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Feline Pregnancy & Birth – Part 2

The Birth

Most of the time you won’t need to do anything other than enjoy watching new life come into the world. Queens are such amazing creatures and usually manage the birth very well, no mess, no fuss and all alone. Human intervention is only necessary if your queen is in distress or shows no sign of breaking the sac and cleaning the kitten’s faces so that they can breathe. Having said that, it is essential that if you think your queen is having difficulty, you call your vet straight away.

Unless there is an emergency you should try to avoid handling your queen’s newborn kittens.

Warning! There are a few graphic photos contained in this article!

Signs of Labour

Just like humans, birth signs are different in every queen, most however, display the following:

  • Your queen becomes restless
  • Cleaning around the nipples & genital area
  • Often a discharge caused by the placental plug being passed
  • Rapid breathing, deep purring or kneading with paws

First Stage of Labour

Your queen’s body is preparing for labour, her uterus will be starting to contract and her muscles, like the pelvic & perineum, start slackening for birth. She may begin to pant through contractions and make trips to and from the kittening bed before she settles.

Note: When your queen begins to bear down to deliver, it’s helpful to note down the time – if her first kitten is not born within half an hour – call your vet and have a clean, towel lined carrier ready. If you’ve seen a bubble emerge – please see below – second stage labour.

Second Stage of Labour

This is where your queen’s contractions become stronger and actually begin pushing kittens out. Normally you will see a dark, greyish coloured sac, which looks like a bubble, emerge first. Each kitten will be wrapped in its own sac of amniotic fluid (placental membrane).

One of Biscuits newborn kittens after she broke the sac of amniotic fluid

Note the time when you first see the bubble, your queen should give birth on her own within 30 minutes. If no kitten appears within 30 minutes, take her immediately to your vet.

Once a kitten is born your queen should break and remove the sac and lick her kitten vigorously, paying particular attention to the nose and mouth to clear mucous. She will also bite through the kitten’s umbilical cord.

Biscuit during the birth of her kittens

Third Stage of Labour

Usually after each kitten is delivered, each placenta will be passed. Your queen will usually eat the placentas! I know this sounds gross but it gives her a big boost of nutrients and in the wild it would hide any evidence of vulnerable prey being around.

Sometimes two kittens come out quickly and both placentas follow. Make sure all placentas are accounted for, there should be 1 placenta passed for every 1 kitten. A retained placenta can cause serious infection, in some cases surgical removal may be necessary, which inevitably means you will need to hand rear her kittens until she has fully recovered.

After the Birth / Post Labour

After delivering all of her kittens and probably sighing in relief, your queen will settle down and encourage her extremely vulnerable neonates to suckle. It is vital that neonates are suckling well and regularly, because if they are not fed regularly they may suffer from hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels).

Biscuit settled down, nursing her newborn babies

A neonate also depends on its mother’s colostrum for Maternally Derived Immunity (MDI). This means, in basic terms, a neonate will receive antibodies from its mother’s milk. These antibodies help to protect the neonate’s immune system, which is immature and can’t adequately protect itself against infectious diseases. Most colostrum transfer occurs within the first 24 hours after birth, it may continue for up to 72 hours.

Lactation

This is the production of milk and normally occurs during pregnancy. Lactation is influenced by 3 hormones:

  • Progesterone – secreted by the corpus luteum within the ovary and causes enlargement of the mammary glands during pregnancy
  • Prolactin – secreted by the anterior pituitary gland in the last third of pregnancy and stimulates the production of milk
  • Oxytocin – secreted by the posterior pituitary gland during the last hours of pregnancy and enables the glands to release or ‘let down’ the milk, in response to suckling by the neonate

Did You Know?

Milk produced by a queen is:

  • More concentrated than cow’s milk!
  • Contains more protein than cow’s milk!
  • Contains twice as much fat as cow’s milk!

Kittens are born tiny, blind and completely at the mercy of their mother, but they develop at a very fast rate!

Help and Advice

Most queens are truly awesome and manage to cope with pregnancy and birth very well, without any assistance. A lot of owners say they didn’t know their cat was pregnant until they discovered 3 or 4 tiny brand new kittens next to her!

Sometimes, unfortunately, complications do occur, with most common problems in kittens occurring either: in utero, immediately after birth or between 0 and 12 weeks old.

If an emergency occurs – keep calm and immediately contact your vet.

In Part 3 of Feline Pregnancy & Birth I will talk about when things go wrong, if you wish to read about it, please go here.

