I took in a friendly feral with newborns & have some Qs

catnappedx2

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Hi! I normally only raise neutered males, so this is an experience I haven't had since childhood, eons ago, and I need some help!
For a little background, I currently live in the rural area where I grew up. People dump unwanted animals often. We need community cats to help keep the mouse/pest situation at bay, so my county encourages TNR. We also lost all but 1 shelter, so that's a problem, too (they don't even take feral cats).
So I try to feed and TNR the homeless cats on my own dime, even though I don't always have a job because of my health. One female that's nice to me but very, very mean to my cats (attacks them for looking at her) got pregnant before I could get her to the vet. By the time I got her there, my vet said she was too far along to abort the litter to spay her. She had a litter of 6 on a neighbor's porch 9/1; I didn't find them until the next morning. They seemed fine to me, but before I could move them, 3 died. So I brought the others & mom, who I call Emma, to my spare bedroom, which is a storage room. Right now, my orthopedic problems are so bad, I really couldn't prepare the room to house kittens, but they're still very young. (Attaching Pic of kittens at 4d.o.)
Anyway, the past 2 days, Emma has been hanging around downstairs a lot. At first I thought she was just going stir crazy cooped up with the babies, but I noticed today that her breasts looked deflated. I picked her up and squeezed her nipples a bit, but nothing happened, except one of them seemed to make her mad. I had purchased a kitten-feeding kit (because she had isolated the one female kitten once & wasn't feeding her, but I reintroduced her), so I took some KMR upstairs & checked to see if each baby was hungry but they refused. I also had a dropper, and the girl did drink a little from the dropper. I moved them into a larger box, thinking maybe Emma was having trouble getting in to feed in the smaller box as they are getting bigger. Emma seemed more interested in eating her own food than feeding her babies, so I told her I'd go get her more food if she nursed while I was gone & closed the door behind me.
When I came back, she was nursing the 2 boys right in front of the door, which is clear across the room from their box! The girl wasn't in my sight, but I could hear her crying from behind some of my big boxes! I asked Emma to go get her but she just stood there, panting, so I moved the boxes & got the girl & grabbed the boys & put all 3 back in their box. I told Emma, you are homeless, if this is your way of saying you want to leave because I'm trying to help you feed your babies, the answer is no, you're going nowhere. I've been feeding Emma baby food or mama & baby food since 9/2, btw.
Emma doesn't know this, but I have zero intentions of letting these kittens become homeless community cats. When they are old enough, I'm putting them up for adoption or taking them to a No-Kill shelter in an urban area where kittens have an excellent chance of getting into good homes. Emma is also getting spayed ASAP.
I went looking for advice on what to do if the mama cat dried up before the kittens are weanable age, and the *only* similar story was Cupcake1234516's of 2006. In fact, her story was 100% spot-on exactly what I'm going through right now with Emma & her little ones. They, too, acted like they were full when I tried to feed them. When I put one of them up to her belly to see if he nursed, he tried 5 nipples before he was satisfied! You don't keep trying different nipples if you're satisfied with the ones before #5! I've been weighing them on my kitchen scale - they were gaining weight really good up until the past couple of days, now they seem to be leveling off (despite the girl looking smaller than the boys, all are around 300 gms). But still, they seem to be disinterested in the formula. I will keep trying it, but is there anything else I can or should be doing to make sure they survive? I start a new job in 2 days, but it's work from home, and it's actually a rehire from the job I was doing earlier this year, but I won't be at the cats' beck-and-call as much once I'm working again. I'm sorry for writing so much, but I don't get to communicate with too many humans these days. I can't wait for my job to start!
Btw, I do have names for the kittens. The girl is Missy, that's the calico, just like her mama. The little gray & white one is Little Benny (that was my 1.5yo George's original name, this one almost looks just like him), & the light ginger is Herb - because he's a boy, so he couldn't be Peaches LOL.
 

