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raising a newborn...

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi again everybody. Thanks again for the tips on sexing - I'm now an expert. I have a question that will come after a long-ish story giving you the background.

As you may or may not remember, we live in the suburbs and have had a family of "stray" cats living on our property since before we moved in a few years ago. There was a litter born in early April, and the mother let us touch and play with them. We named them Mason and Dixon, and they are very sweet... Mason still loves a good belly rub!

Now, a litter was born to a first-time mom this past Sunday 24 June. "Junior Cat," who will be 1 year old in a few weeks, appears to have had 4 babies. 1 didn't make it through the first day. Not surprising considering for the first 24 hours, Junior hung around with Mason and Dixon (her siblings, though she's a season older) under a shady tree while at least two babies SCREAMED in the bushes. We couldn't get to them, and she was ignoring them. My husband and I were JUST about to take one in who had crawled out of the bushes when Junior Cat decided to be a Mom.

From there, it didn't go particularly well. We often saw Junior not taking care of these babies, and as of a day or so ago, we realised that only one of these seemingly healthy and energetic kitties was still alive. Junior had put her in our garage, which we leave open for the cat family, up on a shelf along with one of the dead babies. This morning, I realise that Junior is eating the dead baby, which is awkward to think about but probably not uncommon for these cats to do... I guess.

Junior has been very protective of the dead babies. When I went to remove the first one from where she put it, she hissed at me like crazy. Today, when I went near the dead baby, she hissed like crazy. Live baby? Whatever. So I checked on the little live girl every few hours, and after deciding that Junior hadn't been there all day and wasn't feeding her much or keeping her warm, I had to intervene. I prepared a bottle and went out and fed her some. She didn't seem too hungry, but she drank a bit. I then put her on my shoulder so she'd burp, and with unpowdered latex glove on hand, I inspired her to go to the bathroom. The cat made what seemed to be poo and pee ALL OVER my shirt. I wonder if this is the FIRST time she's gone to the bathroom!

Junior Cat didn't care. She looked at me and kept on going to go eat the dead baby. I noticed the live one was covered in all kinds of bugs, so I got out my flea comb and homemade anti-flea solution (we don't do Western Medicine, so everything around our house is herbal, homeopathic, Chinese, and so on). I gave her a nice combing and she coo'ed... I got lots of bugs off, though not all, and this was really when she let all her poo and pee go. She was all matted and dirty - I don't think Junior had ever done any grooming at all.

After I was done, I put her down in a little bed the woman upstairs had made for the babies... a laundry basket full of warm old clothes. Junior went over, looked in, took the baby out, and put her in a part of our yard that I can only describe as NEARLY impossible to get to if you are not a tiny animal. Junior deposited her, and came out to cuddle and play with Mason and Dixon. Well I'd had it. So I spoke to my husband about taking in this kittie, and he agreed... and we already had the supplies from earlier in the week when we were going to take in another of them! So I put on my best army clothes, went through the brush with my hedge clipper, put her in my breast pocket, and brought her inside. She slept through the whole thing.

So she's now in a bed we prepared for her with a heating pad and all the things you're supposed to have. She's sleeping happily and actually being watched over by one of our cats (we have 2 brother cats, age 2, and 1 very excited Jack Russell Terrier, who has already given her a good licking ). While we can't give her everything Junior and the outside world could give her, I think we can do better than Junior has.

The question comes from my husband: he'd like this baby to know her family, to interact with them for whatever they can give her. I'm in no rush there since I think our family of animals will give her everything she'll need to know to live in a HOME (we don't plan to keep her since we're at our animal limit). So I think my husband's question is: how can we allow her to interact with Junior Cat so that she gets whatever she can from her mother? Or do we not bother to try to give her visits with the outside cats? She doesn't know any of them except her Mom, and I'd say that she hardly knows her! Junior Cat has been happily sleeping under the shady tree since we took her in, and I don't think she misses her last baby. Just my guess of course.

We named her Gloria in honour of Gloria Gaynor's disco hit, "I Will Survive." If this little kittie can take being surrounded by death and a too-young mother who dropped the ball PLUS she's strong and energetic (moves around a lot), she's a real survivor.

Thanks in advance for reading all this and giving any input you might have on having this baby interact with The Cat Formerly Known As Gloria's Mom.

