Feral gave birth and we got them

tandl

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I swear, every time I think I’m getting into the groove of caring for ferals/TNR I get a new challenge. We had one female feral that we had been unable to trap and I knew she was pregnant but didn’t think she was super close to her due date. Last Tuesday morning I went out to feed the other ferals (her bro and sisters who I have TNR) and I heard a loud newborn mewling. We have a carrier on our deck, as well as several
Warmed houses and an insulated house. The carrier was on our deck couch. I look down and there is a newborn kitten right outside the carrier screeching. I was so shocked. No experience with newborns here! Before, the mamas would go off and have their litters in the woods and then come back for food, and ultimately bring their kittens around too-and we’d try to TNR (or we kept a few…). I gently placed the kitten back in the carrier (I immediately saw mama in there) and zipped it up and took it inside. Staying outside in that spot would’ve been a disaster—grad central station for all of the other ferals, plus opossums and raccoons roll thru at night, plus if my kids are out playing…I knew it wasn’t good. And of course I was thinking if I can get her and babies now…then I already have them when it’s spay time! I will not have to do 6 more trapping attempts (which I am really really bad at). Brought her upstairs to our top floor bathroom, which is quiet and I can keep my other house cats off of the whole floor. Put the carrier in bathtub layered with towels, quickly set up some food/water and litter for mama, grabbed one of our nest cameras and put it up so I can see them, and then left and freaked out about my having 5 newborns and a feral unexpectedly. Mama is remarkably calm and loving with us. She trusted me enough before to get petted and played with when she came up to our house for food,
but was always the more ‘feral’ and skittish of her litter, so I was worried she would freak out once inside. So far she loves getting attention and wants our affection. She ate some food and used the litter the first day. I’ve been offering her mother/baby cat wet food, kitten wet and dry food, and some non-kitten wet food that I know she liked from outdoors. Second day she wasn’t coming out to eat so I put a dish right next to her in the carrier. She scarfed it up. Now she wants that all the time—she’ll eat fairly well if I put it right next to her, but the food I leave outside the carrier gets ignored. That’s frustrating as it means I'm spending a decent amount of time up in the bathroom. But, so be it. I turned the A/c off to that floor, so room temp is around 70-75. She was spending much of her time with the kittens in the carrier, so I felt like they had her body heat. In the past 2 days though she leaves them fairly often and hangs out in other parts of the bathroom. She does go back in to
nurse, but im worried about their body temps. They sleep all piled together. I bought one of those microwaveable pet heating discs and have put that in the carrier but the kittens don’t tend to stay on it. I also have one of those k&h brand pet electric warming pads — it’s big enough that it would fill up the whole carrier and I know you want to leave some ‘unwarmed space’ so I would have to rig it half hanging out. Should I do that at this point since she’s leaving them — often for an hour at a time?

And finally a question about kitten weight and feeding—I ordered a newborn kitten scale online so I could weigh them. I can see them nursing, but I know gaining enough weight is vital. I got the scale Sat, weighed them yesterday and today, and the smallest only gained 7 grams. The other 4 gained only 1 or 2 grams-they were already ahead of the smallest by 10-15 grams. I don’t know their birth weights as I didn’t have the scale until day 4. I did purchase KMR and a hand-feeding kit just in case. Do I need to supplement these babies starting now? Their weights are between 170-186 grams today and they are 6 days old. Will supplementing mean they start to refuse mamas breast? I’m having flashbacks to my nicu son who had to be bottle supplemented and never got back on the breast…

mama has been eating a little less the past day and a half. She had been eating 1.5-2 cans 3x/day for a couple
of days, but yesterday and so far today has been eating less—maybe 1/2 can 3 times a day plus some small amount of dry food/treats. She is drinking water and using the litterbox—but maybe 1-2 poops a day max.

definitely most concerned with whether or not I need to pull out that KMR and learn how to bottle feed today!
Thank you for reading all of this—this is not how I thought I’d be spending the next couple of months but I know I’m her best chance right now and I’m certainly not going to let her down!
 