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StanAndAlf

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Refusing the bottle with KMR is often a normal reaction - babies of all kinds are very perceptive and can often tell what is and isn't their mama's nipple. I would persist with the KMR, they may be refusing because they don't like the taste or texture of the formula, not because they are full. Make sure its lukewarm by testing it on your wrist, if its too cold it will give them a belly ache, if its too hot it will burn them.

It sounds as though Emma is quite an inexperienced queen, and that's why she is a little all over the place. If you can take her to a vet, that would be good, as there are several issues that could be going on and affecting her milk production, mastitis being one of them. She could get very sick, or make the kittens sick. A play pen or cardboard box would also be a good investment to prevent the kittens from getting lost while they are still young, and some nice warm blankets to keep them warm in case Emma isn't lying with them.

You may also want to try toileting them once a day, by simply wiping a warm, damp tissue over their private areas a few times.

Just to clarify, when you say baby food, I'm assuming you mean kitten food, not human baby food?

Thank you for all you have done for these babies and their mumma, you have truly changed their lives.
 
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catnappedx2

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Refusing the bottle with KMR is often a normal reaction - babies of all kinds are very perceptive and can often tell what is and isn't their mama's nipple. I would persist with the KMR, they may be refusing because they don't like the taste or texture of the formula, not because they are full. Make sure its lukewarm by testing it on your wrist, if its too cold it will give them a belly ache, if its too hot it will burn them.

It sounds as though Emma is quite an inexperienced queen, and that's why she is a little all over the place. If you can take her to a vet, that would be good, as there are several issues that could be going on and affecting her milk production, mastitis being one of them. She could get very sick, or make the kittens sick. A play pen or cardboard box would also be a good investment to prevent the kittens from getting lost while they are still young, and some nice warm blankets to keep them warm in case Emma isn't lying with them.

You may also want to try toileting them once a day, by simply wiping a warm, damp tissue over their private areas a few times.

Just to clarify, when you say baby food, I'm assuming you mean kitten food, not human baby food?

Thank you for all you have done for these babies and their mumma, you have truly changed their lives.
Thanks so much for your reply!
I will start at the end. Yes, kitten food, or "mama & baby" cat food, which is what Royal Canin calls it. No human food, that's ALL for me LOL
I did warm the KMR a tiny little bit - I did do a lot of research on feeding newborn kittens, but nothing addresses what happens if things don't go smoothly. I totally forgot about stimulating their bottoms! Thanks for reminding me, it's why the cat wipes are in the kitchen right now! I have so many things happening at the same time, it's hard to remember everything.
Of course, because Emma is homeless, I have no idea how old she is. I think she had a litter right when I first met her this Spring, but I think none of them survived, idk where she had them or where she was most of the time, I rarely saw her, only in the middle of the night, really. Thank goodness she started coming around more when she got pregnant this time (not a sentiment shared by my boy cats). She does seem pretty young, though.
Taking care of homeless animals is something we did when I was a child. I very much believe in spay/neuter, but also listen to my vet, he also run!s our local wildlife conservancy. He cares about animals very much. He's on vacation this month, and we have no Humane Society or SPCA in my county anymore.
Well, I really need to get to bed, but thanks again! I will keep trying with them. I did get a feeding kit that has a bottle with imitation nipples. I also have a dropper. They aren't even 2 weeks old yet, so I'm being patient. Their eyes are open, though!
 
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catnappedx2

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Also, I do have them in a Chewy box. Emma keeps taking them out of it.
 

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Some cats are quite persistent in where they want to keep their kittens (my mom had one that kept moving her kitties to her nightgown drawer). Maybe you could put Emma's box in the place where she keeps taking them?
 
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catnappedx2

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Some cats are quite persistent in where they want to keep their kittens (my mom had one that kept moving her kitties to her nightgown drawer). Maybe you could put Emma's box in the place where she keeps taking them?
She kept putting them RIGHT in front of the only doorway into the room - because it's a storage room for me, you literally can't enter the room without tripping on the kittens. Also, she kept hiding the only female kitten behind boxes, keeping the 2 male kittens with her. She ignored the little girl's cries. It was not good.