Debbie (and Phil)
post #2 of 9
Thread Starter 
ps: Gloria doesn't seem very hungry yet. She's only been with us 14 hours, but is sleeping the whole time. She's not making any sounds, and I've heard her scream for Mommy and demand food/attention. I try to feed her with a little bottle and the just born formula, but she doesn't seem to want to take much at all. She is going to the bathroom, so whatever was/gets into her system is getting out, which I know is very important at 7 days old.

But am I supposed to be more forceful about feeding her and maybe get it in with a dropper instead of hoping she sucks on the bottle? Or is this OK as a transition both away from whatever her Mom was doing and on to the formula?

Thanks again,
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Just me saying that Gloria just had a whole teaspoon of formula. Either she was super hungry OR it was a great plan fulfilled. We put some kibble outside and within an hour, her Mom had come by to snack. She doesn't hear or see that well, so I snuck up behind her and bumped the kittie bottle nipple into her back. She jumped away but wanted to smell it. Again since her depth perception isn't so great, she bumped the furry part of her nose on it. So maybe Gloria smelled Mommy and all was OK.

Meanwhile, if anybody has a response to our original question - about interacting the baby we're raising with it's original neglectful Mom outside - I'd love to hear it.

post #4 of 9
I would keep Gloria away from Junior Cat. Some young mothers are just to young to understand or even have developed some maternal instincts. Her instinct is to eat her dead babies (if you can, you should bury the dead kittens post haste!) Once you give her Gloria, she is apt to take her and stick her away somewhere and let her die too. You said there were bugs on Gloria? Could you be more specific? Were you talking fleas, because sometimes in cases like this, those bugs are really baby maggots (sorry but that is reality in ferals) and can do some damage to a kitten.

In your formula if you can, mix up some baby food, chicken or turkey, just keep shaking it until it gets the consistency of the formula, make sure the nipple is not blocked by any clumps of the baby food, make sure the formula mixture is warm (not hot or cold) Put a warmed (and dry) towel in the crook of your arm, lay the baby on it's back on the towel and offer her the nipple. You might also want to see if you can contact a vet and get a longer nursing nipple for Gloria. Contact your local Feral Cat Coalition or Animal Shelter and find out if they will spay Junior cat at a reasonable cost. Explain the situation, and maybe they will work with you. Junior should of never had a litter, but she didn't have much say in the matter. Good luck with Gloria, she will need to be fed around the clock, every 2 to 4 hours. She should really see a vet on Monday, is that a possibility?
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks on the reply hissy - good to see you again.

Originally posted by hissy
(if you can, you should bury the dead kittens post haste!)
One was picked up with Wednesday's garbage, one died in a place we can't get to, and one is probably already eaten by now.

You said there were bugs on Gloria? Could you be more specific?
I'm not sure I know what baby maggots look like, but the bugs look like fleas. We've removed nearly all of them with a flea comb, though a few still run around on her.

In your formula if you can, mix up some baby food, chicken or turkey
I'm under the impression that the formula we got is all she needs until she's trying kibble or moist food. I'm not under the impression that she's lacking in protein. Gloria is 7 days old, so I don't want to bombarb her body with anything it's not equipped to easily digest. Is there a particular reason you would add the meat to the formula at this age? Meanwhile, she's nursing just fine. Ever since we got Junior's scent on the nipple, she takes it happily and we're getting into a good rhythm now where she can draw the formula from it with ease. She's burping and making her pees and poos, so she's doing quite well!

Contact your local Feral Cat Coalition or Animal Shelter and find out if they will spay Junior cat at a reasonable cost.
That's already planned for this week... the call that is. We would love to catch Junior and have her spayed. She's a great cat, but she's not Mom material. I can sympathise to be honest since I have NO intuitions or motivations or instincts when it comes to human babies. I don't want any, I've never wanted any, we won't be having any, and they're not just a match to me. Yet put a dog or cat in front of me and I'm Mom of the Century.

Junior should of never had a litter, but she didn't have much say in the matter.
Yes, it was a frequent round of "oh no"s every time we saw Junior gettin' in (can I say that? ) in the spring. Her 4 babies had 3 daddies - two are her uncles, and one was either her brother or father. It's a small world after all.

