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)scissorshemostatsrubbing 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 placentasgrocery bag
(I use this to throw the placentas away in then wrap the bag up so to seal between births)bulb syringenotebook
(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.