Sunday, June 27, 2010

Well, This Changes Things

I've written a couple of times about the neighbor's cats.  As I've said before, they aren't really the neighbor's cats-they are feral cats that moved in to the area-more specifically, under my raised foundation.  The neighbor captures the cats, has them "fixed, gets them their vaccinations and then brings them home and feeds them. 

Despite being a dog person I have developed some affection for the cats.  In fact, I've become quite fond of one cat in particular.  He/she would lay at feet on the porch and he/she wouldn't allow me to pet him/her, he/she at least pretended to pay attention when I talked to him/her and unlike the other cats he/she would eat from my hand. 

Then, a couple of weeks ago, he/she was gone.  At first I merely noticed the absence, then I became worried.  I missed him/her.  Well, it has all been explained-he/she is a she:

I had noticed that she didn't have a "notch" in her ear, indicating that she had been "fixed" but I just thought that she was too young.  Obviously not. 

There are four kittens-one gray, two mostly black and one that is black, white and reddish and the spitting image of Mommy. 

So "cat" is now Lilly.  But I need help.  When is safe for me to touch the kittens?  How long should I wait before I take Lilly and the kittens to the vet?  I know nothing about cats.  Any advice will be appreciated.


yukio ngaby said...

My wife and I currently have two cats, and my family always had pet cats when I was growing up, but I'm certainly no expert.

I hear a lot about not touching kittens because the mother will reject them, but I haven't seen any evidence of that behavior myself. Mother cats (especially inexperienced mothers) may reject their kittens for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with human interaction.

I've been told by a biology professor (not a vet-- and a vet's a much better source of info) that if you don't do something to drastically alter the scent of the kitten like wash it or if your hand is heavily perfumed or something, it should be fine. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that statement though. Like I said, vet's are better sources. It's probably best to not touch them until their eyes are open, though. That said, you should certainly be able to handle them at 3-4 weeks of age.

Also, it's important to only touch them if the mother seems okay with it (even 4 weeks old kittens). Mother cats can get stressed if you handle the kittens too much, and stress CAN lead to the mother rejecting the kittens. Individual cats are different, but most mother cats will be pretty obvious in showing their displeasure at your handling of her kittens.

Once the kittens' eyes are open and the mother cat is okay with it, handling the kittens is important so they'll get used to humans. Don't go crazy about it, kittens need to do a lot of other things then just be held. I was always told not to pick them up by the scruff of their neck, but to pick them up by getting your hand under their chest to help support their weight. You can then cradle them in the crook of your arm (like a baby) to carry them.

Eight weeks is usually a good time to take a kitten to the vet for vaccinations. At that time they can also, usually, be separated from their litter mates and mother.

This site seems to have a lot of info on kittens:

And this is a good site too, it's what we used as our main info source after we adopted our cats as kittens:

Good luck with them. They're very cute.

peggy38 said...

Hi, I was in the exact same situation as you earlier in the kitten season. We had a young inexperienced mother who birthed a litter of five kittens in our front flower bed. We had to rescue these kittens from drowning a week later when there was a downpour that filled that flowerbed with water over the kitten's heads.

Although we used socks on our hands during the rescue operation, we also bedded the kittens down in our garage on some towels that had our scent on them and the mother had no problem with that.

My advice is that you probably want to leave them alone in the first week to two weeks just so mom and kittens can bond. Young mom's can be a little skittish especially if they are feral. It will just be less stressful for her. Four is still a pretty large litter and she is going to be working hard caring for them. You can give her Kitten Chow which is high calorie, high nutrient food which is recommended for nursing mothers as well as kittens.

As soon as things have settled down you should start to socialize the kittens. This has to start as soon as possible. Socialized kittens can be adopted at best and at least be easier to capture and alter later on.

Also, be prepared to lose one or two even with the best care. I took three of my kittens into the vet when they were about a month old for treatment of an upper respiratory infection. One of them died two days later even while on antibiotics. None of them seemed that sick even to the treating vet but the lesson is that kittens can go "down" very quickly with little warning. Don't blame yourself if they do.

Good luck with them. You will have a ball and laugh much. I just adopted out all of my kittens. The last two to go were about 4 months and just so full of charm, play and mischief. I would do it all over again in a minute :-)

Carol said...

Thank you both for your advice. Like I said, technically they aren't my kittens but they "sucked me in" at first sight. It is important to me that they are well taken care of.