She should really see a vet on Monday, is that a possibility?
Not at this time mostly because we don't believe in Western Medicine. No, we're not Christian Scientists. We would only take her to a vet if she had a problem that we couldn't handle via the healing modalities that we use. So the advice I've seen to keep weighing her and taking her temperature and getting meds from a vet and all of the so-called preventative things... it's just not a match to the approaches we take. I'm trying to keep this short since my personal beliefs may not be on topic here, but anybody who wants to know more, what, or why can certainly email me privately (deb@aswas.com).

Put it this way: the outside cats have been strong, happy, healthy, energetic, and with great personalities. We currently have no reason to think Gloria won't be just as wonderful, and we would prefer to put our energies there than to focus on potential problems. We believe that you get in life what you focus on and that doctors looking for illness tend to find it. The outside cats somehow manage to be born, grow up, and be just super without vets and meds and people charting their success. We know that Gloria is going to have the same success with an even better future since she'll be an indoor kitty. Rough start, smooth sailing now.

Thanks again,
post #6 of 9
Hi, my name is Catherine and I live in the northern part of the Negev Desert in Israel. We have a huge number of ferel cats in the area, even with road kill, dogs, and various endemic cat diseases. I have had a great deal of experience bringing very young kittens along to maturity. I have saved most kittens older than 3 days old (I lost one that was a day old whose mother died giving birth in a field, and another I picked up in the city, who was about 2 weeks old and just too far gone with fever, fleas, and starvation).

In my experience, you do not upset their very, very fragile little tummies with solids -- even heavily diluted -- until they are ready to try to take some from a jar lid. You go with the cat milk formula first. A small kitten in its first week will only take about 1 or 2 cc in a feeding, and like any baby, you feed often both day and night for the first week. The second week, they begin to slack off the nighttime or the afternoon feeding, but will make themselves understood if they wake up and are hungry -- again, just like a baby. Use a good green olive oil on a cotton ball to gently induce pissing/:censor::censor::censor::censor::censor::censor::censor::censor:. The oil is full of good healing vitamin E and will both sooth and protect the kitten's tender skin. I don't hold with damping the cotton with water, and certainly can't recommend scratchy materials like cloth, paper toweling, or dry cotton balls.

The third week you can offer them a little KITTEN food from a can. Do not use adult food. You have a very fragile stray kitten who has not had proper nourishment for the first few days or week, and lacks all the proper colestrum from its natural mother. You don't want to add physical insult to its earlier privation. Dilute the kitten canned food thus: a quarter of a teaspoon or even less, with lots of the kitten formula milk. It helps digestion to have everything at room temperature, but in a pinch even cool (never cold) milk or food is welcome and usually doesn't cause any problems after the second week.

You put your kitten food and the milk formula into a shallow jar lid, mix it well, and then gently shove the kittens nose in it (just trying to make him or her lick it off). Don't be too agressive. The kitten probably won't like it at first, and you can give the morsel of diluted food to the older cats as a treat. You continue to do this once or twice a day until the kitten suddenly decides to try the food. Unsually they sort of bit at it -- it takes a little longer to learn to lap it up. Over the next weeks, you will find the kitten demands more and more of the tinned food with less and less formula to dilute it, and less and less of the bottled formula. Each kitten has its own eating pace, and some want solids very quickly, while others hang on to the bottled formula for up to three or four weeks. Remember that separation from the warm handling and cuddling by their real mother is a traumatic event. Most readily accept you as the surrogate, but they have the same need to cling as human babies. They like to be fed or cuddled where they can hear your heart beat. It gives them security. You can rig a sort of sling to hold them against your upper chest when you are doing other kinds of things -- again, just like the Happy Baby Carrier method I used for my children when they were infants. By four to six weeks, they are ready for all sorts of villainy and mischief.

I fed most of my younglings with a regular syringe (without the needle attached, of course). The kitten bottles are great, but when they get older, the kittens tend to bite the whole ends off (if one of the older cats doesn't somehow get hold of it and do the job), and I am always running out of the nipples. By the time they are coming to the end of their interest in the formula, they are taking between 10 and 20 cc at a time.

