Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Whole Kitten Ordeal, Part I

These last days of Iive's ( pronounced "ee-vay") pregnancy have been very trying ones. For ages now, we've been hoping she would get pregnant and give us a litter of kittens to enjoy (we're both huge "cat people"). But I know that after these recent events, Tom will NEVER let us own an un-spayed female cat again.

I could tell Iive's labor was approaching on Saturday night. She was "nesting" around the house, following me around, and there was some discharge coming from her ladyparts. By Sunday night, we knew the time had finally come. We placed her in "her box", which we made for this purpose a couple weeks ago. She lay down and started having visible contractions. This was about 11:00 on Sunday night. Tom and I remarked about what good timing this was since he would have the day off of work, it being July 4th the next day. We both poured ourselves cocktails, and sat down around the box, excited to watch "the show."

Iive was mostly keeping her tail down over the action, but every now and then, I would steal a peek. At one point, I saw that there was a little tail sticking out! We both "awwww'd" when we saw it wagging around. It seemed a little odd that the kitten was coming out tail-first. So I ran up to the computer for the first of many Google searches that night, to see if this was normal. I found that kittens could come out either head or back-legs first. So I figured all was well.

You can just barely see the little tail poking out

I remember the several litters of kittens we had when I was in middle school. As far as my memory serves, the labors were quick and easy. Maybe an hour or two total. So when two hours had gone by, and Iive had made no more progress, we started to worry. I occasionally touched the little tail to make it start to wag again. And we'd sigh with relief that at least the kitten was still alive. We started saying many prayers to St. Gertrude of Nivelles, Patron Saint of cats (we're so Catholic!)

We don't have air-conditioning, so the house was horribly hot. All the fans were on, but understandably, Iive was still uncomfortable. A woman in labor needs to stay cool! She kept trying to get out of her box, and eventually we just let her. She labored for a while on the cooler linoleum floor of the kitchen. Then she went down to the cold concrete floor of the basement. This was the place we'd wanted to prevent her going at all costs. But Tom was starting to get really worried about her, and therefore gave in to indulgence.

We followed her down, and tried to keep her calm. All of us were starting to get pretty tired at this point, and Tom and I were asking many "what ifs". Tom ran upstairs for another Google check, and came back telling me that we could try to pull the kitten out ourselves. We got a rag, and some gloves, and I gave it a go. But all that I had to grasp was the kitten's little tail and a tiny bit of its bottom. I just couldn't get a good enough hold, and Iive was flipping out every time I tried. She was very stretched out down there, and it looked painful.

It had been three hours by this point, and we finally resolved that it was time to call the vet. This is what we had been avoiding, because we both know too well how expensive it is to visit a vet, especially for emergencies. Tom had read that 99% of cat births go without a hitch, and we were still holding out hope that Iive's would turn around.

Not many vets are open on a Sunday, let alone the 4th of July. And by this point, it was about 2am in the early morning of the 4th. Tom called an emergency animal hospital. They said we should try applying Vaseline inside of the birth canal, if at all possible. If that didn't work, we would have to bring her in. Tom grabbed the Vaseline (which I'm so thankful we actually had at our home!), and some Q-tips. He did the job, while I held down the struggling cat with both arms. Now there was nothing to do but wait for the next contraction, and see what would happen.

The next contraction came, and Iive stood right up for it. To our amazement, the kitten glided right out! We couldn't believe how easy it was.

She set to work cleaning the kitten, and eating the placenta. She didn't get very far on either job, though, because she started having a second kitten right away. We were hesitant to touch the baby with our hands, knowing some mothers will reject a baby with a foreign scent. I used one of Sly's burp clothes to pick it up, and realized that Iive had left half the placenta, still attached to the kitten by the umbilical cord that she'd forgotten to bite through. Luckily, we had already read what to do in this situation. Tom grabbed some scissors and thread. We tied off the cord, and cut it ourselves.

The second kitten had been born by this time (we think maybe they both got "jammed in the chute" as they tried to come out at the same time?). Iive didn't clean it's face well enough, so I used Sly's snot-sucker bulb to suck everything off, and help it to breathe. We also had to cut the cord for this kitten. We just threw the remaining placentas in the trash, because Iive wasn't interested in them anymore!

Both the kittens are all orange, so it's almost certain they are boys. We placed them in the box, and got Iive to lie down with them. They started rooting for her nipples, and eventually found them, and began suckling. Iive looked completely exhausted by this point, but didn't seem to be having anymore contractions.

I kept saying how surprised I was that there had only been two kittens (typically, it's around 5), and that it seemed weird that Iive's tummy was still rather large. I felt her belly, and couldn't really discern any movement in there. And she seemed to be done with the contractions. We moved the box up to our bedroom so we could be on hand during the night in case anything happened.

Having stayed up so late into the night, we slept until 10am the next morning (amazingly, Sly was willing to fall back asleep in the bed with us, after nursing at 7!). I went over to peek at the cats, and noticed something distressing. There was a bit of amniotic sac bulging out of Iive's ladyparts. There was definitely another kitten there. But she wasn't having any contractions.

We called the vet again, and they said to bring her in right away. The vet was about 25 minutes away, and I held the box of Iive and babies on my lap in the car. As soon as we got there, they took them from us and told us to have a seat. This was a really fancy and high-tech vet's office. They deal only with emergencies, and you would swear you were at a hospital for humans. They had a little child play area, and we sat in there with Sly. He had a blast playing with all the toys, and it was a good way to stay distracted while we waited for news.

The fee just for bringing her in was $125. They asked if they could do X-rays (for another $95). We said yes. About an hour later, a doctor called us back to talk to us. There were still three other kittens inside. There was no way for sure to tell whether they were alive. The vet said we should go ahead and try to induce her with oxytocin. They had us sign an agreement to pay the final cost which, at this point, was estimated to be $400-$500. A serious blow to our already-dwindling funds. But what choice did we have?

I got very matter of fact with God, and started telling Him, "alright, God, we'll do what we have to do. But you better find a way to send us a lot of money here."

To be continued...


  1. Ugh, what an ordeal! :(

    (And I had no idea there was a patron saint of cats!)

  2. oh, i'm so sorry. that is definitely an ordeal! i hope everything worked out okay for live and her babies.

    we are blessed with a fancy camera! last fall, i won a $1000 technology scholarship from Pitt. we spent $650 on a new desktop computer and the rest on a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1. it was on sale on amazon for $400 on black friday.

    i love it! even on the auto setting (which is what i use most of the time) the pictures turn out SO much better than with my cheap-o digital camera. it uses a new technology called micro four-thirds which allows it to be about 2/3 the size of a normal DSLR camera. that technology also allows it to have a digital viewfinder (like a usual digital camera) rather than an optical viewfinder like most DSLRs.

    the size and the optical viewfinder are the two biggest complaints i've heard about DSLRs. and it didn't hurt that this was the best deal we found at the time!