Saturday, June 25, 2011

2:00 am feeding and fussy-kitten-sitting

Lori,a friend of mine who is a vet tech asked if I could watch some bottle babies until Monday evening so she could go to a friend's graduation party. She was fostering the kittens for a shelter. So my bathroom is hosting a rubbermaid tub full of furballs this weekend.

She said they were tough feeders (scream! turn face away! scrabble madly with front paws! keep mouth shut!). Been there, done that. It used to distress me, but after about 20 years of it, you get over it. Lori is used to it, too.

You'd think a hungry kitten would want to open his mouth and eat, but oh no! Without mom to sooth them, they can get quite cranky and unhappy.

For basic kitten care, the Kitten Rescue page has good info.

Here is my recipe for turning cranky smelly kittens into happy well-fed purr buttons (if they are strong, wiggly and warm ONLY):

A: Get as much dinner down them as you can. This means taking advantage of every single kitten scream you can to poke that nipple in their mouths and get a little bit of formula in there. (Note: when I say "squirt" I mean just a bare mouthful) Tip the head back, gently open the mouth from the back corner (cut your nails), slide the nipple in, and give a tiny bit of forumla. Do not fight the kitten. If he is seriously fighting you, just give him a squirt, move onto the next kitten, and come back to him. If you fight the kitten, he may aspirate formula, and he will hate being fed. You need to be sure the hole in the nipple is just right so you won't drown them if you press on the bottle.

There are plenty of things you can do in a bathroom (clean your toilet; get a load of laundry going) to make this "not a waste of time." Just keep rotating between screaming kittens as you get set up for the....

B: BATHS! Kitten baths are pretty simple at my house. Dawn dish detergent (the plain kind), lots of clean warm towels (throw them in the dryer beforehand), a small plastic comb to get poop out of the fur, and a hair dryer. I just squirt a little Dawn on the kitten and put them under faucet with nice comfortable warm water running. I keep the kitten's face and head out of the water stream, suds her up, and rinse her off, rolling her back in forth in my hands, making sure the belly and private parts get lots of rinsing to reduce urine scald. The kitten is going to scream. The kitten may poop or pee. But the kitten will be clean! Right before the bath is over, I take a wet wash cloth and wash the kitten's face, chin and chest.

Towel dry (face first after that chin-wash) by rolling back and forth and tousling the kitten gentle in the towel to get as much water off as possible. Making it a nice gentle rubbing massage. You don't have to treat them like crystal but there is a balance between getting all the innards moving by rubbing and rolling gently, and not rubbing too hard. Don't break them!

Blow dry (carefully!). Dryers are noisy but they get the job done pretty quickly with neonates. You need to hold the dryer far enough away so as not the burn the kitten, and turn it off to towel the kitten periodically. Be sure your bare hands are on the kitten at all times. If the dryer is too warm on your hand, it is too warm on the kitten! The plastic comb or a soft baby brush will open up the fur so it dries faster.

C) As soon as a kitten is bathed and dried, give her another dose of food. You can even give a mouthful now and then while drying the kitten if you are fast. You don't want the kitten to sit wet and cold. As you bathe the rest of the kittens, give all of the fussy ones a mouthful of food when you put the next kitten back (in a nice clean bed with nice clean towels).

When all of the kittens are bathed, run the blow dryer over the kittens together in their tub because they are sure to be damp. Be sure the tub will be warm enough when you put a sheet over it for them to sleep. Almost always this will mean using a heating pad beneath it. During very hot weather, you may not need a pad. But it's important to be sure. I have a thermometer I can put right in with the kittens. It's easy to chill or fry kittens if you "make assumptions" about what you "think" the temperature is in an enclosed container--especially damp kittens.

Before you cover up the kittens, give everyone a mouthful of formula again so they go to sleep with the taste of good formula (not soap!) in their mouths. Fussy kittens should get as many drops as you can get in there. Kittens who have eaten well should not be forced to eat more. Wipe their mouths with a tissue or washcloth so formula does not cake and dry on them.

Basically what you want are clean, warm, full, well-massaged, TIRED OUT kittens.