Remember that many newborns die anyway. The little 1-day old hung on for 5 days, and then just died. He'd spent his first day lying beside his dead mother in a field and probably never got a chance to eat. The umbilicat chord was still attached as was the dried up placenta. The mother had apparently managed to free him from the membrane, but never got to the end of her work. An Arab field hand found the kitten and took the kitten to the owners of the property, and they brought him to me. Sometimes mother cats will play favorites, letting some of the others die. The several times I have found this situation, I have ruthlessly removed the neglected or undersized kittens and reared them myself. I take them into the house and make the separation complete. It is, unfortunately, the only way. A mother cat may be underage and inexperienced. She may have milk fever or some other illness that robs her of energy. There may not be enough food sources in her ferel condition. All these things may cause her to neglect her little ones, since she instinctively decides to try to rear a reduced number rather than have them all die. And never forget that some male cats do indeed kill the young so the mother will be ready to breed again sooner. They will come back several days in a row to avoid getting caught by the mother, break the kitten's neck, often without leaving a tooth mark, and often leave it neatly alongside its still living brethern. I had one tomcat come into my house through an open window for two days running -- each day killing a kitten in a litter of 4. We were all a-puzzle trying to figure out what was happening, and unjustly blamed the poor mother cat for the deaths. On the third day, the tomcat killed the remaining 2, and I saw him do it. I clipped the tom with a broom, but it was too late. I have never permitted it to happen again to any cat I can intice into a safe and sheltered room of the house. If you can't do that, there's really not much you can do to protect the litter.

It may be that that is what happened to some of the dead kittens in Junior's litter, rather than her being a canibal mother. I don't know if this is helpful. by now, I suspect you little kitten is either dead or managing to survive. Cats, just like people, become psychotic when they are traumatized, and it may be that she was eating the bodies in some frenzied belief that she needed to clean up her nest so the remaining kittens wouldn't be contaminated.

I wish you lots of luck with you little orphan. Next time, you will be more experienced. The youngest cat I have reared that survived was about 3 days old. He is now a hefty 1 year-old. Last year I had 8 little ones brought to me by neighbors -- mostly by the children, who find them staggering about in the periphery of our village, dehydrated and starving to death. But that is another tale.

Peace, Catherine

As an introduction, I have presently 16 in-house cats and 4 dogs -- all rescued from the streets as youngsters. One year I had over 25 cats, but half of those were very wild and only came to eat.
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Todah, Catherine, for a GREAT post with great advice.

Sadly, little Gloria did not make it. When we took her in, she was already 6 days old and seemingly had never been groomed (was covered in fleas) and had never gone to the bathroom. We had rarely seen the mother feeding her or keeping her warm, but it wasn't until the 6th day that she had her last remaining baby in a place that we could get to her. We took great care of Gloria for 1.5 days. She ate well and seemed to be getting stronger, but this past Tuesday morning, she passed on.

I don't think there is anything we could have done to have overcome the condition she was in by the time we took her in. But I feel better for having tried.

I will print out your post for next time, should there be another time when I am raising a newborn kitty. Thanks again.

post #8 of 9
I'm sorry. It is always so sad. For animals that are so tough when they are older, the fragility of kittens is awesome. One of my kittens (he was 3-4 days old when he was brought to me) who really surprised me. He was rescued by the children of a friend of mine. They were walking in Beer-Sheva going to their car when they heard a kitten screaming. The sound came from a shoebox in the gutter of the street where cars were parking. The children, being brought up properly, called their mother and together they opened the box. Inside were 4 kittens wrapped in plastic. All of them were covered with ants, and three were dead and half eaten. The fourth was my beautiful Lucky. He was bitten all over, his eyes half-closed from bites and the early stage of chlamydia, but he had managed to claw a hole in the plastic and he was able to get enough air to survive. He was skeletal and dehydrated beyond belief. My friends kept him one night to try to help him, but he howled and cried all the time and refused the cow's milk they tried to feed him. So they naturally called me, since I work at home, and have the kind of flexible time to care for an infant.

I warmed cow's milk and fed him off the end of my little finger, and then took him to the vet in the afternoon. What I outlined above is what I was advised to do. I bought cat's milk formula, a kitten bottle, some solid kitten canned food, and got loaded down with syringes as an alternative way to feed him. but none of us thought he would live.

He never faltered once. Once he had the kitten formula, he ate like a pig until I thought he would burst. The vet assured me that he wouldn't, so I fed him until he stopped sucking, every 2 to 3 hours day and night for a week. After that, he only needed 4-6 hours between feeding and was happy to be in a nest of old sweater material in one of the cat carriers (the first several days, I bound him against my chest , and actually took him to bed with me so that he could lie next to my heart under the covers... well, I didn't know how to get him warm, and he seemed to be freezing all the time for the first week he was with me...).

