I want to contribute

I want to adopt a kitten!

If you are interested in one of these kittens or other cats and dogs please go to http://www.homewardtrails.org/ and complete the application process. Once your application is approved and you have met your future buddy you will be required to have a home visit. All adopted pets must be spayed or neutered by the age of 6 months and we have a strict NO DECLAW policy. Kittens must be adopted in pairs.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Donations - Chip In

Hello all:

My sincere thanks to those of you who have made a donation to the Super Litter through Chip In. As you can imagine the expense of raising a healthy litter of this size is hefty. Food, litter, cleaning and laundry alone are budget busters. The biggest expense is the potential of veterinary bills. All Homeward Trails pets are vetted before being adopted out. These expenses are foreseeable but the onset of illness like upper respiratory illness and a variety of tummy upsets can come on quickly, go through a litter, and do much damage. Having the meds and the expertise to handle these things can become expensive. Your contributions are essential to allow us to continue to save pets like this AWESOME litter.

I understand that the Chip In widdget on the site may not be registering all of the contributioins that have been made. If you think you have made a contribution that has not registered on the Chip In widget, please let me know. If you have confirmation from Chip In and can forward that to me all the better. We will follow up and get it squared away. I have trust in Chip In and believe this to be an oversight, but one we'd like to get straight. I'll report what we find.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Toddlers - VIDEO

Miss Caroline's kittens are officially toddlers. Wow, they have gotten to this stage fast! You will see in the video clip all eight of the older litter toddling around on one side of the "kitty pool" while all six of the younger kittens slept in a pile on the other side. Their eyes are bright and they look intently at you with a curious gaze. Note towards the end of the video that everyone starts mewing in response to my call and toddles towards my voice. There are the first signs of play as well...chasing a sibling's tail or wrestling while maintaining a mouthful of sibling's ear are early attempts at play.

Miss Maryland's kids are also doing well, growing and meeting milestones, while competing with the big kids is a tough task for a six ounce kitten. The little guys do sleep much more and prefer the kitten scrum (everybody piled on top) for serious nap time. Inevitably there is at least one of the big kids mixed in and when it comes time for a mama meal, Montgomery is sure to be first in line...that kitten will not miss a meal. Miss Maryland's brood has begun to open their eyes and their locomotion is halfway between the kitten swim and the toddle. I expect that they will meet some of their milestones earlier than normal because they have to keep up with the big kids.

Our two mamas are very hungry as they are processing food to make milk for the super litter. I continue to look for ways to get additional calories into them both. Miss Caroline has begun to explore outside of the kitten room and last night she begged for (and stole) some chicken that I had been eating. She knows what she needs, my job is just to go with it.

I was in New Jersey this weekend at a scuba diving show and kitty nursery duty was under my sister Nancy's capable hands. Nancy was assisted by my mom, Alice and Nancy's friend Millicent, thanks are in order to them all!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

We've moved!

The Super Litter met a milestone Wednesday night...they moved! The plastic storage container that served as their nest box was getting too small. Both mamas could not comfortably stretch out while nursing, and the two weekers were begining to need some room to toddle. Luckily, ToysRUs has its summer wading pools in stock, I bought one and set it in the kitten room, expecting that it would take a day or so for mamas to decide it was OK to make the move. Not so, they leaped into the wading pool and stretched out together. So I put the babies in with them. They seem happy with the arrangement, no one feels the need to move babies around and the big kids get to explore on tentative little legs.

Kitten development very closely parallels human baby development. As the older litter's eyes (and ear canals) are opening I have been testing their sight and hearing. I hold the kitten close to my face and make eye contact. Once I am sure the kitten is focused on me I move to the left or right continually talking and coaxing the baby. Sure enough the kitten will turn its head to follow my voice and to meet my gaze.

