We did cover before on how to find a stud and recognizing pregnancy for your cat queen, and how to keep her in health for the whole pregnancy period. Now, we’ll find out what are the main steps you need to follow to help your cat give birth and take care of her newborn kittens.
Most queens prefer to have a box of some kind, with a lid on it and a small opening to get in and out. You can either make something for her out of a cardboard box or, if she is in a metal pan, you can peg old sheets around the outside to give her the security that she needs and protect her kittens from any draughts.
If the box has a lid or top, then it needs to be high enough for mum to stand up inside. She needs plenty of room to walk around and stretch out when giving birth and when feeding babies.
Mum’s food and water need to be very close to the kittening box, other-wise she may not eat or drink, as she will want to keep her kittens in view.
Her litter tray must be at least four feet away – otherwise, she may not use it and will become constipated. The room needs to be warm for the birth and until the kittens are three weeks old, as they cannot control their body temperature. Ideally, keep the room at around 70F (21 C).
Do not use a cushion or loose blankets as newborn babies can fall down the sides of a cushion or get tangled in blankets.
You need a soft, flat, absorbent surface that the queen can give birth on, where the surface will not stay wet. You should be able to leave it for a couple of days after the birth as the smell of the birthing liquids helps mum bond to her babies.
We line our kittening box with layers of newspaper and put fleece over the top. The birthing liquid soaks through the fleece into the newspaper and after the birth, the newspaper can be slid out without disturbing mum or her kitties too much. The mum and kittens can then be left undisturbed on the fleece for a couple of days.
Change the bedding around day three or day four, when your queen has settled down and bonded with her babies. If you forget to change it, you may find mum is trying to move her kittens to somewhere cleaner and less smelly.
Other birthing essentials
- Disinfectant hand gel to clean your hands every time you touch the babies
- Kitchen towels for mopping up spills and for handling slippery newborn kittens.
- Dental floss to tie around the cord before separating the placenta from the kitten (just in case mum doesn’t do it).
- Small, blunt-nosed scissors, for cutting the cord (if required).
Colostrum replacement formula
The queen produces Colostrum (a type of milk) for the first 24 hours after the birth. It contains antibodies to protect your newborn kittens and extra fat and protein to give them a good start in life.
It is expensive with a short shelf life and you only need it if the queen cannot feed her kittens for the first day. So it may not be worth keeping any at home but you might try to find a supplier who can deliver it to you or one you can get to within two hours.
Keep at least one tub of replacement kitten milk in the house just in case mum does not, or cannot, feed her kittens. Kitten milk powder has a reasonable shelf life, so you can keep a stock in for when you need it.
You will also need 5ml size for feeding later on if you end up hand-rearing the kittens through to weaning.
If you are hand-feeding, you will also need:
- Bottles and teats once the kittens are a bit older (approximately 2-3 weeks)
- Measuring spoons and cups for mixing
- Funnel for filling bottles
- Bottle-brush for cleaning bottles
- Sterilizing fluid for cleaning all the above
Lactulose for constipation
Lactulose is a double sugar that is available under various brand names and is available from your vets. It comes as a liquid and has a long shelf life, so it is useful to have in your kitten medicine cabinet.
Queens can sometimes suffer from constipation after giving birth, especially if they are so devoted to their kittens that they won’t leave the kittening box even to go to the litter tray.
Also, if you are hand feeding, many of the milk formulae cause constipation in kittens.
But be careful how much you give them – follow your vet’s advice, as too much can cause severe diarrhea.
You need to have a very gentle anti-biotic on hand, such as Cephalexin, just in case you need to medicate the newborn kitten. If you can, get it from your vets in powder form as you only need the tiniest amount and once made up into a liquid, it only has a short shelf life. When required, mix a small tea-spoon and keep in the fridge for up to three days.