D) LEAVE THEM ALONE in a quiet dark room. Do not jostle them. Do not let people look in on them. This is crucial. Check the temperature once you are sure they are asleep (usually about 20 minutes). Let them sleep absolutely undisturbed for 3 or four hours. (Note: if you have just set up their tub, you may need to quietly check on the temperature a few more times to be sure it's not getting too hot/cold).

E) Be sure you have a clean towel, a towel for your lap to feed the kittens, and kitty wipes (or a warm damp washcloth) before you sit down to feed the kittens next. Lift them out of the tub, current stinky towel and all. Put a new clean towel in, and replace the kittens. Get rid of the stinky towel so you can enjoy your feeding session. Sit each kitten on your lap to feed him or her. Sit them (one by one) on a hand towel or old t-shirt on your lap so they can grab on and feel warm and secure. I guarantee they will eat better than they did earlier. Feed the kitten, massage her with the towel, rub her all over (with special attention to the belly and bottom of course) with kitty wipes. If the kitten is still not sucking down formula in an uninterrupted manner, don't worry. Give her mouthfuls of food as you clean her. If the kitten fusses, just give a mouthful and stop. Again--don't try to fight the kitten. Just squirt, clean, squirt, massage, squirt, put back in the box, and go onto the next kitten. Each time you put a kitten back, give another bit of formula to the fussy ones.

Don't freak out if kittens won't suck on the bottle. Just keep calmly giving fussy kittens a mouthful each time you move to a new kitten. This way, they will all get enough.

The only time this is a pain is when you have a single kitten. You don't have lots of kittens to rotate with so it's easy to get bored and frustrated, and your single will be distressed because he is all alone. In that case you are going to spend more time giving him little bits of formula, and he should be gently stroked, massaged, and breathed on. You will have a very clean bathroom by the time he is full, keeping yourself busy. Which is good, because there is nothing stinkier than a bathroom with neonate kittens in it.

With this particular batch of kittens, only one would settle down and drink in an uninterrupted manner during their first feeding. During their second feeding, every single kitten took the bottle and sucked on it. The key is getting them through one session where they are full, clean, massaged (so the innards are moving) and tired (so they sleep soundly, ready to wake up and eat), and following up with regular meals, cuddling/massage, and a warm clean bed.

Happy days!

NOTE ON BATHS: Only strong, warm kittens should be bathed. If your kitten is cold, underfed, or flea ridden, the kitten must be warmed up in a gradual and controlled manner. Fleas should be combed off rather than washed off. If you take a cold kitten and stick him under warm water, the kitten can get shocked by warming up too fast. In dire situations (maggots, filth, etc.) where a bath is absolutely needed, at least take an hour to warm the kitten up in a dark box with a heating pad.

SECOND NOTE ON BATHS AND FEEDING: Absolutely every kitten rescuer has their own opinion on kitten feeding and kitten baths. If you are confused because you get conflicting information, don't worry about it. That's just how we are. Read as much as you can, and use your brain.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kittens in the house

I got a call from feral-cat-lovers up the hill (I won't share their name, lest someone dump cats on them) that a neighbor had been caring for a stray cat, who had been dumped with her sister the year before. The sister had been killed by a car. This little stray had survived, earning her keep as a mouser, and giving birth to four little munchkins. The neighbor couldn't afford to fix five cats, so mom and the kits are here. Mom will get spayed and go home, no longer a "stray," but owned, and the kittens will stay here, up for adoption.

There's something to be said about having them walk in the door at the "utter cuteness" stage: six weeks old.

This look on this gray tux kitten's face is the same look his owner will see when he is 20 years old and ruling the house as an old man.

If food doesn't work, drugs will

So the kitty whose owner died, who was left to roam Shelter Valley, and who was rescued because neighbors were concerned about her, finally walked aaallll the way into my trap. She doesn't like wet food, and dry food is probably available on every other porch in the park, so she probably wasn't ravenous. What finally overcame her wariness? Fresh and dried catnip. I pulled a plant out of my yard, and brought along about two cups of dried catnip I had put up about six years ago. I poured the full two cups under the trap behind the pan, put in a plate of dry food, and crushed the fresh catnip on top. I then covered the trap with a pillowcase to hold the catnip smell in.

