Clare Mann, our Ashington receptionist has recently fostered two pregnant queens. She has kindly shared her experience.
Camembert. Aaahh, lovely, furry, blue and white squidgy little Camembert.
Not the cheese, you understand – I’m referring to one of the delightful kittens born to one of the two pregnant queens I’ve been fostering for Wadars, the Worthing-based animal rescue charity.
My first fostering experience saw me fall in love with a grumpy ginger and white boy who ended up as a permanent resident. Epic fostering fail. Now, it’s starting to look like my second stint will end the same way. With two beautiful mums, their five kittens and a later addition of two feral orphans, resistance to at least one of them is near impossible. I became a Wadars fosterer last year.
This involved a house visit from Elaine and an assessment of the suitability of my home and me. Once the paperwork and formalities were complete, I eagerly awaited my first foster cat – the aforementioned grumpy ginger and white boy. He slashed, grumbled and cursed his way into our family’s hearts (utter madness) until we adopted him as a permanent resident. He’s since relaxed and become something of a wuss!
Back to the kittens. Several months after settling Mr Grumps in, I had a call from Elaine. She had two pregnant queens who needed somewhere to stay; could she bring them around that evening? After a bit of furniture rearrangement, two beautiful girls, one black and one grey, moved in. These two cats, sisters barely out of kitten-hood themselves at 11 months, clearly have a special bond between them. Mutually grooming, sleeping curled up together and always by each other’s side, they’re friendly and lovely natured girls. They’ve settled in quickly and now greet us with chirrups and purrs, happily weaving in and out of our legs when we’re with them.
Over the following two weeks, we watched for signs of nesting, restlessness and other indications that kittens may be coming. Then, one Saturday evening, the first kitten arrived to the black queen, Dini. He was black and white. Over the next few hours, two more arrived, both black, one of each sex. By midnight, Dini was settled and purring in the birthing box suckling her kittens, her still pregnant sister, TJ, purring by her side.
Three days later, TJ’s labour started. By lunchtime, one grey and white boy kitten had arrived. Unfortunately for TJ, however, things didn’t go as smoothly as they had for her sister. After a few more hours of unproductive contracting, she was brought into the surgery for a Caesarean section. Our vet, Richard performed the surgery and two more kittens were born. After 45 minutes of revival techniques on both kittens, one, sadly, died. The survivor is another bluey grey and white boy – Camembert.
After 45 minutes of willing a little scrap to survive, you can’t help but become attached. Elaine at Wadars has agreed for Camembert to become another permanent member of my family (another fostering fail – or success now he has his forever home?). TJ was spayed while still under anaesthetic. When she’d recovered sufficiently, I brought her and her kitten home.
We’d left her first kitten with Dini where he was suckling along with Dini’s own litter. TJ was still uncomfortable from her surgery and didn’t want to stay with her kittens. She kept moving into a separate bed on her own. I hoped that once she’d recovered all would continue smoothly. I needn’t have worried – the next morning in the ‘maternity’ room, Dini and TJ were lying next to each other in the birthing box, all five kittens suckling from both mums, regardless of whose was whose.
It’s been fascinating for me and my family to see the kittens’ daily development and witness the wonderful relationship between TJ and Dini. They’ve shared the job of nurturing the babies between the two of them. If one of them wants to get away from the demands of ever growing, clambering, squeaking, suckling kittens, the other steps in and takes over. They’re a very loving pair of sisters, so I really hope Wadars can rehome them as a pair and not have to separate them.
Our fostering experience got even richer when, about two weeks after the kittens were born, two feral orphaned kittens were brought into the surgery. Apart from hand rearing, these two babies’ only chance of surviving was to find a feline foster mother for them. Nurse Chloe immediately thought of Dini and TJ, so, with Wadars’ consent, the feral babies met Dini and TJ.
Amazingly, within half an hour of joining the kittens, the two newbies were completely accepted by Dini and TJ. They were about half the size of the exiting quintet but their eyes were open, so we think they’re about one week behind in age. They looked so tiny as they tried to latch on to Dini and TJ to suckle and were constantly being pushed out of the way by the bigger, stronger kittens. Because of this, we had to supplement the mothers’ milk by bottle-feeding with proprietary kitten milk. After several days of this, the two newcomers became stronger and plumper themselves and more of a match for their slightly older ‘siblings’.
We continue to watch the kittens growing and playing and developing their individual characters. The experience has evoked the full spectrum of emotions, from anxiety and sadness to awe, happiness and joy.
It’s also reminded me of the importance of neutering pets. Instead of rehoming two cats, Wadars has to find suitable homes for nine (excluding Camembert). And this is just one case for one charity. Other fosterers and charities everywhere all have similar stories to tell – and they’re all working hard to place unwanted pets into loving homes. If more animals were neutered, they’d avoid the pain of giving birth and the risk of surgery or even death. In turn, charities like Wadars and others across the country could spend more of their valuable time and resources on other needy cases.
Clare Mann – Receptionist