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mother cat and runt

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I have been searching the internet for an answer to this question, but haven't had any luck, so far.
My mom's cat, Ginger, had her second litter about 9 weeks ago. (I keep bugging mom to spay!) One kitten was weak, underdeveloped and about half the size of the others. I could tell it was struggling to nurse and didn't think it stood much a chance to survive. (I did make sure it had access to a nipple, when I could.) I went to check on it the 2nd evening and couldn't find the runt anywhere. We live in the country and Ginger does hunt outside on a semi-regular basis, so that made me wonder if she would have eaten her own kitty (ie, if it had died). Or is it more likely that she buried it outside? We couldn't find evidence to support either conclusion.
Other than the mysterious disappearance, Ginger is a good mother. I spend more time with her than my mom (and feed her), so she actually trusts me around her kittens more than she trusts anyone else. (My kitty, Mozart, is a 7 month old male from her first litter. And, he is neutered as of Mon.)
post #2 of 10
Some people with more experience will be able to answer this directly, but our feral kitten appeared to be the runt, sick and abandoned when we found her.

I would expect that mothers will decide to put their energy into the most healthy kittens. I doubt she'd eat it (????) but I wouldn't be surprised if she carried it off and abandoned it away from the other cats. Or if she simply abandoned it somewhere and you haven't found it yet (they're pretty small and quiet and can get into weird places). That would make sense as an instinct to protect the healthy cats.

It has nothing to do with being a good mother - or everything to do with being a good mother. The mother of our runt was very protective over her other kittens, but was nowhere to be found when we came upon the sick kitten.

If you think you can find it, I'd still look for it (for peace of mind as much as anything) but some other cat owners could probably tell you what the survival chances are. If I'm understanding you correctly though, it's been weeks since you've seen it. I assume it would only live a short while without the mother.
post #3 of 10
The mother cat will sense when a kitten is not faring well. Often times a feral mom will carry a sickly kitten into the weeds and leave it. Not very often do they eat the kitten. They will intentionally sit on it and smother it, or like I said take it off somewhere and leave it. A tom will usually find it and kill it. It is their way of assuring themselves that the family will survive. It probably did not have the strength to nurse and would have (even under the best of circumstances, died anyway. Newborns are so fragile to care for, even when you know what you are doing.

Just a suggestion, but use this to make your case with your mother and tell her that to prevent future deaths, spaying is the only wise option. Offer to help pay for it- take the cat into the vet (after the kittens are weaned of course). For a cat to have litter after litter, is not healthy for the cat. That is why ethical breeders do not breed their cat right after the kittens wean, they wait an acceptable amount of time for the Queen to recover.

I am sorry you lost a kitten, but after reading your post, it does not surprise me it went down as it did.
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Even if I never know with certainty what happened, I feel a little better about what may have happened, just reading both responses. At the time, I knew right away there wasn't any hope for the missing kitten.

We keep are dogs penned up outside, but we let them run around the property before we bring them in. I didn't want any of the dogs to find and eat a dead kitty. (I don't know what is worse to imagine, a mother cat eating her dead newborn or one of the dogs finding it and doing the same. )

Maybe it's better to not know for certain...

I guess like many cats, I was just curious.

And I'm working on getting the kittens weaned, and intend to make sure Ginger is spayed soon after. Which leads me to another question. How do Queens (I'm new to that term.) usually wean their young? She gave birth is this round, semi high-walled container (with a pillow in it) and the kittens haven't yet discovered how to climb out. So, I either have to move them to the food dish or put food in with them, because Ginger seems content to keep nursing. They did eat anything solid that I have put in there. (I don't remember the details of weaning the first litter, 7 months ago.)

So, if you have patience for one more question... We kept the kittens from Ginger's first litter because my mom has several acres and wants mousers. Is it common for a cat/kitten of 7 months to try to nurse with the new kittens? (I have only observed it a handful of times and I know that the new litter is getting their fair share.) Fortunately, the old litter seems to get along with the new litter, thus far. I've seen them all sleep together one cold night. And even one of the "big" sisters was left with the litter, while mom went out, as if she was the "babysitter."
post #5 of 10
By 6 months old the kittens will be tasting mom's (canned food) by 7 months they will eating on their own and nursing only if she allows it. I would suggest you open up their territory and give mom a break from the constant demands of nursing. Seems like both the kittens and the mom could do with some kitten glop a fairly easy recipe to make that will help with the mom and her young ones. I may have used Queens in the wrong context, as this is normally a term that cat breeders (with catteries use) and not common housecats or barn cats.

But yes, you need to start letting the kittens out to explore, have mom show them how to eat, use the litter box and fend for themselves.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
I do want to clearify if I wasn't clear earlier. The 7 month old kittens have been weaned a long time, I have even seen evidence of their hunting adventures. It was just surprizing to see them try to nurse again with the new kittens. I am working on getting the 9 week olds more independent of their mom.

Our cats are more outdoor cats anyhow. They only have access to the laundry room which has a cat door going outside. I live at 3500 ft elevation and the colder, wetter weather has kept them in more often then over the summer. (Although I bring my own cat, Mozart, in for a few hours a week and keep him social with my dog.)
post #7 of 10
One of my adult cats tried to nurse on his mom for years! Silly boy! They like to nurse because it is pleasurable and nurturing. So, it is not at all unusual. However, because momma cat is trying to nurse the babies, we don't want the older cats to "steal" all of the milk!

I am so glad to hear that you are going to get momma cat spayed. Is ther a chance that you will be able to get all of the older kittens spayed and neutered as well?
post #8 of 10
My apologies, I misunderstood your initial post. Kittens will continue to suckle moms even after they dry up, which is why mom's start growling, swatting and biting to get them away from their nipples.
post #9 of 10
Pinky (male age 3) tries to suckle on Stumpy (male age 8) all the time, although Stumpy isn't keen on it. They can do it as long as the adult (male or female) allows them to.
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Just an update: The newest kitties are all starting to gain their independence. They're exploring all around. They are eating kitty food more and more. (and nursing less, especially since mom is leaving them in the laundry room for longer periods of time without her) What is interesting is to see the relationship between them and their older siblings. Sometimes one of them will curl up with an older sister. The other day one "big sister" was trying to lead the kitten outside through the cat door. When I interrupted by picking the kitten up, she turned around and waited for the kitty. Their "big brother," for the most part is indifferent.

Yes, we do plan to spay and neuter all of them as soon as we can. The mother cat will probably be spayed within the next 3 weeks.
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