I had a taller box, and a soft cat bed my adult cats don't like for some reason, so I put that bed inside the box and put the kittens in there & moved them into my bedroom this afternoon. I also reweighed the babies - the boys are both 12 oz., but the girl is 10 oz. She was the same weight as them just a few days ago. I was able to feed her earlier, and one of the boys, but the other didn't eat. Emma tried to bite the girl while I was feeding her & then kept trying to get at the formula, tried to eat it before the kittens! I finally had to put her out of the room.

I'm going to try feeding them again now.
 
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catnappedx2

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Well Emma & I both went up to feed them. The girl - Missy - ate a lot more than she did last time. However, when I wiped her beforehand, same as last time with a very slightly warmed kitty wipe (I warm them to just above room temperature), she had no business to come out (none of them did). Emma even tried cleaning each kitten's bottom & they had no poo or anything. But Missy did eat. So did Benny, but a little less. But the pale redhead, Herb, refused.

While I was feeding Herb was when Emma tried to get at the formula again. I was also holding each kitten on a stuffed animal that all my cats knead - it's an owl but it's furry like a cat - as I fed them, to make them comfortable. Emma jumped up on it while Herbie was on it & began kneading it & tried to coax the bottle away from his mouth & into hers! I wasn't going to allow that to happen, so I dumped her out of my lap. She kept panting, but also trying to act like she was one of the kittens!

After I finished trying to feed them, she jumped in with them & let them nurse. But I don't think they got anything from it. Idk how to tell if they are getting any milk without jeopardizing their lives. When I checked her nipples, they were dry & nothing came out of them, and the breasts appear flat.

After she got out of the box, she laid on my floor panting, shivering, & heaving. I told her to follow me downstairs to the water fountain but she refused to drink. She did eat some adult canned food, but mostly licked the juices.
For the record, there are electric water fountains on both levels of my house, she has one to herself, I keep them clean & filled with cool but not cold, clean water; and my house doesn't have central a/c but when it's warm I turn the a/c unit on as well as fans. Pretty much everything I do in my house is geared towards the comfort of the cats, even if it's inconvenient for me.
 

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Mom does not sound well. I’m alarmed. Please give mom her own dish of formula to drink. She needs the calcium. Her panting and shivering tells me she desperately needs the formula. She could have a seizure otherwise. More milk in mom will help her produce more.
I also think she needs a vet check. What do you feed her?

If the kittens were born September 1st, they are exactly 2 weeks old today. Kittens at 2 weeks only need to weigh 8 ounces, so these kittens are well over the average. They should weigh 12 ounces at 3 weeks, and 16 ounces at one month.

So they are doing fine suckling mom, and unless they fail to gain for more than a day, or lose weight, they do not at present need supplementing. The way to check this is to give the kittens a day with just mom without supplementing.

Keep us posted! C catnappedx2
 
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catnappedx2

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That's really good to know.

Missy had always been the same weight as Benny, but now the two boys are the same & she's less. What worries me is when Emma keeps separating her away and hiding her. She's been doing that for over a week, taking the boys one place & staying with them, leaving Missy somewhere else & letting her cry. This time she was leaving her in some dangerous places because boxes could've fallen on her & I don't have anywhere else to put those, that's where I store them (I have a very small, rural house, it's 100+ years old, has very little storage).

But now I've moved the kittens to a larger box in a different room, but they can't sleep there because my boy cats sleep with me & I don't want them to feel any more put out than they already do (Emma always goes psycho on them just for being in the same space as her). I think I can put their taller box back in that other room for overnight.

I'm glad to know that at least they are doing better than they should be. If I hadn't seen Emma still pregnant on the 31st, then found the babies not exactly newly born on the 2nd, I would think they are older than they are.
 
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catnappedx2

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Also, I did give Emma a bowl of formula. Idk if just one bowl has made any difference, but she was happy. I'm still feeding her kitten food, too.
 

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Let us know how they are doing tomorrow. Concerned about mom separating the female kitten, unless it’s to feed her separately. She doesn’t need to be on a cold floor all alone all night.

Also am anxious to know if they are gaining from mom or not as soon as you test it out. Obviously don’t let it go on too long. If mom has little to no milk then of course supplement.
 

