BIRTHING KITTENS

By Linda A. Pollack Mercer, M.D.

 

Before delivery it is helpful to have the telephone number (office and even home if you can get it) of a reliable vet who is available 24 hours a day.

 

In my kittening bag:

  • Phone numbers of vet
  • DeLee suction device or bulb syringe (as used in infantís ears)
  • Hemostat (and/or sterile suture material)
  • Sterile Scissors
  • Alcohol (to sterilize instruments)
  • Vaseline
  • Iodine
  • Digital Thermometer
  • Surgical Gloves, 4 pair, sterile
  • Dopram - V Injectible (Available from many vets)
  • Refrigerated Oxytocin - (Available from many vets if they know you)
  • Small towels or washcloths
  • Heating Pad & extension Cord
  • Syringes (10) - Five 1 cc tuberculin syringes and five 3 cc, 21 guage syringes
  • Something to euthanize kitten if born with a SERIOUS defect, such as no abdominal wall (intestines, etc. out) or spina bifida. This almost never happens, but it is always better to be prepared. (Available from many vets if they know you)
  • A heating pad
  • A list of all the above supplies is taped onto my kittening bag so I can check supplies and keep it stocked for action.
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    The Delivery

    Prior to delivery some cats will show signs that delivery is imminent (notice I said SOME). Signs include: frenzied digging in the litter box (though this CAN start weeks before delivery in some queens, even they get more frenzied before delivery), repeated squinting, grimaces, pulling back of facial whiskers, episodes of panting, and/or obvious contractions. Some queen will call to you for several hours before they go into labor.

    If you check the queen's body temperature daily during the same time period, there should be a notable drop in temperature 7 about 24 hours before delivery.

    If the queen passes the "plug" a yellow-pink material with the consistency of room temperature Chapstick, delivery is often imminent (though this is not ALWAYS the case).

    Initially pinkish-yellow fluid may be expelled from the vagina or a "bag of water" may protrude. If a "bag of water" is seen,  break the bag - the idea is much like trying to put a penny in a balloon through a small tube, it is easier if the balloon is deflated.

    My vet advises giving 1 cc of Calphosan subcutaneously when labor begins. Calphosan help replace calcium used in milk production and which is necessary for normal strength of contractions.

    If labor goes on and then slows or appears to stop, insert a gloved finger to which Vaseline has been liberally applied into the vaginal about two inches or more & palpate to see if you can feel a kitten's head stuck. Then call your vet & report & follow his/her instructions from there.

    If a kitten comes partially out (body out and head still in the canal) & then appears to be stuck, a gloved lubricated finger inserted in the anus may be able to hook over the rest and help expel the kitten (often just the anal stimulation causes another contraction & does the trick) or, often better yet, grab the looser skin at the neck with a warm facecloth and pull downward when the next contraction comes.

    Rubbing the stomach also stimulates contractions. Rub the stomach and wait if only a foot or leg protrudes (with contractions the protruding body part may withdraw into the canal before resurfacing again as the contraction progresses).

    If labor is erratic or prolonged or if abnormal bleeding occurs call the vet. If the queen seems to be trying to tell you something and labor is not progressing as you expected, call the vet. number of corresponding placentas that are delivered. If, once ALL kittens are delivered, the placentas are all accounted for, a dose of 10 units of oxytocin* is recommended by my vet to contract the uterus down and limit bleeding. If all placentas are not accounted for, call the vet for instructions. Once counted, you may allow the cat to eat one or all placentas, as it does help her replace any blood loss and does provide a source of natural hormones and vitamins that can be helpful. It is, however, not essential that she eat them.

     

    The New Kitten

    BASICS: (In order of importance)

  • AIRWAY and WARMTH: establishing a clear airway while keeping the kitten warm is crucial!
  • STIMULATION and CORD
  •  

    Airway:

    If the kitten has just come out but the placenta is still in the mother, hold the kitten in one hand and clamp the cord with a hemostat. Or, hold thumb under the cord and clamp the cord with the nail of the middle finger pressed down on cord and thumb as far from the kitten as possible. If necessary, tear the cord while taking hold of the kitten and while keeping tight pressure on the end with your fingernail (it often is impossible to get a hemostat into this small an area QUICKLY). If cord bleeds profusely, clamp with hemostat or throw a suture around the cord and tie (usually it doesnít bleed profusely) now, QUICKLY, otherwise wait until last step.

    If the placenta comes out with the kitten, place the kitten on its back with the placenta on it's stomach (to prevent blood loss into the placenta) and proceed with establishing an airway and warming the kitten - deal with clamping the cord and cutting the cord -- after the kitten is breathing normally.

    Holding the kitten's head toward the ground, with a warm small towel wrapped around the kitten, remove any placental coverings from the face and aspirate the throat with a bulb syringe several times until no fluid is forthcoming. This often provides adequate stimulation to begin breathing. Then aspirate both nares the same way. KEEP THE KITTEN'S HEAD DOWN through all the subsequent steps below!

     

    Stimulation:

    Stimulate by rubbing the body with the towel especially the along the spine vigorously with the towel, if breathing does not begin promptly, aspirate again, pull on the tongue, and stimulate with rubbing again.

    IF the kitten doesn't start breathing promptly put one (1) drop of DOPRAM under the kitten's tongue - do NOT repeat.

    Then begin stimulating by rubbing again. Keep up all stimulation efforts (rubbing, aspirating, pulling tongue) for five minutes or until the kitten is breathing properly.

    If there are wet sounds in the throat or chest despite aspiration, hold the kitten in both hands with the head of the kitten pointing toward your fingertips. Raise the kitten above your head and then swing the kitten down in an arc in front of you explosively (suddenly and rapidly) several times and then aspirate the kitten's throat again. * This should cause any fluids in the trachea to move into the throat where you can aspirate them.

     

     

    Warmth:

    If you find a mother has given birth while your back is turned and the kitten is cold, do NOT use a heating pad, even wrapped around the kitten. Nothing gets the kitten warmed to body temperature as quickly and efficiently as running warm water - get the water to warm, not hot, and put the kitten under the faucet (not the head). Since it also feels like amniotic fluid, it is more natural for the kitten and the water gets to all the nooks and crannies and r-warms the kitten rapidly (I keep them under the water at least two minutes). Then towel dry lay on a heating pad and cover with a thin towel.

    Once breathing regularly without gurgly sounds, the kitten should be placed on a heating pad. Then clamp the cord slightly closer to the body than the original tear, clip the torn end, apply iodine to the WHOLE cord and around the base, and remove the hemostat, reapplying iodine to the area that had been clamped by the hemostat. (You can get white, de-colorized iodine.)

    I advise letting the mother sniff and wash the kitten if she is not in the midst of delivering a second kitten, then returning the kitten to the heating pad until all the kittens have been delivered.