mine to the vet if I thought something was wrong. I only had one time that happened- one of my baby's eyes got infected- and I took him to the ER! My logic is better safe than sorry.

Lastly, I want to say thank you for even considering it. Without knowing anything else about you, I know you are a good person! Watching the little ones grow, and going through everything with them is SUCH a special time. I'm so glad I am fostering. It won't take much for them all to win your heart.
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Yeah, that's my worry. I know that things most often go smoothly and we silly humans are hardly needed, but there's always that off-chance that something goes wrong and I just want to make sure we're well-educated in what to do in the event that something should happen.

I thought it would be easy to find books on the topic, but I searched our library's database and and came up empty both places. I'm very surprised by that. I really wanted some books so I could study up without being stuck at the computer, but it seems like I'm doomed to websites, LOL. Thanks for all the info, though. I skimmed the sites you mentioned and will likely go back in a bit and read more in-depth.
post #6 of 13
First, congratulations for considering opening your home to fostering! I find it very rewarding, and although it is sometimes letting go, the realization that there will be more to fill that hole is comforting (although sad that there is such a high foster need).

Next I want to commend you for wanting to learn all you can. My first pregnant cat experience came when I adopted a pregnant cat from the Humane Society (unbeknownst to us at the time). That experience is what brought me to TCS over 3 years ago, and how I came to learn the need for fostering pregnant cats and kittens.

Now I want to warn you that no matter how much you learn you most certainly will experience a heartache. I'm not trying to scare you away, but the sad truth is the mortality rate for kittens is high; approximately 22% in kittens in a controlled environment and higher than 50% in the feral or stray community!

It's been said that cats know what they are doing and that human intervention isnt needed, but the rate of deaths in kittens is double in the stray community. I know being exposed to the outside elements and predators contributes to that, but I know from experience that things do go wrong and because of human assistance, the death rate in house pets is lower.

Blah, blah, blah... sorry I have a tendency to go on sometimes.

I've learned most of what I know from online and from the shelter I foster for. If something goes wrong, never hesitate to call your shelter, either they will know what to do, or they can put you in contact with the vet they are affiliated with.

The most common problems I run into with kitten births is the mother cat getting tired and not wanting to finish her job, or two kittens being born too close together and the mom cat is too busy with one while the second needs assistance. Another problem is if a kitten aspirates any fluid and needs suctioned or helped along. After the kittens are born, sometimes they fail to thrive over the weeks and if you are watching them daily you can intervene there also.

I have posted in other places about the "kitten kits" and "birthing kits" I keep on hand when we have an expecting cat or orphan kittens. I would be honored to be your mentor and help you learn what you can expect and what to do.

Again, good luck and congratulations for opening your hearts and home!

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all the help, Marianjela.

By "getting tired and not wanting to finish the job", do you mean just refusing to take care of the kittens after they're born? I mean, a cat can't just choose to stop pushing and not give birth to the remaining kittens inside her, can she? I don't mean to sound like an idiot, LOL. I just don't know much about this. My biggest concern is something happening during the birthing process (e.g., a kitten getting stuck inside mommy). I also understand that it's common for one or two kittens to die, but I have this crazy fear of the entire litter perishing.

What is meant by a kitten aspirating fluid and needing suctioned? How does one help, in that situation? Why hasn't anyone written a complete handbook on this stuff? LOL I would be extremely grateful to learn all that you know about birthing and kitten care. I definitely need a teacher. I like your idea of having "kits" on hand, as I am someone who likes to prepare for all eventualities.

Thanks again.
post #8 of 13
I dont mind the questions, I didnt get into detail before because my post was already lengthy.

When I said the mom gets tired and doesnt finish the job, I meant I have experience where after a kitten is born the mother rests and doesnt clean it off. The kitten can only live MINUTES inside the amniotic sac after it is born before it suffocates. If you notice the mom cat ignoring a kitten (either because it is a new mom, or because it is tired, or even if two kittens are born too close and she is busy with another) then you need to step in with a clean soft cloth and wipe the kitten free. Also... sometimes the mother will clean the kitten, but not chew through the cord (or eat the placenta). There is a bigger window of how long a kitten can live with it's cord still attached, but generally, if the mother doesnt take care of it after a bit, I will step in and cut it for her. One of my fosters this year had her 5th and final kitten, cleaned it up, but didnt expel the placenta. The kitten was still attached and literally tethered to mom's rear end. There was enough slack that the kitten could nurse, but she was still attached. I waited almost an hour, after I didnt see any evidence of her having any more contractions, I GENTLY tugged on the cord and expelled the placenta myself, then cut it for her. I stress GENTLY... you do not want to tear the cord (perhaps leaving the placenta inside the mother and you do not want to cause any stress on the kittens side either causing a hernia in the kitten). What I do is put one hand on the kittens end making sure there is no stress on the kittens side, then tug on the mom's end. Tug gently, if you feel it ripping - wait - hopefully she will have a contraction to expel it later. Some cords are stronger than others. In my experience, I think it has to do with how far along in gestation the mother cat was... If you need to cut the cord before the placenta is expelled use hemostats to clamp the cord on the mother's end, tie the cord on the kitten's side then cut the cord. Tie the floss 1-2 inches away from the belly. Better farther away then too close as it prevents infection from entering the kittens blood stream. The hemostats prevent the cord from going back into the mother with the placenta. A retained placenta can lead to an emergency situation later causing an infection in the mom. Always try to keep track of how many placentas are birthed. Each kitten will have it's own (unless there are twins - which is rare). An example of an instance in which you might have to cut the cord before the placenta is born is if you notice a kitten not breathing or breathing fluid and you need to take care of that.