Bingo! I'm glad she went in, because I was beginning to despair that I would run out of gas money before payday. Luckily the very caring neighbor was willing to shut the empty trap at night to spare me a drive out.

She is very scared. The neighbors had heard a previous owner of the cat mention once that he wouldn't mind having her back, so they are checking to see.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Do you foster for a 501(c)(3) animal shelter or rescue?

Some of your donated expenses may be tax deductible.

The evolution of t-shirts

Maybe I should say "evolution of the middle-aged body" instead.

T-shirts are a staple for any woman who has to do any dirty work, but a few years ago when I caught a glimpse of myself in a standard t-shirt as I passed a mirror, it seemed quite obvious they didn't fit me like they did when I was 116 pounds and stick thin, rowing for crew in college.

The collar now looked harsh and tight. The shirt itself was now too long. It hit the hips (I didn't HAVE hips in college) and hitched around unevenly. The hemmed arms looked too square on a figure that was, quite frankly, square itself.

I discovered a pair of scissors easily turned a t-shirt into something I could wear comfortably again. I just cut a good four inches off the bottom, cut off the hem on the arms, and more carefully cut the ribbed trim off the neck.

The arms and bottom will roll up about another half inch in the wash, and will look even, even if you weren't exact in your trimming. The neck on most t-shirts has double-stitching, so if you just cut between the stitching, the neck will still look "finished" but will have a more relaxed and feminine look.

It's not a big change, but it's just enough.

It's still pouring out, so all my outdoor tasks are on hold. I have instead decided to clean house, take new photos of the adoptable cats, and get some email done as well. I may as well share as I go.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Catching up - Memorial Day

Right before Memorial Day I picked up some mulch for my annual "mulch the monument" session at Nichols Pond in Spencer. Unfortunately the skies were turning threatening when I arrived, so it remained more mulching than weeding.

As I ripped open the bags to beat the rain, the orange cat from Donna's hairstyling came over to say "hi." He is a downtown cat who visits regularly by the door of the Parkview Restaurant and the school.

He's friendly without being obnoxiously affectionate. Someone told me his name, and I have forgotten it. Maybe someone local will read this and leave it in the comments.

He lounged around while I worked, but he, too, was casting an eye at the dark skies and rumblings of thunder. As I finished up, the thunder grew louder, and he wisely headed home.

This was the kicker. Instead of immediately crossing the road, or walking all the way down the sidewalk to the point across from his house and crossing there...he walked down to the painted crosswalk, stepped off the curb and stood quietly waiting until the cars stopped, and crossed between the lines to the other side.

I had my flip video camera. Did I think to take video of this? Of course not. Instead I stood there laughing saying "Is he really doing that? No. No, he is REALLY DOING THAT!"

I'm sure he's learned this from the kids coming home from school who always stop and cross there, and any number of other village folk he has accompanied during the day.

I wonder what the people in the cars thought?

Monday, June 06, 2011

What happens to the cat when a poor man dies...

...and no one in his family wants a cat?

She gets left alone, outside, to fend for herself. She followed her man around outside like a faithful shadow, they say. She is spayed. I'm told there was a big feeder full of food inside the house, so she was well cared for. He didn't even have a winter coat, until a neighbor gave him one. It sounds like maybe all they had was one another. And now she doesn't even have him.

She is scared and growling. She scratched the neighbor who tried to get her into a carrier to take her to the TCSPCA. The SPCA set a trap for her but she did not go in.

She came down the steps and let me pet her head briefly, before lapsing into growls. She ate a bit of the wet food I gave her.

I've left a trap (with the back door removed) and a bowl of dry food. The neighbor will feed her in the trap each morning for a few days, until we get her used to it.

If worse comes to worse, I can net her. I hate doing that, because it freaks them out so badly. Hopefully she'll go in a trap, or come to trust me enough that I can give her a push into a crate. One way or another, since she let's me touch her, we'll get her caught.

Sun and cats...spring turns rapidly into summer

The weather has still been, for the most part, dreary (when not stormy). A few days of sunshine did struggle through this spring, and Jack and the Leewit did some basking. I might have to make this photo my wallpaper on my computer to remind myself that yes, every now and then the sun DOES shine. Thanks, Mary, for sending it. I'll need it to banish more central NY gray skies.