Up until now, locomotion has been a swimming type of crawl towards the warmth and smell of mamas body and her full nipples. The kittens then go through a period of exercising their limbs before actually testing them out by crawling, toddling and finally walking. They will lie face up, on their back and wave fore paws in the air, kick their hind legs and invite their human mom to tickle their full and satitisfied bellies. Irresistable! The crawling is pitiful. Their first attempts are accompanied by much wobbling, tentative starts and then an awkward plop followed by a pitiful cry! Of all our first litter, little Annie is the best, she is even investigating the high sides of the new nest. She will be the first to escape for sure.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Baby's First Portraits

Above Snuggling with Mama Maryland.

Right Somerset (Female. Dark Calico)

Above Kent (Female. Golden Brown Tabby)

Right Anne Arrundel "Annie" (Female. Light Calico)

Left Kent (Female. Brown Tabby, White Face)

Right Prince George (Male, White with Black Spots)

Left Montgomery (Male, Brown Tabby with White)

Enjoy the photos! More to come tommorrow. Meanwhile for you cat people...you know how little kitten kisses are the sweetest ever? Well I have plenty to share and must distribute them equally. Last night while nuzzling one of the older kittens, I brushed a little nose against my face. Without hesitation the kitten leaned in and latched onto my bottom lip, giving it a hopeful suckle. Any port in a storm, but OMG how sweet! Do you think this means I am a kitten mom for real?

Thanks to all who are following this blog. Please share it with everyone you know and remind your friends that a small secure donation on the "Chip In" widget on this blog will go a long way towards saving these kittens and many more. Homeward Trails and homeless cats and kittens everywhere will thank you!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Weights

I have supplemented Miss Caroline's and Miss Maryland's nursing. While I didn't want to start too soon, I really don't want to get behind in weights. So the little ones are taking some supplementation feeding and then topping off with mama's milk. The human helper in this picture is a friend...thanks Kathy!

Weights as of Sunday night:

Miss Caroline's Kids
Somerset (dark calico) F 7 1/4
Anne Arrundel (lt calico) F 6 1/4
Prince George (white, black spots) M 6 7/8
Montgomery (tabby, white) M 7 3/8
Talbot (golden brown tabby) F 8 1/8
Cecil (brown tabby) 7
Kent (brown tabby, white face) 7 1/4
Carroll (brown tabby, white feet) 7 3/4

Miss Maryland's Kids
Garrett (orange, white face) 3 7/8
Frederick (golden brown tabby) 3 1/4
Allegheny "Ally" (tortie) F 3 5/8
Howard (black, white tummy) M 3 7/8
Wicomico (orange tabby) F 3 3/4
Calvert "Cal" (orange tabby) M 4

Male or Female...it is just my "best guess as of today, don't hold me to it!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Chores and Open Eyes

Saturday chores mean litter box changes, bedding refreshed, floors washed and laundry done and folded. Yeah, pretty much the everyday stuff! It also meant lots of time to sit with a cup of tea and watch the super litter. Even watching them sleep is fun. Their little pink mouths suddenly erupt into a huge yawn, or they make a silent meow, or their little feet start paddling and then they hiss! Whoa...where did that come from? So let me share with you two video clips of our day...note that nursing is a full contact sport with these guys. There is a lot of pushing and shoving and kicking and scratching. And through it all the moms remain calm and serene.

We got our first opened eyes amoung Miss Caroline's babies last night...Anne Arrundel "Annie" opened one eye and glared at me as she got her dose of antibiotics. This morning most everyone in the older litter had one or other eyes opened, at least part way. We begin to see glimpses of personality...Montgomery sleeps laying on his back, mouth open; Somerset likes to burrow under her siblings to nurse on the bottom row, PG (yup, Prince George) prefers his aunt's milk to his mom's.

Overall, I am feeling more relaxed about everyone making it through this early stage. Clearly I am still on my guard...we have many hurdles yet to come, but my observation is that Miss Caroline and Miss Maryland have things well in hand...er, paw. They will let me know when they need my help and in the meantime, I'll keep weighing everyone and getting the laundry folded.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Developing a Routine

The "Super Litter" continues to do well. Everyone is growing and while weight gains were slow yesterday, everyone is moving in the the right direction. Miss Caroline and Miss Maryland are developing a routine. Both use the same nest box and nurse kittens from either litter. They will each take a few minutes to leave the nest box in charge of the sister mom and eat, stretch, dig in the litter box or just have a snooze without kittens latched on. In today's picture you can see both moms cuddled up with an assortment of kittens nursing.