Which leads me to a kitten aspirating fluid: if after a kitten is born and cleaned it isnt breathing or it sounds raspy, you can suction his mouth with a baby's bulb syringe. Also you can place the kitten in the palm of your hand, tummy side down, head towards your fingertips. With your other hand place it on top of the kittens back and supporting his head forming a sandwich of sorts, then briskly, but carefully swing the kitten away from your body forcing the fluid out of the kittens airway. You can repeat this process until he is breathing. It is usually successful after a few tries.

Another thing to watch for is an over-eager mom cat. Sometimes, especially in first-time moms, a mother will actually chew through the kittens stomach when eating the cord. It actually happened to someone here on TCS not too long ago. When the kitten is born and after the placenta is expelled the mother will first lick kitten. This not only cleans the amniotic sac, but also stimulates the kitten to begin breathing. Next she will chew through the cord. But when she does this most cats begin by eating the placenta first (she doesnt just chew through the middle of the cord and quit) and after she's done with this she usually quits before she gets to the kittens tummy. But on the occasion that she doesnt, it is most certainly death for the kitten. In my experience this has never happened, and I dont think it is a common occurrence.

That said, I am usually home for the births and dont allow the mom cats to eat the placenta (personal reasons - mom cats who eat the placentas will sometimes vomit later and always have very stinky/messy litter deposits for the next couple days). So what I do is to hold the placenta to stop them from eating it and coax them to chew through the cord by my hand. Or if she chewed through the cord first (which is rarer) I grab the placenta and dispose of it before she gets to it.

For a birthing kit I would suggest:
Thread or dental floss (for tying cords with)
rubbing alcohol (for cleaning scissors with - but be sure they are air dried before using)
hand sanitizer (for yourself and can also be used on scissors)
towels (to hold kittens on if they are away from mom)
wash cloth and/or paper towels (for wiping kittens clean and disposing of placentas
grocery bag (I use this to throw the placentas away in then wrap the bag up so to seal between births)
bulb syringe
notebook (for taking notes in and for keeping track of the shelters phone number, their vets phone number and the emergency vets number)
nail polish or non-toxic markers (for marking kittens that look alike)
It is also recommended to have Vaseline on hand in case a seems stuck but I have never had to use this (thank goodness!)

Some people suggest warm towels in the dryer, rice socks warmed in the microwave or even a heating pad wrapped in a towel for keeping the kittens warm when they are away from the mom (like when she is birthing the next kitten) but I just keep the kittens in my lap and warm them with my body heat. Some cats seem grateful when you move the kittens and get them out of their way, and some get agitated. In my experience, most are too busy worrying about the contractions and walking in circles to worry about the kittens in my lap. Some people also want latex gloves so they arent touching anything directly, but by now I am immune to it

As for a kitten kit - I will post that in another thread.

post #9 of 13
Kitten emergency kit. (helpful if you have orphaned kittens too)

Sometimes a kitten will get pushed around by it's siblings and wont get enough to eat (especially common in bigger litters). If you are weighing the kittens (with a food or postage scale) daily you will notice this right away, if you are just handling the kittens daily you will eventually notice which kittens dont seem to be growing at a steady pace.

In this case try separating the kitten from it's litter and giving it alone time with the mom several times a day so that it can nurse uninterrupted. If the mom wont allow this, then you can try feeding him KMR (kitten milk replacement, found at Walmart in the pet section in either liquid or powder form) with a kitten bottle. Personally I have never had much luck getting a kitten to take to a bottle and prefer to use a medicine dropper. Sometimes a kitten is too weak to nurse, either on the mom or by bottle. Using a medicine dropper is most helpful in this situation.

No matter how you feed them, be careful NOT to hold the kitten upside down as it can aspirate milk and drown. Hold the kitten belly-side down as if it were nursing from mom.

