So many questions - but how can I entertain a feral kitten?

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anticus

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I don't remember being told the medical term, she just explained it to us like we're idiots (because we're idiots and I asked her to). She said the infection would spread through milk to the kittens so keep them separated for 72 hours. I can't bear to separate them, so we diligently police the time they spend together. We stop the kittens from latching. We play with them, Pumpkin grooms them, feeding time is a whole thing.
 
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anticus

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We were given misinformation by the vet and are upset about it. We don't know anything though, although we are both pretty good about sorting and reasoning. We could have and should have allowed the kittens to continue to nurse. As Sarthur2 Sarthur2 said, Pumpkin would become bloated and miserable. Last night she couldn't even stand up - so we took her to the ER. Finally got her checked in around midnight (the time, not the cat) and we were up all night waiting for their call. They thoroughly examined her, expressed her and tested the milk. While she does have mastitis, it has not progressed far enough to be a danger. We have liquid antibiotics, and are relived that our sweet girl can be a good mama again. She still loves us even through the horror we put her through the past few days.

At the end of it, Mama and babies will be fine. The kittens love the wet food, although only a few of them will poop in the litter box. And we have more knowledge than we did at the beginning of the week. AGAIN - thank you for your support, counsel, and encouragement.

The medical team told us that Pumpkin was very sweet and not aggressive and couldn't believe she was ever feral. So we can do some things right.

While we laid in bed frightened, Midnight came upstairs and laid in bed with us. He has been by her side since she started feeling unwell yesterday and has been since she returned.
 

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I’m glad it’s all worked out now, and sorry that Pumpkin, her kittens, and you had to go through this. I hope all are doing well this morning, and they will all wean and learn the litter box in due time.

Thank you for acknowledging that I was correct. I have been around the block quite a few times and in certain cases may have more experience with cats than some vets.
 
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anticus

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Thank you again. The kittens love the wet food! They are also nursing again which Pumpkin needed emotionally as well as physically. At one point today the entire family were eating a plate of the wet food. Midnight doesn't need it, but a 1/4 can isn't going to hurt him - and it was lovely to watch them.
 

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I just read the entire thread and what an amazing journey <3

I know it's been a while since you posted this segment, but I did want to comment on it with a solution that may or may not work for you.
A new issue I am having is that she plays rough (ish). A medication I am on has thinned my blood a lot so every nick I become a plasma faucet. She doesn't know how to play with toys with me yet. I've purchased a bunch of stuff and she is uninterested. This may change after her pregnancy. She is only a week or so away from giving birth and I bet she can't wait. Although I am terrified.
I've found learning to hiss and ignore/walking away does wonders in telling a cat "no" without spooking them or seeming aggressive. I've recently taken in a small orphaned kitten who - as characteristic of kittens - loves to climb humans with all of their sharp little claw weapons. Giving her a hiss, removing her and walking away has mostly cured the habit. Sometimes when I hold her she will accidentally bring out her claws, but a small reminder hiss will revert back her to gentle paw mode again.
 
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anticus

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Pumpkin still doesn't know how to play and more than frustrating - it is sad. The kittens are playing, playing, playing with each other. And Midnight is playing with them! He is an unexpectedly present and involved father. But Pumpkin doesn't know how to play with them. I suspect she was orphaned early and adopted by Midnight. When she is not nursing or grooming, she just lays around. She won't even chase the laser pointer. I know she is probably exhausted, but I would give anything to see her play and be happy.

She is also in heat again. Midnight was neutered two weeks ago but I've read he can still hit the target for a month. I don't want to separate him and Pumpkin again because he is so good with the kittens. I don't think either one of them will understand. So I am just going to have to be vigilant. Her appointment is still a month away.

She isn't receptive to me any longer. I'm the one giving her the medicine, feeding her kittens, which she resents, and locking them away from her (in the playpen, which we do overnight and when we have to leave the house). She turns her back on me, doesn't headbutt me anymore, walks away when I am talking to her. Now I know how it feels when a child says "I hate you."
 

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Midnight is probably sperm-free now. Why do you not put Pumpkin in the playpen with her kittens at night?
 
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anticus

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Thanks! Pumpkin no longer wants to spend the whole night with the kittens. We planned to leave her with them yesterday and she leaped out! I am sure she would prefer that we keep the playpen door open but there are too many variables/risks.

And Midnight is sick now. I think. Ooof.

Here's another question: Can intact females tell if a male is fertile?
 
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Sarthur2

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No, but the males pick up on the heat (estrogen) cycle in females. Don’t let them mate though, just to be safe!
 