I am developing a routine as well. Evenings are for kitten care. In addition to feeding and litter box, I will sometimes wash the floor, usually change and launder the bedding, weigh and check each kitten and spend some time encouraging the moms. Both Miss Caroline and Miss Maryland enjoy following me around during these duties and they are happy to get to explore the laundry room which is directly off the kitten room. It is critical that we keep things as clean as possible, little kittens have very fragile immune systems. The kitten room is quarantined from my home team and the babies will be separated from the other adults for many weeks. Visitors must wash their hands, leave their shoes outside and remove or cover any clothing that has been exposed to other animals. Once I have everything neat and tidy, meds delivered and food freshened I just sit and watch this squirming mass of tiny little lives. I could watch them all night long.

Litter Update: Miss Caroline has one golden brown tabby, one black with white chest, one tortie, one orange with white chest and face, and two nearly identical all orange kittens! I tried to use colored yarn to distingish them but it didn't work. I guess I'll go back to food color. They will get names tonight.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Kitty Midwife, A Loving Sister

This short video shows an interaction which I believe to be unique in the animal world. It shows sister cats, one actively helping the other to deliver her litter of kittens. Miss Caroline had her babies one week ago. Her sister, Miss Maryland, went into labor in the wee hours last night. She insisted on having her babies in her sister's nest box. Her sister dutifully acted as midwife. Lots of licking and purring and some panting goes on. Miss Caroline licked her sister, breaking her water and ultimately licking the newly born kittens to break their sacs and stimulate their breathing. She even chewed the umbilical chords and helped Miss Maryland to eat the placentas (yeah, I know, yuck!). In between arrivals the two sisters took naps together collecting their strength and keeping the tiny kittens warm and nursing. The one week old kittens joined the crowd and by morning all fourteen were happily nursing wherever they could regardless of mother of origin. It was an AMAZING night!

Six More Babies! Congratulations Miss Maryland!

After noting that Miss Maryland never tried to enter her sister's nest box, I found her cuddled up with Miss Caroline's kittens trying to nurse on her. Hmmm...something was up. She was indeed in labor and would hear of no options other than to have her babies alongside of her sister. I had no choice but to comply and when things got going I snuck Miss Caroline's kids out to a separate warm spot to leave room for the birth.

The amazing thing was that Miss Caroline took charge of her sister's labor. A lot of licking goes on...and both mamas did their share. Caroline made sure that each baby was cleaned off and she helped to cut the chord and eat the placenta. Both mamas rested together in between kittens with the little ones nursing on whichever mama was available. This went on all night until at some point Miss Caroline's babies (they are a week old today) got hungry and called to their mama. She brought them into the nest box and they began nursing on whichever nipple was nearest. I worried about the newborns being able to compete for a spot at the soda fountain with their older cousins, but so far so good. This is truely a super litter...fourteen in all.

Note in the picture on the top, Miss Maryland is nursing her babies and her sister's in a kitten free for all. Weights will come tonight, but of the newborns I did weigh, all were over 3 ounces so well within normal limits.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Weigh In - Everyday

We live by the weigh in. Weighing the babies everyday (and sometimes more than once a day) is CRITICAL! It is the most objective way to know if all is well or if there is some issue brewing. I try to weigh at the same time each day and since this litter is so large, with more babies to come, I am doing this in the evening. For any kitten I need to watch I will weigh in the morning as well. I use a digital kitchen scale dedicated to the kittens. It weighs in ounces or grams...I use ounces. Right now I am using a box top with a padded cushion to contain the kitten, later when they are larger I will use a small bowl or basket. The scale allows me to zero out the weight of the container (so no math needed.)
I record the weights on a computer in an Excel spreadsheet. The advatage of this is that I can store previous litters for comparison and I can make a line graph to show me the trends. In the second picture you can see the computer used for this purpose in the foreground.