The Kitten Consort is a small, specialised rescue, I receive no funding & rely on sales from this online shop and donations. If you found this article helpful/enjoyable or you love what I do, please consider a small donation or purchasing something from the shop. Every bit helps me to save more neonates and tiny kittens.

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The Kitten Consort

Meet the owner

Hi, my name is Kate, I am a qualified Animal Nursing Assistant, Feline Carer & kitten hand rearer. Since childhood I have had a deep sympathy and love for all animals (OK, maybe not spiders, snakes or wasps!) but I am most passionate about felines, domestic and wild. There is always at least 1 cat living with us (3 currently 🙂 see photos below). I have cared for family pet cats all my life and for over 10 years this has included care of elderly and disabled cats.

Mavis
Peaches
Julio

I became extremely distressed when I discovered the amount of abandoned and euthanised cats, especially kittens there are, not just here in the UK, but all over the world. It truly breaks my heart to hear of neonates not given a chance to live and I wanted to do something to help. So I made the choice to spend years re-training (a bit scary in your 30s). My purpose in life became clear – to dedicate the rest of my life to saving neonatal & tiny kittens lives. This passion and purpose led me on a journey of training, volunteering (part-time) in a vets surgery and launching The Kitten Consort – a dedicated neonate and tiny kitten rescue (based in the North East of England).

The knowledge and experience gained from all my courses & training, my time at the vets and personal research has been extensive. From handling animals to clearing up after them! This includes things like: animal anatomy, histology, nutrition, first aid, health & safety, rules & regulations, how felines behave, training felines, best care and hand-rearing neonates.

Along the way I discovered some disturbing facts, such as:

  • Orphaned / abandoned kittens are often a high-risk population due to the intensive resources required to save them
  • There was very little research / information available covering hand-rearing tiny kittens, that was not conflicting or confusing
  • Most rescues/shelters/charities, here in the UK, are already over-run with unwanted cats & kittens & most have limited resources. While they’re all wanting to help, caring for a tiny kitten is incredibly time & labour intensive, costs money (putting further strain on resources) and is a stressful time for all involved due to high mortality rates

I was determined to be part of the solution. Some of my aims & goals with The Kitten Consort are to:

  • Give neonates & tiny kittens a chance of life
  • Provide the best kitten care I can, in a stress-free, safe & loving environment
  • Assist in putting an end to unnecessary euthanasia (at least of tiny kittens here in the North East)
  • Raise awareness of & help reduce the number of unwanted kittens
  • Assist in research into hand rearing kittens, behavioural & phychological health and how these needs can be met, which is largely unknown & under-researched
This is me 🙂 Hand feeding newborn baby Kaya

My qualifications (so far!):

  • Level 2 Animal Nursing Assistant Certificate
  • Level 3 Feline Behaviour & Psychology Diploma – Distinction
  • Level 3 Pet Care Business Diploma – Distinction
  • Level 3 First Aid for Kittens & Cats Diploma – Higher Distinction
  • Various certificates gained from completing Blue Cross Volunteer training – including cat husbandry, cat care, animal welfare, gdpr, customer care and health & safety

I am very proud to say that I have earned the right to display the initials Dip.Fel after my name! I have also been very fortunate to win 2 awards along the way!

‘Pet Care’ Award 2018 from
The Centre of Excellence
‘Outstanding Achievement’ Award 2017 from Myerscough College

The Kitten Consort offers neonatal, tiny kitten care & hand rearing around the clock. All kittens are provided with extensive checks, full vaccination programe, microchipping, flea & worm treatments & are neutered at appropriate age. All kittens are socialised, rehabilitated (where necessary) litter trained and provided with lots of love, care, food and toys. I use the best equipment available to me and am always learning more! As well as saving neonates & tiny kittens as The Kitten Consort (via vets or public), I also volunteer my hand-rearing services to other local rescues and national charities.

I had so many questions in the beginning and even though I’m fortunate to have a good friend who’s also an RVN (who has been amazing at giving me advice). I discovered that, in general, there seems to be a lack of information in some areas of neonate & tiny kitten care & conflicting or confusing information in other areas.

Now when I’m not caring for tiny bundles of love, I’m writing articles, in the hope that by sharing my awareness and knowledge, it may assist you and serve as a helpful guide. None of my articles are intended as a replacement for vets advice/diagnosis/treatment. They are just a culmination of a lot of learning. I hope you enjoy reading them 🙂

The Kitten Consort is a small, specialised rescue, I receive no funding & rely on sales from this online shop and donations. If you found this article helpful/enjoyable or you love what I do, please consider a small donation or purchasing something from the shop. Every bit helps me to save more neonates and tiny kittens.