StefanZ

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I swear, every time I think I’m getting into the groove of caring for ferals/TNR I get a new challenge. We had one female feral that we had been unable to trap and I knew she was pregnant but didn’t think she was super close to her due date. Last Tuesday morning I went out to feed the other ferals (her bro and sisters who I have TNR) and I heard a loud newborn mewling. We have a carrier on our deck, as well as several
Warmed houses and an insulated house. The carrier was on our deck couch. I look down and there is a newborn kitten right outside the carrier screeching. I was so shocked. No experience with newborns here! Before, the mamas would go off and have their litters in the woods and then come back for food, and ultimately bring their kittens around too-and we’d try to TNR (or we kept a few…). I gently placed the kitten back in the carrier (I immediately saw mama in there) and zipped it up and took it inside. Staying outside in that spot would’ve been a disaster—grad central station for all of the other ferals, plus opossums and raccoons roll thru at night, plus if my kids are out playing…I knew it wasn’t good. And of course I was thinking if I can get her and babies now…then I already have them when it’s spay time! I will not have to do 6 more trapping attempts (which I am really really bad at). Brought her upstairs to our top floor bathroom, which is quiet and I can keep my other house cats off of the whole floor. Put the carrier in bathtub layered with towels, quickly set up some food/water and litter for mama, grabbed one of our nest cameras and put it up so I can see them, and then left and freaked out about my having 5 newborns and a feral unexpectedly. Mama is remarkably calm and loving with us. She trusted me enough before to get petted and played with when she came up to our house for food,
but was always the more ‘feral’ and skittish of her litter, so I was worried she would freak out once inside. So far she loves getting attention and wants our affection. She ate some food and used the litter the first day. I’ve been offering her mother/baby cat wet food, kitten wet and dry food, and some non-kitten wet food that I know she liked from outdoors. Second day she wasn’t coming out to eat so I put a dish right next to her in the carrier. She scarfed it up. Now she wants that all the time—she’ll eat fairly well if I put it right next to her, but the food I leave outside the carrier gets ignored. That’s frustrating as it means I'm spending a decent amount of time up in the bathroom. But, so be it. I turned the A/c off to that floor, so room temp is around 70-75. She was spending much of her time with the kittens in the carrier, so I felt like they had her body heat. In the past 2 days though she leaves them fairly often and hangs out in other parts of the bathroom. She does go back in to
nurse, but im worried about their body temps. They sleep all piled together. I bought one of those microwaveable pet heating discs and have put that in the carrier but the kittens don’t tend to stay on it. I also have one of those k&h brand pet electric warming pads — it’s big enough that it would fill up the whole carrier and I know you want to leave some ‘unwarmed space’ so I would have to rig it half hanging out. Should I do that at this point since she’s leaving them — often for an hour at a time?

And finally a question about kitten weight and feeding—I ordered a newborn kitten scale online so I could weigh them. I can see them nursing, but I know gaining enough weight is vital. I got the scale Sat, weighed them yesterday and today, and the smallest only gained 7 grams. The other 4 gained only 1 or 2 grams-they were already ahead of the smallest by 10-15 grams. I don’t know their birth weights as I didn’t have the scale until day 4. I did purchase KMR and a hand-feeding kit just in case. Do I need to supplement these babies starting now? Their weights are between 170-186 grams today and they are 6 days old. Will supplementing mean they start to refuse mamas breast? I’m having flashbacks to my nicu son who had to be bottle supplemented and never got back on the breast…

mama has been eating a little less the past day and a half. She had been eating 1.5-2 cans 3x/day for a couple
of days, but yesterday and so far today has been eating less—maybe 1/2 can 3 times a day plus some small amount of dry food/treats. She is drinking water and using the litterbox—but maybe 1-2 poops a day max.

definitely most concerned with whether or not I need to pull out that KMR and learn how to bottle feed today!
Thank you for reading all of this—this is not how I thought I’d be spending the next couple of months but I know I’m her best chance right now and I’m certainly not going to let her down!
Some answers. 7g raise is ok, the others - you may wait and see one day, but prepare to supplement them.
As they have momma, its not sure they will wanna bottle. You may find its easier with a needleless syringe, or a dropper. - This is a little tricky, so train at first. But still, may be easier than with a bottle....

When I began with advising, it was thought once they began with bottle, they wont want mamma. So the situation become often quite delicate...

