Meet the newest residents at the Casa. 4 little bits, just 36 hours old and their Mama. It's late, so this will be short. STScI colleague, Sara, and her neighbors are working hard to round up the strays in their neighborhood and find them homes. Neighbor Jean called me saying they needed a place for a new mama and her brood and I said yes. So around 9:30 this evening our, as yet unnamed, new family arrived.
I've debated how much to tell you, but I'm just going to out with the whole story. Mama allowed me to pet her and weigh her brood (4.4-5.4 oz). They were still in the carrier she appropriated for birthing, with the dirty linens. Unfortunately, as soon as I transferred the kittens to a clean box, Mama took off under the bed. (Yes, I have a bed in the basement, we set it up anticipating another foster group!)
She's frightened. I left them alone for over an hour but she didn't rejoin her babies and won't let me approach her. I've heated up a rice "snake" and put it around the kittens for warmth and cranked up the heat in the casa. I put a piece of the birthing bedding near the front of the clean bed to give Mama a scent marker, too. The kittens appear quite content, have piled up and are sleeping. I'll set the alarm for 3am and see how they are making out.
In retrospect, perhaps I should have just let her stay in the birthing box until she was more settled, but she seemed to be doing so well. Just in case, I set up 3 other nesting boxes around the basement. I'll post the update after I check on them. I've not had this happen before and, of course, I'm concerned about the little ones. With any luck, Mom just needs some time to calm down. Purr for us, please!
6 am update - When I went down Mom was under the bed again with a little one suckling! I don't know if he crawled out to her (doubtful, the lip of the box is large, but possible) or if she took off under the bed when she heard me coming and he stayed attached. I think the latter because soon he was mewling as though not liking that cold tile floor.
I could just reach them so I put the baby back in the new bed with his warm and sleeping siblings, and added a newly warmed rice snake. Took a couple of minutes to try to make nice with mom. Amazingly she allowed me to stroke her head and scratch her chin (I could just reach her head) and she didn't try to move off, which would have been easy enough. The whole time she stared fixedly at the new baby bed. With the kittens settled down, I decided to give the little family their privacy again. Here's hoping 8 am sees them all cuddled in together.
9 am update - It still doesn't look like mama has been in with the babies. I am officially nervous now. I moved the new bed into a kennel, with litter and water and food, hoping that some enforced proximity would work. She came out from under the bed and when I went to pick her up to put her in the cage with them, she totally freaked. Yep, she bit the crud out of me. And back under the bed. Not good. I called Doc Andrew's office and tech Jenn suggested I just let them be, keeping an ear out for distress sounds from the kittens and call the office again after 3. And hi myself off to my doc for antibiotics, of course. On the plus side, every time I've gone down, the kittens were warm and sleeping and don't seem to be distressed at all.
I'm so very miffed with myself on the lack of judgement in trying to pick her up. (And why did I move their bed? I know cats don't like changes. Sheesh!) Sleep deprived, I guess, but she had let me have a nice long scritch session with her so I think I was lulled into a false sense of security on handling her. This is kind of reaction is new to me so if anyone out there has experience with a spooked mama, please do write: hubblespacepaws (at) gmail (dot) com. Keep purrin for us, please.