Originally Posted by Gizzysgrandma
This is a tough one. I would like to identify each one of the 8 kittens but I don't want to stir things up with mom by removing and marking them. I read a few websites the last day or so to find out about large litters and one of the major pieces of advice was to weigh each of them daily. Well, you can't weigh them unless you mark them and you can't weigh or mark them unless you handle them.
I don't think it is such a good idea to keep disturbing the nest and getting mom all worked up. What I've done the past few hours is to identify the small ones (which appears to be only 1 or 2), and keep an eye on them. If I see one of them laying back and not fighting for a nipple, I position them onto one of mom's nipples and make sure they're sucking, and mom doesn't mind this at all. But when I pick one of them up to check its belly or health, mom gets worked up and when mom gets worked up the rest of the pack gets upset too. However, she does not mind at all if I just guide the kitty to a nipple.
A new discovery today: Mom does not like her babies picked up and moved away from the pack. She is okay with touch and stroking so long as you don't pick up and pull them away from the litter. They like it if you rub their behinds! I know it sounds gross but maybe it's because she has such a big litter it's hard for her to keep up with the stimulation to pee and poop and she welcomes the help..the kittens seem to like it too and they become calm and relaxed with that kind of handling.
These are just my first observations. We'll see how it goes!
I would like to add my opinions and experiences on this topic, since I have fostered some stray pregnant queens and their litters, done extensive research on it, asked every person I could get my hands on that would talk to me, and have been lucky to have had very successful expeirences.
First, there is a difference between having a cat (like a breeder would) who has been with you a long time, and knows and trusts you, and is having the litter in home "home." Strays and fostrs are in new environments, and we have to remember that they don't understand "safe" the way we do. Safe to them is familiar. So even though we realize we have brought them from the dangerous world into a safer one, they aren't sure. If a cat is from the outside, and they've been living on mice, and you bring them inside, suddenly there are no mice. In a cat's mind they're wondering how they are going to eat if there are no mice. It takes a long time for them to forget they need mice and look to their owner for cans of friskies.
So, they will be afraid...for a while, familiar is better to them.
Plus, you have taken them out of their territory into one where you are the new "head of the roost." Did you know that a queen will sometimes kill a whole litter of healthy kittens if a new Tom takes over the territory she is part of? She does it because chances are the new Tom will kill the kittens born under the old Tom and she's doing it before he does, and will then go on to start again under the new rule.
And now, in your home, she's under a new rule. Doesn't mean she will, but it's a stressful situation.
And she's already shown stress when you remove the kittens.
That having been said, I have to say that I believe your first instinct was the right one. Handle them, by all means. You are doing exactly what I have done. I lay down with them, I'll help guide them to nipples if they are having trouble, I'll talk to them, pet mom, pet their littles heads gently and check them by rolling them over and letting them hold into my fingers while I look them over. I also have found I needed to help with the stimulatoin. But I do it, as you started to do, in the box, always next to the mother.
I do not believe in taking them out until they start to open their eyes, unless absolutely necessary. (Once their eyes are open, you'll see, it'll be a whole new ball game, and you can pick them up more play with them, more...
As far as weighing goes, here's my thoughts on that.
I have never done, and never felt it was necessary. By laying down and checking them over, I keep a very close eye on them, I can see if they're eating enough and growing. A kitten will cry constantly if they're not getting enough food. One who's eating well will be able to eat, and then sleep peacefully, very often just falling asleep on the nipple. If you're concerned one might not be getting its share, do what you're doing, move it to the nipple, and watch to make sure it eats, and you'll know they're fine.
I know I might get flack for that opinion, but the only reason for weighing is to make sure the kittens are healthy and growing. If you can tell they are, and it sounds to me like you have enough of an instinct to be able to tell that, Why put the additional stress on the mother, and on the kittens.
Because when stray cats, or cats in a different and new environment get stressed out, or even perceive a threat (even if in our view it is not a theat) that's when they might begin to ignore the litter, even kill some at times, stop feeding them.. My belief is whatever good weighing them might do (and to me unless there's a specific problem there is nothing that it can help), putting that kind of stress on the mom has the potential of causing more damage than not weighing them could ever cause.
One sign a mom is stressed if she wants to leave the kittens, or starts wanting to move them around. She should feel safe and want to stay put. That's also a sign there is too much going around her and something is threatening her. The idea is to find out what she might afraid of in her viewpoint, not necessarily ours.
It may be frustrating not to know which is which; eventually you'll see differences. (I usually name the kittens on their differences to help me remember. ie, in my last litter, I named one Dot because she had a little round circle of black on the bottom of her chin, and one Maynard G. Krebbs because he had a tiny triangular black spot on his chin that looked like a goatee. That helped me remember each one.
Especially based on what you said about the queen's reaction when you took them out, I strongly would recommend not doing so until they opened their eyes (but again, take the invitation to interract while their with her as much as you can .. the more human contact, the friendlier the kittens).
lThe only time I ever took them out (until their eyes opened) was when I changed their bedding (I kept a few layers of paper towels over the regular towel, and would just replace the paper towels. I would wait until Mom got out of the box to eat or use the litter, then quickly take them out, put them right next to the box, changed the paper towels and put them right back in.
And once in a while, if I had to pick them up to check something for some reason, I did it just an inch or two away from the bottom of the box and Mom, never farther than that.
The only problem I ever had with my last litter was that one kitten seemed to not "get it" in regards to nursing. I been keeping a real close eye and noticed this after a few hours. I did some research on the web, and based on what I found, I tried to make an emergency kmr until I could get some of the real stuff the next day, and found a plastic chopstick that was the same exact shape and size as Mom. It was the only time I really removed a kitten and even then, I sat crosslegged in front of the box while I did this.
I would dip the end of the chopstick into the makeshift kmr, and try to get the kitten to take it in her mouth. I tried a few times, and she wouldn't do it. I put her back, and tried again about 1/2 hour later, and did this every half hour until about 5 am when suddenly she got it. She opened her mouth, and I heard this smacking sound that I had read was the sign that her body "got" the idea of nursing. Instead of trying to feed her more, I immediately put her on Mom, nudged her to a nipple, and she ate away! I felt it was better to try to get her to nurse than to try and force or bottle feed her ; that would have been my last resort.
Never had a day's problem with her since then, and she grew bigger than some of the others, even though she was born as the run. Interestingly, the only problem I did have with her was that she turned out to be the least affectionate and least people-oriented of all the kittens, so I had to eventually work harder with her to get her over that, and I do believe that first night was the reason.
The good news is that I must have done something right, because when she did get to the rescue group she was immediately adopted by a vet's daughter no less, and I understand she's very happy and well taken care of.
I did end up naming her Katie Scarlett because of her stuck up attitude though. LOL
Anyway, all I can say is I must be doing something right because thankfully I've had good luck with the babies. I've lost some along the way, it's the nature of the beast, but it's always been by something that could not have been helped (like being born with abnormailities).
I know many do not believe the same as I do, but I think the decisoin on how to interact with the moms and kittens should be based very strongly on their history, and the history they've had with the human they're sharing it with.
Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to share what I believe with you.
Whatever you decide to do, good luck! Seems to me you're doing a fantastic job, and seem to have a real feel for both the little ones and the Mom.