As you may already know, last week I visited my sister and her husband in Portugal.
While the whole trip was extremely exciting and honestly very relaxing, I have to say that my favourite part was witnessing the neighbourhood cat give birth to her babies. Well, that’s not completely honest since I didn’t get to actually watch her give birth as she had her kittens while we were in town, but we did get to take care of her and her kin from the moment we returned.
Aramis, similar to our cat Beau, is a neighbourhood cat who has spent a good amount of time chilling in my sister’s backyard. While it seems like Aramis has an owner, since she has been seen with a cone in the past, it seems like she is primarily an outdoor cat who doesn’t spend much time at her owner’s place.
Portuguese cat owners, similar to other European cat owners, seem to favour outdoor cats to indoor cats and will leave food out for all of the neighbourhood cats to enjoy. So, it’s fairly common to see cats pass by your backyard whether or not you have food, especially if you give them lots of love and affection.
FIRST MEETING ARAMIS
Within the first day of us being in Portugal, Aramis was already seeking attention from me. She’s very similar to our youngest Kalista in that way, although Aramis likes to be held and doesn’t seem to get as overly stimulated as Kalista.
Aramis was huge when we first met her and I initially guessed that she was going to have 5 babies. She was high in spirits and didn’t seem to show any signs of pregnancy pains or pre-birth complications.
The only thing I noticed, off the bat, that was a bit odd about Aramis was the amount of mucus she had in her nose. Aramis was constantly sneezing and it seemed like she was having difficulty getting the mucus out. This sometimes happens during pregnancy, especially with Persian cats, so I made sure to clean her nose whenever I could with some wet tissues just to make sure she was a bit more comfortable.
Aramis was also experiencing some skin irritations from what I assume is a gluten allergy, since again Persians tend to be more susceptible to allergens and will commonly scratch themselves raw if fed the wrong food. We assume that the neighbours who leave out food don’t necessarily know about these allergens, but my sister has made a point to find food that is allergen-free as an alternative for cats who are experiencing similar problems to her cat Bjorn (who is also a Persian with a gluten allergy.)
The reason I bring this up is mostly that the wounds she had created from over scratching didn’t seem to be healing, which quickly changed after Aramis had her babies (but I’ll talk more about that later.)
THE BABIES & THEIR FATHER
Aramis initially had 4 babies, all white with gray patching. Their gray colouration looked very similar to the colouration of another neighbourhood cat named Athos. Athos is again another Persian, although he is much different than all the other Persians as he is much shier around humans.
Before Aramis gave birth my sister had a suspicion that Athos was going to be the father as he was following Aramis around town and seemed to be protecting her from other cats. While Aramis and the other neighbourhood cats don’t necessarily fight, they do steal each other’s food every so often. So, Athos was probably trying to make sure that Aramis was getting enough food so she could feed the newborns.
It was really adorable to watch Athos chase away other cats like Cece from the backyard, especially when Aramis was sleeping away from the food bowl. One day we even noticed that Athos had eaten from the food bowl Aramis usually eats from and had left one piece of kibble, to which we joked that he “left her some.”
But back to the most important part: THE BABIES!
As mentioned, Aramis originally had 4 babies. At first, we thought she only had three since one of them had fallen out of the cat house into a flower pot. We were immediately concerned about the wellbeing of the fallen kitten and my brother-in-law grabbed a paper towel to quickly pick up the little one and return her to her mother. We made sure not to touch any of the babies with our bare hands just to make sure that it wouldn’t cause Aramis to panic or not recognize her babies.
All four babies cried and suckled and cried and suckled for the first day which was so heartwarming to watch.
FIRST DAY EXHAUSTION
Although the babies were out, the work was not done. Aramis was so exhausted from childbirth and feeding her kittens the first day. She tried to go to the washroom a number of times, but every time she left the cat house one of her kittens would begin to cry. Aramis would rush back into the cat house to feed her kittens and once they fell asleep she would try again.
I won’t include the picture as it’s too graphic, but the first day Aramis was also covered in blood and what we assumed was the placenta was hanging from her ever so slightly. You could tell that she was trying to push it out when she went to the washroom but was having no success.
DAY TWO SADNESS
In the morning I remember waking up and rushing to see the kittens. I can’t tell you how excited all of us were to see how they were doing and to make sure that they were all still alive.
Upon first glances into the cat house, I immediately knew something was wrong. One of her babies looked like it was very unclean, wasn’t breathing and was being crushed by the other siblings. I called for my partner and siblings to see if they also agreed, but it was a bit hard to tell at first since the kitten in question was difficult to see.
My sister began filling Aramis’ food bowl and water bowl just in case she was hungry. As soon as Aramis ran out of the house we confirmed that one kitten in fact had passed during the night. We began removing the kitten from the cat house and we noticed that there was a 5th kitten covered in blood and placenta in the corner. It was then that we realized that Aramis also had a stillborn while we were asleep and that’s why she may have been having difficulty passing the placenta the day before.
Filled with sadness, our family said goodbye to the two lost kittens, though truthfully it was probably for the better. I say that with a very heavy heart as the death of any animal is heartbreaking, but the kitten who passed was clearly “the runt” of the pack and we weren’t actually sure if Aramis was going to be able to provide for all four. We also realized that it was “the runt” who was crying every time Aramis left the cat house, which caused Aramis to run back in no matter how exhausted she was.
That also being said, the cries that came from “the runt” sounded much different than the cries from the other kittens. The cries sounded like desperation and wouldn’t stop, even when Aramis was around. Aramis would try to cuddle “the runt” every so often to see if it would keep it calm, but nothing was helping.
We quickly inspected the other 3 kittens to ensure that nothing was wrong with them and our hearts melted when we saw them all cuddling together.
GETTING HER STRENGTH BACK
I would say Aramis started looking much better closer to the end of day 2. She was beginning to eat a bit more, she was using the washroom regularly, she was cuddling with us more and it seemed like her nose was getting a bit clearer.
Aramis continued to scratch and reopen some of her wounds. Although it seemed like she was scratching much less than usual and I began suspecting that her allergies were heightened by the pregnancy. We made sure to distract Aramis anytime she began scratching and we were so proud of the progress she was making.
On the third day, Aramis’ wounds began healing rapidly. Her wounds actually began patching over with skin and again her nose began getting clearer and clearer. Aramis was also spending more time outside of the cat tree and her kittens cried very, very minimally. Aramis would jump over to the other neighbours’ backyards every so often. If Aramis heard one of her kittens cry she would come back immediately and make sure that they were fed, groomed and loved.
Since kitten development takes a few weeks/months before there are any major changes there isn’t a whole lot more I can write about. I’m sure my sister will give updates on her blog, and I’ve asked her to send me picture updates every so often.
I’m just so happy I got to witness such a life-changing moment for Aramis, although I really wish that we lived in Portugal so I could watch these kittens grow up.
It also feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity for me since I’ve read up and studied quite a bit about feline pregnancies, but I will probably never witness it again as all of our cats are spayed or neutered.
The experience did, however, make me want to sit down and rethink whether or not I would ever foster in the future. Although that is not a current possibility due to condo bylaws, space in our home and overall the wellbeing of our current fur family. Who knows though, maybe there’s another pregnant mama cat I will be able to help out and watch over in the future.
I’m curious though, how many of you have had a pregnant cat? What was the experience like for you? Let me know in the comments below.