Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Kitten Festival

Little Plumette came to us very, very pregnant. I don't have any experience with pregnant cats or even kittens for that matter, which is strange considering I have had cats nearly my entire life. We always made a point of adopting strays, and most of those happen to be younger cats abandoned when their cuteness has worn off, or older, feral cats kept alive only by their wiles.

It was Eric's fault. He was the one who went to pick up pregnant Plumette from our local airport. We - along with many others at the airport - had been feeding the little stray but no one wanted to take responsibility for her. She became a fixture, sleeping in the hangars, leaving dusty paw-prints on polished aircraft, and even mistakenly spending the night in someone's cockpit. We went to feed her nearly every night. She had food, water, and always came running with her tail high in the air, the top folding over like a question mark, when she heard our car. When it became obvious that Plumette was pregnant, we moved to Plan B which meant bringing her home to us.

Our house with 4 cats, 3 of whom are indoor and one who stays outside, had finally found harmony after the introduction of the Howarnator two years ago. We finally have peace, and Cooper, our dog and original foundling, slipped further from Alpha dog with every addition, deferring his bed and his status to the felines. Balance - we had it - until Plumie arrived, that is.

Plumie spent her first week under the guest room bed. She had her food, water, milk, a bed, and would crawl out several times a day as we went to check on her. Slowly, I'd start to find her sitting on the window ledge, or in the laundry room, staking out a spot to have her babies, I'd decided. From what I gleaned on the net, mama cat will try and find a safe, out-of-the way spot to have her babies.

I started to leave towels and large Rubbermaid bins around the house. I introduced her to the bathtub, a brilliant spot to have tiny kittens, in my mind. I knew she would decide where she would have her kittens, but I thought it best to make a few suggestions. Twice I found her beside the toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet. More than once I found her in the laundry room behind the dog and cat food bins.

Last Wednesday, timed perfectly with 4 days off, she decided where she would have her kittens, and Eric and I could do nothing but shake our heads in disbelief. She had them on the sofa in the living room, right beside us. Yes, little Plumette decided she wanted not one, but two midwives to assist her birth, and in the most obvious location in the entire house.

We grabbed a few towels and placed them underneath her. We still like our sofa and were honoured with the trust she placed in us, because she somehow understood that we would help her. The first kitten, a large black and white "Holstein" was followed a half an hour by a little calico. Plumette rested and started to feed the little kitties. Both Eric and I were hoping that this was the end, that her litter had only 2 kittens, but the cat pregnancy planner we found on the internet lied: she rested for about and hour and a half, and then delivered 2 more, one right after the other. By the fourth kitten, she was so exhausted that she ignored the newborn, so after some Google-fu, we cleaned the placenta off the kitten with a warm face cloth, and presented Plumette with her last baby. She promptly severed the umbilical cord and nudged him into place, suckling alongside the rest of the kittens.

At 2AM, we were confident that all babies were fine. Plumette was sleeping, the babies had all latched on, and we had watched as all suckled sufficiently in our opinion. With everyone off to a good start, we finally went to bed.

The next morning, all babies were suckling, sleeping or squirming around. We could finally assess the full litter:

We have nicknamed the first kitten Piglet, the little black and white kitten who weighed in at a whopping 150g. The second kitten, Poppy, is a calico and the only girl in the bunch, she weighed in at 125g. Bringing up the rear are two little boys, Pepper, named for his salt and pepper fur, and a black unnamed boy, who both weighed in at 125 g each. We were surprised to see that one kitten wasn't black but salt and pepper the next morning. It was hard to tell in the dim light and with the fur sleeked down post-birth, so we're not quite sure of their birth order. We were convinced both were black.

Here's the kitten mosh-pit the next morning:

Eric called this his "Kitty TV". All kittens, 24/7. He sat on the sofa on the opposite side and watched them for hours.

Poor Plumette, she stayed with those kittens for 36 hours before moving. We fed her on the sofa, premium cat food drizzled with a bit of olive oil, milk cut with water, poached chicken breast warmed with a bit of bacon grease, all served to her as though we were dealing with an invalid. The only thing missing was the silver platter. Plumie meowed and we ran to her beck and call.

When I say she didn't move, I mean she did not move, not even to use the kitty litter box. When she finally went pee, I had to use 2 hands to hold the scooper to clean the box out. She was overdue. Over the next few days, we would periodically have her come off the sofa to eat, and lure her over to the litter box in the hopes she would relieve herself, but she must have a bladder made of steel. I was worried that she would get a bladder infection, but so far so good, she is using the litter box once or twice a day, which is on par with Schatzie, our other indoor only cat.

Guess which one is my favorite?

You guessed it - it's Poppy who's got my heart!

So, the other day I went to work. Eric was expected home before me, and that's when I got the following call:

Where are the kittens?

Well, they weren't under my desk at work, that's for sure.

Immediately I knew where Plumette had hidden them: behind the speaker in the stereo room. I watched her make the tour the previous day and her fascination with the space behind the speakers in the stereo room was undeniable. Sure enough, that's where she was. Her little babies were in a pile in the corner, and she was happily nursing away.

Of course I got blamed for the end of All Kittens, All the Time, Eric's favorite show broadcast from a sofa near him.

So we let her be. She seemed content and so did the babies. We peer in on them several times a day, and everyone is doing fine and getting bigger.

And today, something strange happened. Eric crouched down and reached in behind the speakers to pet the kittens. Plumette was back there with them, and as if sensing Eric's curiosity, she pushed out all the babies with her front paws so that Eric could get a good look at them. I don't think I am projecting here, she was definitely showing off her brood with pride. It was really cute to see, she is such a proud mother and positively beams when we tell her how nice and good she is.
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