Tender prey – Got the Jimmy Legs

Tender prey

The Bad Mom

Along with all the usual stuff going on, a cat we had recently trapped for TNR gave birth on Tuesday. We knew she had been pregnant but didn't know how far along she was. The two kittens she produced were clearly premature, I'm not sure by how much. One was stillborn, but the other was still alive. However, the mother cat wasn't being motherly at all, preferring to get as far from the kitten as possible.

We moved them into a room to try to lessen the cat's stress level (stress is probably what mad her give birth early, so we thought stress may have been keeping her from taking care of her kitten. Well, the mom cat didn't change her tune, she just hid behind a futon. I don't know when the kitten was actually born but the situation was getting dire. We set up a box with a heating pad under a towel and tucked him in. I ran off to get kitten formula. When I got back I got him to consume a syringe full (the kitten bottle was way too big). Newborns need formula every couple of hours so I started setting my alarm. The first few feedings went well; he was eating 2 or 3 syringes full (it was difficult to tell when he was full, but he would sort of turn his nose up to let me know). I tried 'burping' him but who knows if I got that right. Finally I had to rub his genitals with a damp cotton ball to get him to 'eliminate.' Nothing really came out, but he also had been hours born without food, so I figured I would let it slide.

At around 4am I got up to feed him. He felt warm but I knew something was wrong, as he wasn't squirmy and he felt limp. His warmth had come from the heating pad; he had died. It was pretty clear he hadn't made it, but honestly it's hard to tell with such a young kitten. I've seen newborn kittens, and this guy was probably a week away from even that level. He had no fur and could barely move by himself. The thought of him managing to find his mother's nipple to latch onto, even if she had been accommodating, seemed impossible. So maybe it wasn't all that surprising. But it's still kind of sad, the little fella didn't have much of a chance.

It's possible the mother cat rejected him because she knew this; it's also possible the mother cat still has more kittens inside her, that will be born at the right time. I'm not sure what this means as she is scheduled to be spayed on Friday. This is always a touchy area for TNR advocates. We want to improve the quality of life for cats that are here now; part of this involves sterilizing cats to prevent future cats further crowding their environment. But what do you do when a cat is so far along that her kittens can survive? This makes me imagine all manner of gross surgical situations with kittens, but I'll leave that to the real vets.

Anyway, it's still disappointing we were able to save the kitten, but we have so many other cats to take care of it would have been insurmountable to do it all. Still, if we encounter any more rejected kittens, we now have a big supply of kitten formula and a little know-how which we may put to good use.


  1. jenblossom
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Kudos for caring enough to try, and for all the good things you guys have done.

  2. Suz
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    That's so sad…