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Sounds like Emma is pretty stressed. Her improved nutrition should help somewhat, but I'm troubled that she leaves the little girl alone so much. Do keep trying to supplement her feeding too.

Is it warm enough for them where the box finally ended up? The kittens should be starting to regulate their own temperature soon, but some supplemental heat from a sock full of rice warmed up in the microwave will help. It should be good for several hours at each warming. Put it in a corner so the little ones can move toward it or away as they need.
 
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catnappedx2

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They are in what is actually the master bedroom. I inherited my grandparents house through my mother when she passed from cancer in 2007 - I took care of my mom when I was supposed to be working on my PhD dissertation, and circumstances were such that I could not get back to grad school after she died, so I stayed here (as a side note, our parents bought my younger sister the house next door, where she died in a fire in 2014). Anyway, I was always used to sleeping in what was my mom's childhood bedroom, so I use the Master bedroom as a storage room. So other than the stuff stacked up in it, mostly empty boxes, it's a nicer room than mine!

We are in SW Pennsylvania - for reference sake, our county borders the one where Shanksville is, just to the West. The weather here is still nice, the room where the kittens are is so warm I sweat when I'm in there during the day. They have a furry cat donut bed in their box - I just realized I could go take a picture & attach it so you'll see how they are sleeping. I think it's actually too warm for Benny, he keeps getting on the edge of the donut, pulls the bottom up the side, and lays on the outside of it, where it's nylon! These kittens are precocious for 14 days!

Idk why Emma keeps separating Missy out. I can tell from circumstances that it's not positive. Emma is a bit psycho, though I always defend her. She picks fights with every other cat she encounters. I know it's because she's homeless & not yet spayed. It made it difficult to get her to the vet, because I'm not a "rescue," I'm a private citizen who just loves animals & has cats of her own. After I lost my 2 senior cats in late 2019, who my mom & sister had gifted me (lost them exactly one month apart; one was 15yo, the other 13yo, had them both from tiny kittens), and all the grief from all my recent losses was getting to me, I not only took in one shelter rescue, he desperately needed a loving companion, so I adopted from a good home (still in touch with the prior owner, their cat was exposed to a neighbor cat before she could get spayed), that's how I got my current two boys; then I decided to start feeding the homeless cats & it became a necessity to take them to the vet for shots & spay/neuter, health problems, etc. So it really happened by accident, out of my grief.
For my family being here in this rural neighborhood since the 1930s, beginning with my great-grandfather, my neighbors don't know me & think I'm crazy because I talk to the cats. I think they are hateful idiots and that the cats are smarter & more interesting conversationalists. When I took Emma to the vet last month I told the vet I had noticed a small lump on the right side of her face & could not figure out what it is. He put her under to give her a good exam, then afterwards told me it's buckshot - someone shot her! So when I get her spayed, I'm going to see if my vet can also remove that pellet from her face. He didn't want to do it during her pregnancy.
If it gets cold in there, I actually own an electric pet heating pad - the kind that goes in small pet cages & doesn't feel warm unless you're on it. I got it for the little pet shed I kept outside last winter for any homeless animals who wanted a warmer place to sleep. That's how I acquired Mr. Ginger (he's another story), and his best friend, Smoky. I have it sitting out in that Master bedroom just in case, but so far the babies seem to use each other for warmth.

I've had talks with Emma, explaining that I want her babies to make it just as much as she does. I think she can see that. She knows I want them to be healthy & happy. I can't wait til it's time for their 1st vet visit! My vet said unless they get sick, he wants to see them at 6 weeks, and bring Emma for spaying. I'm looking forward to that!

Pics I'm attaching #1- the sleepyheads! Clockwise from 3:00, Herbie, Missy, Little Benny. 2nd Pic is Emma & the side of the box, showing how tall it is, how safe they are! She can get in & out easily, but they can't.
 

