Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Labour of Love
the Moonspun clan, so when Gabby's pregnancy was confirmed, excitement
levels were pretty much through the roof. There was no little
trepidation coupled with that though.
Gabby, as a cat, is a very little girl, meaning that pregnancy with
big litters is a bit of a challenge for her. Last year, by going out
to stud, we managed to have kittens, but unfortunately there were 9
and there just wasn't room. She laboured 5 days early, and sadly, none
of the kittens were strong enough to survive for more than a few days.
I did promise that this blog would contain the good, the bad and the
ugly of cat breeding, but I was also aware that it had a small
following of children who now owned a Moonspun kitten. the events of
those 10 days were horrendous, and horribly upsetting for even grown
ups, so I thought it better not to burden small minds with it by
So, as her belly grew and rounded, I was excited and terrified in
equal parts. What if they were born early? What if there were loads
again? What if she didn't want to mother them?
Somehow, I always knew she'd go early, and when her belly started to
harden and drop at 6.5 weeks, I was beside myself with worry. I
cancelled everything and went on house arrest, knowing there was
little I could do for babies if born this early, but not wanting her
to go through that on her own.
But week 7 came and went without sight of even a single baby. Then
week 8 was here and gone... And then it happened.
Exactly 9 weeks to the day of mating, Gabby decided it was time for
the big bad world to meet her babies.
I knew that something had changed almost a whole day before the first
kitten was born, and so did she. She wanted to be near me, was
unsettled in herself and just behaving slightly abnormally. I tucked
her into her kitten pen that night (she's a hider when labour starts,
and under my bed is spectacularly accessible to pregnant cats and
inaccessible to humans), and toddled off to bed.
She woke me at various points through the night, asking for, well, for
nothing in particular which wasn't like her. I was used to being woken
at that point, but it was normally because she wanted someone to have
a little chat to, or wanted me to rub her tummy to make the kittens
stop kicking her, or wanted to tell me all about how she'd eaten all
her dinner and wanted some more thank you very much. But this time was
different. She was anxious and restless, churping and calling for me
every time I went back to bed. At 4 AM, I gave in and got up with her.
Over the next few hours, litter tray visits became an occupation. She
knew she needed to push, and being a clean girl, tried to get herself
to the tray every time, thinking it was a toilet she needed, not a
baby explosion! I followed her as she paced, watching the tiny
rippling contractions designed to begin to move kittens down towards
the birth canal and line them up for easy delivery.
At 11 AM, I called in my reinforcements. Gabby is not an easy cat to
help labour. To say she doesn't cope well with pain is a huge
understatement, and she will simply try and run away from it, whether
there's a kitten half out or not! This meant that I needed as many
pairs of hands as possible to help me while she pushed.
As the battle ready squad assembled, we assigned duties. 1 to hold
Gabby, one to assist with kittens on the way out, and, the most
important job of all... Tea maker! Gabby meanwhile decided that this
was far too much excitement and promptly fell asleep.
There then passed about 5 hours of pleasant chit-chat, chocolate
eating and general time filling until the life and soul of the party
was ready to go. In typical cat fashion, she decided that the
kittening pens were beneath her, as was her behind the chair spot of
last year, and chose a box instead.
Gabby's labour was not easy. I have heard many cat fights in the
street outside my house. I've heard cats yelling, crying, getting
cross, getting sad, but I have never heard anything like the noises
that came out of that poor girl as the first kitten crowned. It was
heart-wrenching, and something I never hope to hear again. The power
of it was such that it was able to drive a grown man into fleeing the
scene and hiding out in his bedroom. The other girls until that point
had chosen to stay by her and offer comfort, something which the three
were happy with so I didn't interfere, but when the screaming started,
even they got distressed. It took massive strength, both physical and
emotional, to hold her still, immobilise her while she went through
that. The pain was very evident in every scream, and the guilt that
rose in me was immense. After all, it was my fault she was doing this.
Kitten 1 appeared, but took a long time before she breathed and began
to cry. Gabby worryingly showed no interest in her at all, didn't
break the sack and certainly didn't clean or acknowledge her, even
when she started muling. She was tiny, and all my old fears
resurfaced. It's amazing how much you second guess yourself when
something goes wrong. I consider myself a good breeder, and I know
that the problems last year were caused by the amount of kittens and
that there was nothing I could have done differently to save them
(yep, I did have everything tested as usual to back this up), but when
that first one pops out and doesn't immediately start jumping up and
down and screaming for "Milk, Now!", all your self-confidence flees.
Little whitey was quickly stabilised then popped onto a cosy heatpad
to warm as she was very cold. It's important to warm cold kittens
slowly to avoid shock to their delicate systems. I use a PetRemedy
heatpad. This never gets above body temperature, so kittens are in no
danger of over-warming and can be placed straight onto the pad. If mum
is one who likes to leave the nest and only return for feeding, placed
under Vetbed, it gives a gentle, constant warmth just as though they
were snuggling mum. I highly recommend them for any future kittens.