But with time, it become more and more clear, they ALWAYS want momma if momma is there. Its more pleasant if nothing else.
So, do supplement them as much as they need. If mamma has any milk, they will get some milk anyway, even if you do supplement them more or less in 100% of their need.

The typical daily ratio is about 8ml of kmr or goats milk / 28 grams weigh a day. More if they wish, but shouldnt be much less.
So a kitten of 100 grammes shouls typically get about 30 ml a day, say you give meals every second hour, 12 meals, about 2,5 ml a meal.

Its good if they add 10+ grammes a day. Somewhat less may be ok, but if its much less - you should do something.

Goats milk is a good supplement for momma! And if necessary, kittens too.
 

Sarthur2

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These kittens are doing just fine with mom! No need to supplement at all yet.

If the smallest is 170 grams, they already all weigh a good bit more than the minimum of 4 ounces required at 7 days old. So it’s not all about daily gains IF their weights are good overall, which yours are.

As long as they keep gaining and meet their milestones, they should be fine. They need to weigh 8 ounces at 2 weeks, 12 ounces at 3 weeks, and one pound at one month. Your smallest is already almost 6 ounces at 6 days.

As far as mom eating less, she is also doing fine. She’s not outside in the elements and has plenty of food so she’s slowed down a bit (and is enjoying being catered to). She’ll eat more some days and less others. She sounds good and leaving the nest for an hour or so a few times a day is fine. She needs the breaks and she clearly knows her kittens are in no danger.

Continue with the small heat pack. The big one sounds too much. You’ll be able to put the A/C back on in a couple of weeks.

It’s fantastic you got mom and babies inside! Relax, enjoy, and keep us posted!
 

Dazzcat

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These kittens are doing just fine with mom! No need to supplement at all yet.

If the smallest is 170 grams, they already all weigh a good bit more than the minimum of 4 ounces required at 7 days old. So it’s not all about daily gains IF their weights are good overall, which yours are.

As long as they keep gaining and meet their milestones, they should be fine. They need to weigh 8 ounces at 2 weeks, 12 ounces at 3 weeks, and one pound at one month. Your smallest is already almost 6 ounces at 6 days.

As far as mom eating less, she is also doing fine. She’s not outside in the elements and has plenty of food so she’s slowed down a bit (and is enjoying being catered to). She’ll eat more some days and less others. She sounds good and leaving the nest for an hour or so a few times a day is fine. She needs the breaks and she clearly knows her kittens are in no danger.

Continue with the small heat pack. The big one sounds too much. You’ll be able to put the A/C back on in a couple of weeks.

It’s fantastic you got mom and babies inside! Relax, enjoy, and keep us posted!
Just let mom do her thing and try not to visit the kittens too much, as mom might not like it and decide to move the babies elsewhere, I made that mistake and mom kept her second litter hidden until the babies were nearly grown up and hard to gran
 

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Wow T tandl you were so incredibly lucky! I've always had to wait until feral kittens were old enough to follow their mothers to the food before I could begin socializing them. Actually, I have found formerly untouchable female cats to be more tolerant of people just after their kittens are born, so it's a great opportunity for the mother too.

You're getting some great advice from Sarthur and StefanZ already. I'm just following along with the thread because it's going to be such a good one.
 

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Sounds like you are doing a great job. Just let mom do her thing. I don’t think you need to supplement yet if she is feeding them. Eventually add solid food when they are old enough. You should handle and interact with them daily so they are socialized to people. Thanks for saving them❤
 