Whatever it was, or whatever combination of things, by two weeks he was thin, but strong and vocal, and by three weeks he was rooting about in the house every chance he got. One of the older male cats decided to adopt him and set about giving him extra things like cleaning out his ears and eyes, and giving him a warm pillow. Then the first adopted dog, about 4 months old, decided that she liked the kititen, and then the three of them would be all curled up on my bed or on a rug on the floor. They were all three combinations of golden and white, and it was a real pleasure to see them.

With so many surrogate parents, Lucky grew into a tough survivor and a real sweetheart. But true to his beginning, he has always had disaster around him. I am glad I named him Lucky, because it perhaps has given him a positive approach to his various troubles. He is currently (at 1 and a half years old) down to about 6 lives, but he remains a joy. Since then, the little ones have come every birthing season, and it is my experience I gained taking care of Lucky that has helped them to be alive.

The lovely little male who decided to adopt him was a ferel cat that I made friends with over an entire year. but he never really bonded, so six or seven months ago he simply moved over to a neighbor's house. By that time, Lucky had largely outgrown his "parents."

Blessing for trying to save little Gloria.

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
As devastated as I was on Tuesday (even cancelled my business appointments), I was glad that I had the experience. Watching Gloria for just 1.5 days was really wonderful. She was not fussy at all, and did not have the outward appearance of Lucky. She did not look eaten and diseased, though she was clearly covered in fleas, which we were able to comb off. She liked being combed, and made happy sounds. She never seemed cold, especially since we had her in a small bed that we made with a heating pad and unpowdered latex glove filled with very warm water. We also put in a small plush stuffed animal that was our dog's, and she liked to cuddle up to it (it was a squeaky raccoon ).

She seemed pretty normal, though I have NO newborn kitten experience. But I mean normal in that she ate the right amount, went to the bathroom what seemed like the right amount, burped after feeding, slept well, and communicated very well. On Monday, I enjoy watching her do so much better with walking - instead of just pulling herself around with her front arms, she was starting to get her back legs under her and coordinate more. We thought this was pretty exciting for a 7 day old kitten considering the others raised in our garage (by another Mom) seemed to barely move until they were a few weeks old. Gloria really seemed to have strength and fight, so it was a surprise when she didn't make it.

Of course, it wasn't a total surprise. We were aware of what her early days were like, and believe me, if we could have gotten to her earlier we would have. The babies were born Sunday 24 June and Monday, we went out and bought everything you need to raise a newborn. But Junior Cat had birthed them in a part of our yard that is so overgrown and thorny that it's like a jungle in the suburbs. The funny thing is that we PURPOSEFULLY let that area grow over so the cats can have a shady place where they can rest, play, and hide. And now it was keeping us from trying to save the babies. So when I saw Gloria was the only one left by Saturday, I figured we had to try.

First, I took her off the plastic she was on, which was a few inches from a dead baby Junior was eating (when Junior was around of course). I sat in the garage with our flea comb and took off as many fleas as I could. She made her happy sounds and went to the bathroom all over my shirt, which if you ever saw my shirts, you'd know that was totally fine. She made so much poo and pee that I wondered if she had EVER gone to the bathroom! After I cleaned her up, I put her in a bed that the woman upstairs had made; the "good Mom" had her last litter in that bed and Junior Cat knew that, but never put her babies in the bed. Junior leaned in, put Gloria in her mouth, and put her in a totally overgrown awful distant corner on the OTHER side of the yard. Left her there and went to hang out with Mason and Dixon. I was SO sad.

I put on my best jungle combat boots and surplus camouflage pants, got my hedge trimmers, and went out there. I got her, put her in my pocket, and brought her in. The adventure began.

The funniest time of the whole thing had to be Sunday morning after Gloria's first night. We had kept her in the basement, and I was down there on the phone telling family about our foster baby. I suddenly saw action at the basement window, and it was Mason and Dixon... they had their claws in the screen and their faces right up against the window. They were looking in and right at me. It was very cute... it was like they were checking up on her.

So that's my story. Thanks again to everyone for the support, and certainly to Catherine for the information I trust the most.

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