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catnappedx2

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I often think more clearly in the early morning. This idea dawned on me this morning (pun partially intended).
Considering that nursing seems to be taking a lot more out of Emma than she seems to be able to handle - perhaps she may be over-nursing them - I'm wondering if she's decided that she can safely handle to only nurse 2, and in their culture (as well as some human cultures) the male of the species is prized over the female, maybe she's selected the boys as those she can safely handle on her own?

If that's the case, then she shouldn't mind if I feed the girl, because all I need from Emma is the stuff a mama cat does otherwise - cleaning & litterbox training and the like. I can fill in for what she can't safely handle. I told her that when I fed her this morning.
 
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catnappedx2

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Is she still moving the female out of the nest?
Well, I don't think she can. I think that's one of the reasons Emma was so perturbed with me for putting them in such a high-sided box. While Emma can get in and out easily, doing it with a kitten in her mouth is not in her wheelhouse. I looked in on them earlier, and Missy as off to one side of the box, and the boys were on another side, but they were all together inside the box. Last night I did watch Emma feed them -- and she kept looking at me like, would you mind your own business, lady? But, I told her I wanted to see if all of them were comfortable and were getting fed. Anyway, they were. I should go up there and check on them, it's been about 2 hours since I last did, I was doing some work on paperwork for my return to work.
 
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catnappedx2

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Is she still moving the female out of the nest?
Just checked in on them. Missy was sleeping next to Herbie, so they were okay. My entering the room woke them up, though, so then Herbie sat in Missy's face & they started fussing with each other, so I picked him up and moved him off his sister, so then he sat on Little Benny. Herbie is just an instigator! Last night, when I was helping Emma with feeding, she was licking Herbie's rear, he kept kicking her in the head! I told him, "little man, unless you are litterbox trained, I suggest you stop kicking your mama!" So they are silly kitties.

Emma is downstairs with the other adult cats right now. I put one of my cat's collars on her just in case she wants to go out. I need to make her another necklace/collar, I had to cut off the one I made her before because she was fussing with it. She loses regular collars, so I hand-make braided necklaces that sit down on her collarbone, like a necklace, but I include a chain to hold a tag (she lost her rabies tag when she lost the last one I made her). She can slip it off over her head if need be, but otherwise it doesn't sit up on her neck like traditional collars, which right now hit at that buckshot still in her.
 
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catnappedx2

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We’ll see if they are gaining weight or not today from just mama’s milk.
Their weights right now are: Herb 13 oz., Benny 12 oz., Missy 10 oz.

So in the past 23 hours, only Herbie gained any weight, the other two haven't lost any, but haven't gained any. Herbie didn't partake of any of the supplement, either, he's 100% mother's milk. He's also huge for his age. He keeps laying on both his siblings, like a brat. He's the one who is a light ginger - that's kind of where his name comes from. I originally called him Peaches, until I checked his sex. If he's not Peaches, he's Herb.

When I left them a few minutes ago, Missy and Little Benny were hugging each other, it was adorable!

I also measured their necks, because I'm a crafter, and I wanted to make them their first baby collars out of soft yarn, not for them to wear all the time but just for pictures. Benny & Missy have 4" necks, but Herbie's is 5". I can't wait until I try to find a home for him, I just know he's Trouble with a capital T. I'm pretty sure we're going to keep Missy, get her spayed as early as possible. I don't think Emma wants to be an indoor cat, but she might, time will tell.

Out here in the countryside, people do take care of the community cats. Our county encourages that. There's been a mouse problem for as long as my family's been here, about 90-ish years. I have rat footprints in the concrete floor of my basement from when my grandpap laid it in the 1940s or '50s. Cats roaming the neighborhood are helpful, but getting them spayed/neutered, and getting their shots, is of vital importance. Our county subsidizes if rescue organizations do it, but not if you're an unlicensed private person like me. IDK what it takes to be licensed, but I'm sure it takes more than just being a marginally-employed cat mom.

I do not want these kittens to become community cats. I want to find homes for them. I want to get them their shots, wormed, and depending on how long they stay with me, neutered/spayed. I'm hoping that my vet knows of people who are looking for kittens. If not, I will be working remotely with people from all over Pennsylvania, I'm sure I'll find someone who will want them.
 
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