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tandl

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Thank you very much everyone! I’m relieved that nothing i posted raised any red flags and that everyone thinks they are moving in the right direction. I did weigh again yesterday evening and again just now, and everyone continues to gain. One kitten gained 9 grams in about 16 hours! The others had smaller gains, but gains none the less.
It really is amazing that it worked out this way. Mama (Ember) is from a litter of 5 that was born in our backyard. Now here is the part where I will give so much back story that most people don’t care about, but since I love all of the cats and find the behaviors of our ferals fascinating, I think the stories are cool. Feel free to skip though 😹 Her Mama (we called her the very original name of Mama White Paws) had had another litter that she brought to our yard when they were probably about 6 weeks. 4 gorgeous white w/dark ears and tails — the vet called them Siamese Lynx but while perhaps there is some Siamese in there, it’s definitely from muddied waters. It took a long time but we caught all four of that litter, spayed/neutered and intended on socializing and adopting, but they were older and while comfortable with us, never really became great with others. I certainly don’t mind any cat having any personality-I don’t demand lap-cat-Ed-ness from anyone who doesn’t want to, so I knew that they would be appreciated in our house at least. So…we kept them all.
In the meantime, Mama White Paws continued to evade all trapping efforts and ended up having another litter of 5 about 17 months ago. Again, it took us a lot longer than I would have hoped to trap any of them, but we finally got 3 out of the 5 and had them fixed and released them.
They continue to make our decks/patios/yard their home base. They will often come running when I call, and love attention. Out of that litter, 2 females were much more skittish. One, July, never ever let me touch her. Feral to the core. Ember got to the point where I could pet her, but she was pretty guarded and skittish. When we got her siblings fixed we could see she was pregnant. She disappeared for a time and then came back to eat hurriedly and then rush off again, so we knew she had babies stashed somewhere in the woods.
When they were probably 6 weeks old she brought them. One female and 2 males. Unfortunately this was not too long before we had a long family trip planned, and I admit my attention and time was elsewhere. I kept saying we would catch the kittens after our trip. But halfway through the trip, we noticed we were only seeing one kitten on the outside cameras. The other two have never returned. I’d like to think Ember has multiple safe houses that she begs at and that she left those 2 there because our house is already fairly busy with other feral cats…but I know the chances are those babies are not around. The male kitten who did stick around here has been our focus to trap, and I thought he’d be easier than he is. Right around this time, I noticed Ember getting bigger. She was also becoming much more comfortable with me—scared of my husband, but would come when I called her often, stuck around for longer affection and play sessions etc. still too quick to try to throw into a carrier, and still too smart to fall for any food in a real trap. I was surprised to see her prbc she must have gotten pregnant the same week she stopped nursing — her other kitten is maybe 5 months now? We even tried to contact some of the ‘official’ feral cat rescuers in our area to get some help as we were failing in all trapping efforts, but they were very busy and didn’t really have much to offer. I didn’t think ember was so far along, but was dreading the knowledge that we were likely going to encounter the same cycle again…her disappearing and then reappearing with babies after several weeks. With our track record of trappings that are bumbling and take too long…it is a big blessing that Ember decided to give birth in a spot where I could so easily grab them all at once. I am thrilled that Ember will never have to go through this again and can go back outside with her sibs and live a happy feral life. And her babies will definitely be socialized and adopted out.
I have also been pleasantly surprised with how comfortable Ember is with us. I thought she may want us to leave her alone, but she actually seems happiest when we are in the bathroom with her. She comes up seeking lots of affection. I have put a small cat tree in here so that she has some levels and places to rest, and a few toys. She definitely spends a good amount of time outside of the carrier. She nurses regularly but will often jump right out again after a nursing/grooming session when the babies are asleep. It’s interesting to me how sometimes she completely ignores the kittens cries—and other times she responds right away. Obviously there are different cadences and meanings that aren’t noticeable to my ear.
here are a few pictures-
First one is today. The others are from a couple of days ago. The snuggling kittens just slay me.
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Sarthur2

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You can also google a grams to ounces conversion chart and use that. It does the math for you. 😊
 
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tandl

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I think your little feral mom has decided to become a stray who is looking for a home with you. So wonderful. :heartshape:
ha ha I’m guessing she will be happy to be returned unencumbered by kittens or a uterus to her outside life. I think she is tolerating her detention only bc of the babies. When we had her sibs inside pre & post surgeries they were tolerant but not happy. We joke that our cul de sac is feral heaven, bc we have two neighbors who are also cat lovers and welcome visitors with food and warmed cat houses. Ember’s sibs are at our place daily and in between visits they are off in the backyard or woods doing their cat thing. When it gets cold we have 3 electric-warming houses on our deck, and we also have an outdoor fireplace we tend to keep on for many hours when it’s very cold, and that heats the patio up enough so that any cat sleeping in front of it is very happy. The kittens will absolutely be adopted out as they will be socialized from day one. With 9 current rescued housecats we are up to our housecat limit - as much as such a limit should exist 🤣
 

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You do have such an electric IR terass heater? If not, its a convenient way to warm the outside. Both for you to have your coffe outside in cold evenings, and for your cats to find some warmth....
And they are terrific too if you get some prematures or sick weak cats.
 