Miss Maryland is my weigh in helper...poor thing she has nothing better to do while waiting for her babies. She is very curious about the kittens and watches her sister and the babies all the time. She does not interact with them in anyway...she does not go into the nest box and keeps a respectful distance. Note her tail...the tip is black and then she has a white section with a faint golden brown stripe in it. Very unique.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Emergency Vet

The day after settling Miss Caroline and her babies into the kitten room, I weighed everyone for the second time. The tiniest kitten, the lighter colored calico "Anne Arrundel" had a problem. She had a small crusty spot on her shoulder that had now turned into a nasty abcess. It was swollen and red and about the size of the first joint of my little finger. I rushed...literally ran to the Emergency Vet. I am a lay person in terms of medical issues, but I know enough to understand that an infection like that could quickly overwhelm a tiny kitten. They lanced the abcess, drained it and flushed the infection out. She had a fever but miraculously she had gained weight and was still quite vigorous. Clavamox for ten days, careful watching, warm wet compresses and keep it clean. By the next morning the wound seemed much better. There are no guarantees, of course. Annie is the smallest kitten, but she fights her siblings for her place at the soda fountain. She is scrappy and I have high hopes. I love the calicos!
NOTE: Miss Caroline was not happy with my attempt to weigh and judge the sex of her babies. She lept up grabbed the kitten by its neck and jumped down to the nest box. I decided to respect her wishes. I took quick weights but no excessive handling. I don't want to break the trust she has in me...determining gender can wait.

Miss Caroline

This lovely girl is Miss Caroline. She is a brown tabby with white. She is long and sleek and has a very long slender tail. Miss Caroline delivered 8 healthy babies on March 10. The next day they were dropped off at the Caroline County Animal Rescue where they faced a very sad fate. The awesome folks at the shelter reached out to Homeward Trails to rescue their charges and they were genuinely pleased that we could help. We honor them by naming their girls Miss Caroline and Miss Maryland...all the resulting babies will have Maryland county names (to be determined.) Miss Caroline is an incredibly trusting cat...especially for a queen (mama cat with kittens). She allowed me to handle her and her babies right away. She accepted the nest I created for her and hasn't moved the babies at all! She is calm and generous with her litter and seems to trust that I mean to help her raise her babies. Miss Caroline needs to put on some weight...octuplets can take it out of a girl! She is eating well and gratefully eats off a spoon when I offer it to her as she nurses the brood (breakfast in bed.) She will soon need help supplementing her nursing and I am prepared with bottles and KMR (reconstituted kitten milk formula.) This gentle mama cat is sharing the kitten room with her sister Miss Maryland and she allows her sister to peak into the nest box and even lets her sleep on the cover of the nest with her face inches away (picture to follow soon.) How sweet. It is unusual to raise two litters together like this. Ordinarily we would quarantine them, but these circumstances were unusual, the girls were bonded, and it seemed right!

Miss Maryland

Miss Maryland is a beautiful mac tabby, with green eyes and areas of golden brown in her fur. Her black stripes are very defined and she has a very proud tail with a distinct white section about two inches in from the tip...unusual! She would be long and sleek except that she is ready to pop with her babies. Her imminent pregnancy gives her a rather cow shaped belly which looks uncomfortable. She is extremely good natured and has bonded very easily with me. She puts up with my touching her swollen belly to feel the babies and gives me frequent head butts. I hear her calling to me when I leave the kitten room and she is already playing with my resident cats through the crack under the door. Miss Maryland is sister to Miss Caroline and she is curiously attentive to Miss Caroline's babies, watching from a respective distance. I wonder if she knows that is what she has in store for her soon?


On Saturday, March 13 I set out to Caroline County Animal Shelter with a friend to rescue some animals. We intended to bring home a pregnant cat and a few dogs all of whom were doomed to euthanasia if they were left behind. In the end we came home with 5 dogs, a pair of 7 week old kittens, and 2 sisters, one with 8 kittens and one about to give birth. Quite a haul...but they all would have faced certain death but for our rescue.

I came home with the the pregnant mom and the mom with 8 babies who were 4 days old. My kitten room is full and I can only imagine what life will be like with 8+ kittens over the next several months. Join me on the journey.