It wasn't long before number 2 was making its appearance, this time
feet first. Again it was traumatic for Gabby who had to be removed
from her box for holding. This one was bigger than the last and more
viggorous, but quickly joined her for cuddles and warmth on the pad.
Again, Gabby didn't want to clean or acknowledge the baby at all.
We then noticed that she was happily pushing away in the confines of
her box. While keeping an eye on her as we chatted, I suddenly heard a
tiny plop and asked my friend to take a look. much to our surprise,
there was a kitten under mummy. Gabby had not screamed, hadn't bitten
anyone, hadn't even made a noise. However, while this was an easy
birth, there was a new worry. This kitten didn't have a placenta
Every kitten has its own placenta in the womb. This supplies nutrients
to the growing baby inside their mum. If a kitten is born without one,
not only does it pose a risk to the kitten, but to mum as well. Chords
need to be tied off very quickly to avoid excessive blood loss for the
tiny baby. Mum will lose a lot more blood if the placenta is still
attached, and if it doesn't come out, she will almost certainly get an
infection. It's not unusual that a kitten comes without a placenta.
What normally happens is that it will be birthed before the next
However, Gabby is nothing if not a worry. A few moments later there
was another plop, another kitten, and yet again, no placenta. My panic
rose. That was 2 placentas in there now, and no sign of either.
Next came a 5th kitten within minutes of the last 2. Again, no
placenta. Panic strengthened. She was moving them down into the birth
canal so quickly that she wasn't allowing time for placentas to detach
and travel with them. All we could do was watch and wait.
Meanwhile, we now had 4 white kittens and a little red boy. The dad of
these babies is not my own boy, but a white stud, so I knew I could
get white babies, but never for a moment dreamed that there would be
such a high proportion of them!
The pushing began again, and much to my relief, out popped 2
placentas. Now there was just one to account for. It's really
important to count out the placentas so that you know whether you need
a vet trip or not. Any retained ones will mean a very swift visit.
Gabby gave me one more kitten that day, yet another white, but this
one breach with its legs back. It was a very difficult birth due to
the position and the kitten's big pelvis and hips, but as before, she
refused to let us help. Where the others were shelled like peas, this
took a good 15 minutes to be pushed out, and towards the end, worry
increased as it appeared as though the baby was attempting to breathe
whilst still inside the sack.
Sometimes, the stress of birth will make kittens poo their myconium
whilst still in the amniotic sack. Whilst this isn't unusual, it's a
cause for concern if they manage to breathe any of it in due to
At long last, the kitten was out and the sack removed. Thankfully,
this baby was not a pooper. I breathed easy again. This little one
came out with the placenta in tact, and it wasn't long before the
stray one followed. Phew! All in all, popping out 6 kittens only took
her 2 hours. That's nice and quick for so many and such a frightened
But now came the next worrying part. Would she be a good mum?
She didn't really have a chance last year as those kittens, due to
being premature, needed a lot of human involvement. She tried, but
wasn't very effective and didn't bond tightly to them as none were
ever able to suckle. She was so frightened by the birth last time that
it took her many hours and lots of reassurance to settle. With worry,
I popped the first kitten against her tummy, then another, then
another until all 6 were in the box with her. To my great relief, she
immediately rolled over to make herself accessible for them to nurse.
With a little help, kittens were soon latching and feeding. My concern
dropped down a notch or two further.
There then followed a very long and very sleepless night for me. Many
Persians are a bit clutsy with kittens and will often accidentally lie
on them. They will also sometimes lie on a noisy one to quiet it and
protect it from predators. All things considered, Gabby wasn't as bad
as my others, only squishing a kitten about 3 times during the night,
but I can't help but lie awake and listen for the tiny noises of
distress which is all the warning you get. I was also listening for
another possible kitten. Particularly with big litters, it's often
difficult to tell whether there's an extra kitten in there, or whether
it's just the enlarged womb contracting down. I was pretty sure there
was nothing left, but better to be safe than sorry. Thankfully, there
was no midnight dash to help a 7th, and the nest was peaceful with
quiet, contented kittens happily feeding from mum.
Their birth weights weren't too bad, but the first little girl had me
worried. Persians should be big, chunky kittens, born at over 100G.
She was only 66 and tiny compared to the others. The remaining five
were 71G, 73G, 77G, 83G and 87G, so none were massive. However, I
reminded myself, there were a lot of them, they were 2 days early and
Gabby was a little cat! Now began the waiting game.
The kittens are now 4 days old and are doing well, but more on that tomorrow.