1. The Mama cat might have more kittens than you think.
My most recent pregnant foster cat gave birth to nine kittens which was about four more than I was expecting. I swear I was sitting with her during the birth and staring in horror when she had her sixth and she wasn’t done. Eventually nine arrived and incredible as it was, it was a lot more work than I had anticipated.
It’s common for a cat to have three to five kittens, but this is not a hard and fast rule. To my surprise, they just kept coming. I couldn’t believe my eyes when nine tiny kittens were squirming in front of me. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.
2. The birth is intense and scary but beautiful.
I had waited around two weeks for my foster cat to give birth. I think she finally got sick of me staring at her and decided to have them. It is a bit scary because she is in pain and you can’t really do much besides giving a few herbal supplements and just being there for her. There is blood and mucus but you’re pretty quickly distracted by the quiet mews of the first kitty and it stops being scary and becomes really lovely.
If possible, find a way to be present during the birth. Use a pet cam or make sure someone is home at all times. Luckily, this mama didn’t have any complications but there was a list of things that could have gone wrong and I would have had to intervene. Make sure the organization you foster for has educated you properly for these scenarios.
3. You may have to bottle feed.
I didn’t expect to bottle feed mine and I also didn’t know how to. Luckily the organization I foster for, VOKRA, was there to support me and a good friend came over to show me the ropes. I was bottle feeding all of mine until five weeks, just making sure they all had at least some milk. Also, the bigger ones would dominate the nipples so I had to grab the ones that couldn’t get any milk and take them aside to feed them.
4. You’ll also have to weigh the kittens
Weighing the kittens is super important to make sure they are gaining weight. They should gain on average 10 grams per day. With these last kittens, some days they did, some days they didn’t. The most important thing is to make sure they aren’t loosing weight because that is when they are potentially sick or struggling to thrive. I used a simple kitchen scale from Amazon and a chart on my wall to record their weights daily.
5. The mama cat can be aggressive.
The kittens are her babies and her instincts are telling her to protect them at all costs. I’ve been pretty lucky in the past with the cats I’ve fostered but feral or scared mothers can lash out unexpectedly. Move with caution around the kittens and be respectful of her space. Make sure she has a designated area for her and her kittens so she feels they are protected.
6. Have their own room for them if you can.
Until recently I was in a studio apartment. I would hesitate to foster multiple cats in such a small space again. For one, YOU will need a break from time to time and it would be nice to close the door on them occasionally. The other thing is that there was a period where the mum was trying to hide the kittens. On three different occasions I came back home to find the kittens completely missing. She had hid them! My studio had too many tempting pockets for her to tuck away her kitties.
7. Suddenly, everyone you know will want to come over for a visit.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love visitors and I love playing host but it can be overwhelming especially since the kitties are constantly making a mess. Embrace your visitors because you’ll need people other than you to socialize the kitties. You want them to be used to people and friendly with visitors for when their adoption viewings happen.
8. It will be hard giving them away, but totally worth it.
I’m very lucky to be able to foster with an organization like VOKRA. They are great in many ways but in particular they will never allow a kitten to be adopted on its own. The cat must go with a sibling or to a home that already has a cat or dog so they will never be lonely. Even with this rule, it’s still hard watching them go. But watching these kitties become part of families is so incredibly rewarding. I love each of the families that have adopted pairs of kittens and I know I’ll be getting updates about them for years. Plus, fostering gives me the freedom to take a break, go travelling, and then come back and foster more kitties. Everyone always asks me, “are you going to be sad?” Of course, but mostly I feel grateful that they are all wanted and can bring joy to another family.
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