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anticus

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Whoops!

Just kidding. We are following anti-mate protocols. As I suspected, she is seducing Midnight as if he is still intact. I hope it is not super frustrating for him.
 
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anticus

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Pumpkin will play with her kittens, usually rough, and with Midnight between 1am and 4am. I cannot find any toy or game she likes. Midnight LOVES to play with the various stuffed mice, wand toy, you name it, he'll play. Pumpkin will watch but I cannot engage her. I really want to bond with her this way, plus wear her out before bedtime so Dr Wifey and I can sleep.

Has anyone else had this problem? Suggestions?
 
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anticus

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I am heartsick over Pumpkin's reversal of attitude toward us. I am stressed out all day and have stress dreams at night. In talking to a shelter vet about her and the kittens, the doctor told us that she might want to be outside again .She said sometimes you have to let them lead a full but short life. It's precisely what my wife wanted to hear - her solution to Pumpkin's depression is to let her back outside.

She will play with Midnight sometimes. They'll zoom around playing tag, or she will wave her tail for him to play with. But she won't engage with the laser pointer, which has been a sure-fire game.

Maybe Pumpkin is tired of having to take care of the kittens so much - they're 8 weeks old now. I don't know. But she is a completely different cat than she was before the kittens learned to get out of their pen and roam the house.

I don't know what to do.
 
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Joelle and the kittens

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Just read your whole (remarkable!) story! If I had to guess, she's not so much suddenly disillusioned with you, but rather the oxytocin rush from her perinatal period was making her unusually affectionate and that's just naturally wearing off now. I think it's likely not a big deal that she's disinterested in toys -- if she's not acting out or behaving anxiously she's probably just self-entertaining in some other way (or is already stimulated enough from watching over very mobile kittens!).
 

Joelle and the kittens

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I wouldn't let her back outside until she's fixed (and a couple days post-fixing for recovery). I'd also ask the vet about gabapentin (as someone mentioned earlier) to make the vet visit less stressful. After losing multiple cats to cars and owls in my childhood I am rabidly indoor-only, but if your area is safe from predators and traffic indoor/outdoor may be a reasonable option.
The shelter I volunteer at fixes kittens at 2 pounds (should be around 8 weeks; you might want to weigh them weekly using a kitchen scale to make sure they're all gaining weight), although 3+ pounds is better if you're not in a rush. Since you'll be rehoming most of them you'll want to get them very socialized to humans and human-appropriate play (i.e. hands and feet != toys). Get them accustomed to being handled, let them explore other rooms of the house (supervised) so they won't be so frightened by new environments, and if possible introduce them to other people so they'll get used to strangers more easily. For this you'd probably want to have meet-and-greets away from mama cat since I imagine she would be upset with newcomers, and kittens will pick up on their mother's discomfort.
 
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anticus

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It had occurred to me that she might have her paws full with the five kittens. She has been to the vet three times already and is okay with it. But she was feeling terrible then so I think she might associate the carrier with feeling better. At least I hope so.
 
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anticus

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Last night Pumpkin was distressed. She cried most of the night. Then she came into the bedroom and nuzzled against my wife's face, purring. The only other time she did this was the night before she gave birth, so my wife was concerned. When she reached up to touch Pumpkin, as she had the previous time, Pumpkin swatted and scratched my wife's hand really bad. Naturally my wife screamed in pain and shock, Pumpkin jumped off the bed but stayed just outside the bathroom as we were attending my wife's wound.

This behavior is puzzling. I hope someone has some insight.
 

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My experience with outside cats was also frustrating. I had one young feral we were able to tame and get to come in the house at night. After a while I decided to try to make her stay in…. Well after a couple days we couldn’t touch her anymore, she was really mad. She just had to be an indoor/outdoor cat. I feel we came to an agreement. She wanted out during the day and came in every night for 14 years. Would stay inside all day if extremely hot or cold out. She was one of the most affectionate cats I ever had, on her terms. Still miss her terribly but don’t miss the worry and stress dreams of something happening to her.
 
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anticus

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Right, I get it. Her mate Midnight helped us tremendously when we were enticing her indoors. I'm not sure if I posted this before but my wife and I believe he was born in the house before we bought it from the previous owners. So perhaps it was familiarity rather than incredible confidence that he first roamed the house so fearlessly. If we let Pumpkin go outside again (which she hasn't shown any interest in) we would have to do the same for Midnight. She cannot get along without him. He could do fine alone, but she certainly couldn't. He has protected her since she was a little kitten.
 
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