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Failure to thrive is not an option!


Isn't that just the warmest, softest pile of furlings you've seen lately? (The picture is about a week old and while I was all geared up to brave River's indignant m'rows to get some more current ones for this weekend's WCB, life has intervened. How unusual.)

The kittens grow so fast now, they look different almost from one day to the next...fat bellies, eyes opening, heads are starting to perk up when we come into the room or turn on a light. They are rapidly cruising towards fat, happy and crawling all over the not-yet-kittenproofed house.

Except for one.


Remember this guy? (Well, let's call it a guy, I haven't checked yet) The last born, the tiniest, the one I didn't call a runt because he seemed to just be a little smaller. Well, he's got issues.  Unlike the others, he's not gaining weight, something that became clear about five days ago (the 7th)  when I finally weighed them all.

Here's what I came up with:

Trubble: 286 grams
T3: 290 grams
Grayling: 296 grams
Tidbit: 216 grams

See? That's not good.

He's having a hard time with the entire concept of nursing: he doesn't connect firmly with a nipple and he hasn't figured out how to do that kneading thing that kittens do to bring down their mom's milk. This means he mostly ends up fumbling around and getting very little (if any) actual nutrition.

He's also at least as likely as not to be the one kitten not in the kitten-pile. This is a serious problem, since they rely on each other's body heat to maintain their ~100° body temperature. You can't use a heating pad to keep them warm, because  to quote the vet, "it's easy to cook kittens on a heating pad" (do NOT try this at home!) So an old sock was filled with rice to use as a kitten heater —it gets microwaved for ~30 seconds so it's warm, but not too warm (the first time I 'cooked the sock' for ~2 minutes and it came out HOT!) and laid down close to Tidbit. We also place him back in the pile when we see him by himself, but he's still alone a lot.

We also have to rescue him from between mom and the wall at least once a day; I'm thinking this happens when he misses the nipple and keeps crawling up and over River in search of...something. The search ends when he hits the bottom corner of the wall and shelf, somewhere behind mom's back. This is, of course, exhausting, so he goes to sleep there.

We started feeding him little bits (tidbit-like, see how he got the name?) of my latest creation the day I weighed them:

Tidbit food

Goat milk    1/2 cup
Egg yolk      1 whole
Corn syrup    2 tablespoons
Cream        2 tablespoons

Mix well, warm to 100°, and feed one teaspoonful every hour or two. This is only a temporary answer, real fake kitten milk should arrive in a day or two, with any luck he'll be feeding a little more by then.

Every feeding starts with an extraction team, which is responsible for diverting River's attention long enough to wrap Tidbit in a towel and spirit him away. At least once a day, there's a stop to get weighed on a shivery cold kitchen scale. This usually involves a rapid-fire dance of kitten and towel as I remember that I have, once again, forgotten to pre-weigh the towel Tidbit's wrapped in so I can't do the math without swapping towels. I'd skip the weigh-in as depressing, but we've really got to know if any of this is working.

After Tidbit 'eats' (and I do mean those quotes) I have to stroke his tiny butt with a warm, damp cotton ball until he pees. Or doesn't pee, mostly. (the day you find yourself smelling a cottonball hoping for a whiff of cat pee is an odd day indeed) Which then makes me worry more about dehydration.

He's barely feeding now, we're pretty much shoving the eyedropper in the corner of his mouth and convincing to drink it him one little lick at a time. We also added a smidge of honey-water to the mix today at the suggestion of a vet I know. Since honey absorbs pretty well through mucus membranes, I'm hoping that smearing it on his lips to get him to lick it off is working.

We've had a rough year with cats (these two are also gone, although I've not written about it)  and I promised myself I wasn't going to get attached to this one before I had an inkling he'd make it. Then he opened his eyes. ...and my resolve flew out the window.


Progress so far is dubious at best. While the rest of the kittens march onward, Tidbit isn't. He's falling behind, as the numbers from last night show:

Trubble: 344 grams (was 286)
T3: 350 grams (was 290)
Grayling: 338 grams (was 296)
Tidbit: 200 grams (was 216...and today he's 196)

   huge frackin' sigh

I'd like to believe that my kitchen scale malfs when it sees him and he's really getting fatter, but he's not. We've only gotten organized about feeding him in the last couple of days — the first few days were just about getting liquids into him — so I am aware we're at the start of tracking his progress. That mostly means he gets fed more often — more than every 1-2 hours! see why I'm not writing right now? — because, as I said earlier:

            Failure to thrive is not an option.

I promise there will be updates on Tidbit. I may have to change my name to kittenMage for the next little bit (a tidbit of time perhaps?), but I did not introduce him to you all just to leave you hanging. So check back, or drop me a note and I'll let you know when there are updates. (and if I get half an hour, maybe I'll figure out some mailing list thing to install)

(more pictures of the rest as soon as I can extract them from River's iron paw.)

The rest of this weekend's cats are over at Clare's, where Kiri is off on an adventure.

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