Dehydration can set in FAST. If you notice him getting week/limp and/or you notice the skin on the back of it's neck doesnt spring back into position after it is pinched you can administer dextrose subcutaneously. You could probably ask someone at the shelter show you how this is done, but it is not hard to master. Our shelter taught us to do this for fading or orphan kittens. The supplies can be bought at a store that sells cattle supplies (or maybe even a feed mill). Use a very small needle, we use 3ml 21g1 needles and 50% dextrose solution. Suck up 3ml into the needle, pinch the skin on the back of their neck and insert needle through the skin. Inject the solution slowly. The solution is absorbed by the kitten and it usually perks up within an hour afterward, but you then have to make sure it is eating so that it doesnt revert back to it's weak state.

If a cat has a large litter, sometimes it is best to separate the kittens in two separate nests. This helps ensure that even the weakest kitten is getting his fair share and not being bullied around. If you notice a kitten is not latching on, you can take him and mom aside and place corn syrup/karo syrup on one of her nipples (preferably a hind teet) to try and entice him.

A kitten can also be tube fed if all else fails, but if it gets to this point, you will need your shelter's assistance. They will give you the supplies and teach you how it is done. This is a last resort, as although it can save their lives, there are complications that can ensue.

If you have orphan kittens there are other things to consider... if you check out this link, there is a lot of helpful information there.
post #10 of 13
I wanted to add that 40% of all kittens are born breech. Unless it is the mom cats very first kitten of the litter is usually isnt a problem. It is harder for mom, but she will get through it. If it is her first kitten (of that litter), it can sometimes stall labor. This is where (I suppose) the Vaseline could come in handy, but like I said, I have yet to have to do this.

One of my fosters this year's very first kitten was breech. She started to have the kitten, I seen the amniotic sac emerge, and even took a picture of it (thank goodness for my sanity or else I would've thought I was imagining things). But then her labor stalled, and sac went back inside and she didnt have the kitten for 2 hours later. She wasnt having hard contraction the whole time. If a mom cat is having HARD contractions and pushing for over an hour without any birth, you should contact your shelter or their vet.

When she did start to have the kitten again I noticed it was breech, if the kitten is halfway out you can hold kitten gently with washcloth, wait for next contraction and gently tug. Never pull too hard, you could harm both mother and kitten.
post #11 of 13
Thanks for posting that for the rest of us too. The tip about large litters is helpful. I have a litter of 8 and find myself rearranging them and putting the littler ones on for some time. Very good tip and reminder.
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
The more that I read, the more I begin to feel that I need a veterinary degree to deliver kittens, LOL.

My new biggest nightmare scenario is the cord cutting. I'm terrified of doing it wrong and killing the kitten and/or the mom. I must have spent nearly an hour yesterday just trying to make sure that I have straight what the placenta is, what the amniotic sac is, and what the cord is. I think I need a beginner's course in kitten anatomy, LOL.

The kits and information will certainly be helpful though. Thank you for sharing it.
post #13 of 13
It's really not that hard. There's a lot more typing then understanding - lol

I really commend you for trying to learn all you can before accepting this responsibility.

The following link is to a picture of a kitten still attached to it's placenta. I took this of one of my fosters this year because other people have wondered the same thing.

So now that you know what the placenta looks like, learning to cut the cord is actually pretty simple. I wouldnt worry so much about making a mistake, imagine when the mother does it, she just CHEWS through it! Her dull cut/rip actually stops it from bleeding. We use scissors, so the cord should be tied on the kitten's end.

Tying the string when it is still attached to the placenta is the norm and actually makes you job easier. I once had to tie a string on a kittens cord that was cut by mom but still bleeding pretty much and it was a slippery-hard job!

Anyway, you dont have to be accurate when fastening the string to the cord. Just remember the longer the better to avoid infection. The cord acts as an infection barrier. Rule of thumb is one to two inches; and if this helps you any, when your eying up how far to tie it off... from the tip of your thumb to the first knuckle is approximately one inch. They dry up and fall off within a couple days so the long cord wont be there forever.

The amniotic sac is a clear bubble-like bag of fluid that surrounds the kitten. Sometimes it breaks when it's being birthed, but in my experience it's not common. Cleaning the sac off is as easy as wiping the kitten with a soft cloth. Usually the mother cat does this just fine. On occasion kittens are born too close together and she might lose one. You can clean the sac off yourself, or show it to mom if she's not too busy cleaning another... it only takes her a few seconds to clean the sac off though.

It's really not as hard as it sounds and it is very rewarding. Especially when you get a feeling that a kitten wouldnt have made it without your intervention.

Good luck - and dont feel shy to ask anything your worried about. I really dont mind.
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