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tandl

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You do have such an electric IR terass heater? If not, its a convenient way to warm the outside. Both for you to have your coffe outside in cold evenings, and for your cats to find some warmth....
And they are terrific too if you get some prematures or sick weak cats.
We have a gas fireplace that is both inside and outside-hard to explain, but the pics below shows the fireplace from inside our house (complete with some of our housecats). The other side of the fireplace is on our deck, which is covered in that spot, and where we have couches and the warmed car houses-the second & third pic gives a glimpse of that. Yes, we did not build that part of our house envisioning it would end up being taken over by feral cats, but that’s what happened🤣. The fireplace puts out a good deal of heat—even outside when it’s very cold, being right there by the fireplace is definitely enough to help the cats. We can’t leave it on 24/7, but usually turn it off during the day when the cats are out doing their thing, but turn it on at night when they are more likely to be hanging out/seeking warmth.
 

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tandl

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I have a couple of questions about when (ans how) I should reconfigure the space so that everyone has room to grow. Mama Ember and the kittens have been largely confined to a bathroom since the kittens were born. Mama Ember is almost certainly over the confinement. I have put a small cat condo/tree in the bathroom so that she has some different places to be when she doesn’t want to be in the bathtub carrier. Outside of the bathroom is a space that is the top floor of our house, but it doesn’t run the whole length of our house. Still a decent sized room though. This room has always been a kids playroom/movie/video game/some storage kind of room. So yes, it always looks a bit haphazard and messy. And we learned to keep the shelves bare whenever we had foster cats as they’d jump up and knock anything on the shelves down. We have kept other foster cats up there but all were much older.
When I can, I stay up there and open the bathroom door so that ember can explore. And she has a few times. I have not left the bathroom door open when I’m not up there as I’m concerned she may try to move her babies. While I have tried to block off spaces under the tv table etc. I know cats are great at finding openings. Should I start leaving the door open all of the time/even when I’m not monitoring or should I keep her confined for a bit longer?
I’m posting some pictures to show my current bathroom set up, and the space right outside the bathroom. The bathroom is small, but it’s really the only one we have that will be quiet and private in our house. The room outside of the bathroom has two sections but it’s not possible to really isolate either side of the room. The part of the room immediately outside of the bathroom is pic 3 tv and couch etc. then the room goes around as shown in pic 4 & 5 to the space where I have two animal playpens already set up. Originally the playpens were set up as a holding area when we were trying to TNR an older kitten-haven’t caught him yet but I left the playpens up there.
I am thinking at some point one of the playpens will be good to put the kittens in as they get bigger and need more space, but still are little enough that they need to be contained. I can leave the door open so that Ember could come and go. Does that sound like a decent idea? If so, should I first put them in the small or just use the large playpen? And at what age should I make the switch? The kittens are 10 days old today, and still fine in the carrier in the bathtub, but I know they will grow quickly so I’m trying to plan ahead. Would love any ideas of what to do to give mama some more space to escape to, while also making sure babies are safely contained.
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Again, thank you! Nice to have some people to get advice from since this is brand new to us.
 

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What an awesome room! That looks bigger, brighter and better equipped than some cat cafes I've been to.

It's quite normal for mother cats to move their litters to different nesting spots several times in the first month or so. If they were outdoors moving the litter would mean there is less chance of the nest getting infested with fleas and less chance of it being found by predators, as the older a nest is the stronger it smells.

Be prepared for Ember to move her kittens if you leave the bathroom door open. Is it possible to leave the playpens open and covered with a blanket in case she decides to more them into one of those? Or set up some alternative nesting spots?

If left to her own devices Ember is probably going to choose behind the couch, cats being the way they are and everything.

Have you been able to make a spay appointment for Ember yet? If she starts getting really anxious to go back outside it would be useful to have an appointment for her, so you don't have to keep her confined for too long. Mother cats can still nurse their kittens after being spayed. You could ask your vet about a flank spay if they have a spay appointment before the kittens are fully weaned.
 
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