Thursday 5 May 2022

Count down & nesting

As Prune’s belly grows, along with her appetite, the changes in her body show that she is readying fr the big day. Her teats which usually are pale and tiny are now large, extended and flushed a deep red. Just before the birthing day milk will come & drops able to be expressed. 

Just as happened in her previous 2 pregnancies her vaginal area is both enlarged & the skin around the entire area changed to be dark almost deep grey/black. 

Her auto feeder which is usually topped up only every 4-6 days is now replenished every other day with nutrition & hydration of key importance. 

Throughout this pregnancy I’ve noticed that she is more “needy” particularly, oddly after dark falls, with it appears a frequent need for affection. Sometimes she wonders around giving little mews (she’s not a vocal cat - unlike resident diva Noodle!) & I interpret her calls as she goes from bedroom to lounge and kitchen as being driven by her need to ensure that her environment is secure. With so few days left now (approx 18-20) she will begin to seek a nest site so in the next days one of my jobs is to provide that suitable place for her. I’m expecting delivery of a new birthing box which will be lined with soft super warm vet-bed. This will be nestled inside a pet crate which I line out first tying fabric cot bumpers around the inside & draping it with blanketing making it into a cozy darkened cave. I don’t need the crate in order to close any doors but simply to provide her with a cosy, snug area, made completely free of draft that she will find favourable in which to den up & nest with her babies. As always one of the beloved PetNap heat mats will be in there too.

Also on my list of jobs is to sterilise feeding & birthing equipment & to make sure that supplies are ready & to hand for urgent use. I have a hamper of birth supplies at the ready plus I have supplies for the days and weeks afterwards. Thankfully I’ve never needed to physically help with a birth, only be there to soothe & encourage my fabulous cats in their labour. The only interventions I made were with Noodle, as both of her pregnancies resulted in her having emergency caesarean operations. This ended her breeding “career” sadly. Prunella has so far had straight forward natural births so this 3rd time hopefully will be the same.. 

Breach babies are very common, though it’s helpful for the first born to present head first. This is because the wedge shaped nose-first presentation easing along the birth canal as she contracts helps open the way out gently whereas a bottom first delivery is far harder work for the cat.  

The sack is usually already burst lubricating the final part of the delivery, so she immediately licks the kitten clean, getting the breathing started. She by now has delivered the placenta too which she bites to fuse seal the disconnect of the kitten. She then deals with the placenta (if she chooses to) by eating it. Natural instinct driving her to leave no evidence that might draw in a predator, but it’s also a great source of nutrition when her body going into milk production requires big reserves. It sounds gory I know. If she doesn’t eat it, once she has disconnected the kitten I will remove it by easing the birthing pad out from under her and wrapping it up. I replace the pad the bed then ready to go again. Mum now positions herself so that the kitten can head to the teat to feed while she rests and her labour continues. 

The poor Sphynx kitten -the mother has no fur upon which the infant can cling, it does not have benefit either of a clearly identifiable pathway to follow with its nose. A furred mother cat would have cleared away the fur around the teat in preparation but the Sphynx has none of this body mapping to aid it. The kitten shuffles into place and will find its way to suckle as the mother cat’s labour continues. My experience has been that a delay of around 30-45 minutes is between each delivery though it can be shorter or indeed longer. The kittens look so odd as they arc and bob around blindly seeking out the teat. Mum’s belly (and the siblings heads) can soon become very scratched up from the efforts of all siblings as they’re driven to secure their very existence - There’s no time for pleasantries here! 

The kitten are born with these pristine clean white & sharp claws. One of the fiddliest jobs I must do in the first day after the birthday is to clip the shap tip away l to protect mother and litter as much as possible from the scratching. If mum is left to end up in pain from constant scratch wounds she will try to protect herself by denying them access to her tests and therefore their all important feeds This is dangerous in these early days. As the kittens begin to open their eyes and gain skills, the clawing becomes less of an issue though they have no hesitation at all in using them to unceremoniously pull a feeding littermate away. Survival of the fittest in brutal action. 

My wonderful girls have always produced good milk supplies.  I’ve only ever needed to hand rear one kitten completely. That kitten had almost died (it’s brother having died the previous day). In a last ditch attempt not to lose this one I mixed a dilute feed, laced it with manuka honey then intubated for the first time ever. I was terrified. This tiny 4 day old kitten in my hands. I layed him on my chest and kept him warmed. Within an hour he had perked up . I syringe dripped more feed in. He regained strength but I decided to continue feeding him for peace of mind. Anyway he appeared to decide I was mother and to prefer to have formula (though he could, and did, still suckle from mum along with his siblings). Here’s a picture of that once tiny boy kitten of Prune’s that on day five I intubated & willed back to life - he grew up handsome 

Taking ormula is an easy meal. The kitten doesn’t need to expend much energy in order to gain it, the delivery coming faster with less effort. It tastes great too apparently, what’s not to like? 

