In September, we had a lovely female tabby cat come in. She was a stray and heavily pregnant. We named her Lucy.
It was clear when Lucy arrived that kittens were imminent as she was rather large! We tried to guess how many kittens she might have. Four is a common number, but between us, the guesses were four to six kittens bearing in mind that Lucy was quite a small cat.
However, she kept us waiting a full two weeks before she went into labour. We noticed she had gone off her food and she was starting to ‘nest’. A queen will start to scratch up blankets or an area that she has chosen to give birth to make it a ‘nest’ for her kittens to keep them warm and dry. Unusually, she gave birth during the day which made it extra special for the staff that were working that day to watch some of the birthing. Most queens will give birth under the cover of darkness so that they are less vulnerable.
We always worry a little bit when a cat gives birth because there can be complications. It's always best if we don't have to intervene but there are lots of things that can go wrong.
Lucy gave birth to her first kitten around 11am in the morning, luckily she gave birth on the open bed in her unit which made it easy for us to see everything was okay. Then gradually, over a five-hour period, six more kittens appeared - a total of seven kittens!
Many litters of kittens of have been born at Raystede but seven is the largest litter we have ever had. Interestingly, it was almost like she had separated the colours of the kittens out. She had 3 pure white kittens, 2 ginger kittens and 2 tabbies. All were born without any help from us, although she did keep swapping beds to give birth. We initially thought Lucy had six kittens in total but when we checked her covered bed the seventh kitten was tucked away in there.
Lucy was a great mum; it was obvious that this was not her first litter as she knew exactly what she was doing. She wasn’t overprotective of them as many queens are, which makes our job much easier, in fact, she was very relaxed about the whole event and would follow us to the kitchen for her dinner which made it easy for us to check that the kittens were all thriving. Many queens will not go far from their litters and some can be very protective about them being handled, but Lucy was a very trusting mum. After 2 weeks of watching them grow, 'Lucy and the kids' as they were affectionately known, were sent to a foster home.
Kittens are born deaf and blind but after a couple of weeks their senses start to develop and it is very important for them as domestic cats to be raised in a family home where they can experience the routine and noises of a normal home. In our experience, kittens raised in a rescue centre tend to be more nervous and timid, meaning they have difficulties adapting to a more domestic environment. While we can try our best to handle them and get them used to people, they become much more confident in a home.
Once Lucy’s kittens reached 8 weeks they were ready to be weaned from their mum so they came back to us for their health checks and vaccinations. They were now ready to find homes too!
We have to say this litter of kittens were a fabulous bundle of fun and our foster carer has done a superb job raising them. They are all bright happy bundles of fluff, extremely cheeky at times, especially the boys, and it is such fun to watch them playing and learning. It is always a bittersweet time when they go off to their new homes, as much as we are pleased that they have grown up safe and well and that they have lovely new homes to go to, we are always sad to see them go. We re-homed this litter as two pairs, and two went to homes with another cat already there as they were such a sociable bunch it seemed a shame to rehome them separately. One of the girls went to a member of staff who lost her elderly cat this year, and she is now living happily with a dog.
We try so very hard to match all our cats to the right homes as they are often passed around various homes before they come to us.
Lucy also went to a lovely family and is a very happy girl without all those kittens to look after. She has been spayed so she can relax and enjoy life in her new forever home.
We are so grateful to the kind people who brought Lucy in to us, if she had given birth to her babies outside or in a derelict building there is a high chance that some of them wouldn’t have survived especially with a litter so big and their future wouldn’t have been so promising. By bringing her to us we have rescued eight cats from what could have been a very difficult and probably short life in the wild, they have all spent Christmas safe and warm in their new forever homes.