Those of us in cat rescue brace ourselves for kitten season every Spring. The weather becomes warmer, and stray cats begin mating, or people who didn’t bother to spay their cats bring in their unwanted and now pregnant mamas (it sounds awful doesn’t it?) People in charge of feral colonies also begin keeping an eye out for new litters.
I don’t actually work with Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, but a fellow volunteer does. She got a call for neonatal kittens, four days old. There were five kittens left in a feral colony, and when mama cat never returned, AWLA was called and thus my friend was too.
They were cold when they arrived. You can’t feed a cold baby, so the primary thing to do is raise their body temperature. This is usually done with piles of warm towels and heating pads. Because they hadn’t eaten in awhile and were in shock, my friend watered down some karo syrup and gave them each just a drop.
Unfortunately, two of the kittens couldn’t get their core temperature up enough and didn’t make it. They were significantly smaller than the rest of the kittens, so because they’re from a feral colony it’s possible that they were actually a younger litter. This is common in feral colonies for kittens to be raised together despite being different litters.
Meet the Cheeses:
Large grey: Gouda
Black and White: Havarti
Little Grey: Brie
Since I’m currently just a student, I agreed to help take shifts bottle feeding these guys while the volunteer goes to work and gets some rest. Now, I’ve never cared for human babies before, but it has to be similar I’m guessing. Every two hours, I warmed up some baby formula, fed each baby, then stimulated them using a warm cloth to get them to pee and poo. Baby kittens can’t regulate their own body temperature, so they’re kept on a heating pad on low level.
All of this is recorded: in the morning and at night, I weighed them. They ideally will gain weight every single day. Anytime they had a bowel movement, I notated that too (it usually explained if a kitten had or hadn’t gained weight too). These kittens are completely dependent on you to feed, poop, and care for them when mama cat isn’t present, and will continue to be for at least 2-3 weeks before they can begin to eat mushy gruel on their own.
If you ever plan to be a bottle feed foster, don’t plan on having a social life at the same time. My mom was in town, and I needed to plan brunch around when the next feeding time was, which meant not going anywhere far or anywhere with a long serving time. Most of my in between feeding time went towards constant naps; feed at 2am, set alarm for 4am, get as much sleep in before the next feed, rinse and repeat. Yes, I slept in 1-2 hour increments for 2 days straight. Just as if I were a mom with human babies, I’m guessing.
My shift ended this morning after a 7am feeding. I then crashed and slept until nearly 4pm. Despite feeling completely out of it, I love it. It’s amazing to have these babies in your hands, and realize that they’ll grow before your eyes and become cutesy kittens, then bratty teenager phase kittens. Before you know it, they’re just as grumpy and jaded as Patches.
Recommended: Newborn Kitten Care