Having saved him but lost his brother I wish so much that I’d known then to step in sooner but I have learned a valuable lesson as a breeder. Now I begin supplementing as soon as I see a possible issue, to remove doubt and I’d much much rather that than to end up with an emergency, or worse, a kitten loss. I now have two emergency interventions that I keep at hand. One is to intubate and feed directly into the tummy as I did before,  delivering food direct when the kitten is too weak to suckle. The, other intervention I’ve not ever needed to use but have available. This is  to administer fluids to a dehydrated, perhaps comatose kitten. It involves a special veterinary fluid being injected subcutaneously beneath the skin. The sterile fluid is first pre-warmed to blood temperature then injected at the kittens “scruff” making a bubble of fluid that the body can utilise to revive the failing body. I hope never to need use either intervention by being alert and prepared to begin supplementing early. 

Thankfully my queens have both been attentive mothers. Dear Noodle with her c-section wounds and confused kittens who would mistake it’s buckled edge for a teat & attempt suckling from it. Repeatedly. Still she lay there proudly, legs akimbo. I remember she was so engorged with too much milk and not enough kittens and then having to lay hot flannels on her underside as if I was providing a spa treatment. She was such a good mum. It was so sad that labour was such a problem for her. She is a super Aunty though and becoming a mother forever changed her. I never fail but to be in awe as, if a baby (human!) is visiting, and particularly if it whimpers she comes to aid. When Prune has kittens, the first sound of the new and she planted herself beside the birthing box & helped with all kitten tasks. Luckily there’s no jealousy with my cats who are happy to share! 

Never more proud of Noodle than here shown after her first C-Section. Even a cut like this & no pain meds & she’s purring away and giving her kitten free access! 

Plentiful high quality nutrition for mum ensures decent milk supplies however despite this, supplementary feeding does allows mum & all her kittens, particularly those who need it, a bit of a helping hand. This might be instigated because a kitten is weaker, maybe being repeatedly pushed off the nipple by it’s siblings,  or it might be one who I think looks on the brink of beginning to “fade” or it might even a kitten who is noticeably hungrier whose requirements seem to exceed what is currently available. I’m very happy to help,  though the first couple of weeks are rather gruelling. 

I use Royal Canin Itten Milk Replacer & rather than their supplied bottles I use the brilliant Miracle Nipple teat. They’re expensive, hard to get hold of in the UK but are far far superior to any other I’ve found. I sterilise all equipment in a baby sterilising unit & I attach the nipple to a syringe. Believe me, kittens very quickly learn what’s coming & are most eager to get onto them when I appear. With a good quality syringe, the kitten does all the work, no need to depress the plunger at all - unless course Im feeding a weak kitten. The Miracle Nipple allows gentle introduction of the teatv& milk gently into the delicate mouth. At first I use a 1 or 3 ml syringe with feeding given every 1 1/2 to 2 hours (both night and day) but pretty quickly the volume capacity of a kitten tummy increases and this then becomes a 5ml, then 10 and moves on to 20ml syringe full taken at each feed, by now they are every 4 hours. Even so, with tummy full & as looking tight as a drum still they’d guzzle more if it was able to fit in! All the while I supplement feed they will continue to feed from their mums supply & I continue supplementary feeds until weaning is established, then I will leave mum to it. Kittens by now have teeth and are none to careful so she will start denying them access to her teats which she does by lying with her underside firmly to the floor! By now suckling is not to much a necessity to life since their food comes in a dish, but rather it is for love & comfort, a real choir of purrs! 

So, yes, as I was saying before going off on a tangent, I have a lot to be getting myself & Prune ready for. She’s already been exploring my bedroom curtains (they’re overlong and the ends puddled on the floor)… she is winding herself up in them at night testing each side out as a suitable birthing spot nest. I think NOT Pru! Well, I’d prefer not. So, the kittening box will be here in a day or two so I’ll get the “vet bed” fitted in and the cave set up. 

I’ll endeavour to take a photo or two when it’s ready.

I’ve not yet witnessed or felt any kitten limbs in Pru’s growing tummy, but imagine that I will very soon and I’ll hopefully get some decent video of this to share too. I wonder how many kittens she has, what sex and colours each will be. I can’t wait to meet & get to know them, AND to sharing them with you. 

Are you thinking about sharing life with a Sphynx? If you’d like the opportunity to reserve one of our gorgeous high quality kittens,  do please get in touch. Have a great few days…