Prospect of Litter Bugs First-Time Cat Owner

Q. Boy, are we in trouble. Our cat is pregnant and we do not know what to do. Of course, we planned to have our cat spayed so that we would not have kittens. Time slipped by and now we are expecting our first litter. Because this is our first cat we do not know what to expect and are really worried about how to handle the actual birthing. Please give us advice.
A. Unfortunately, your story is not uncommon. Many well-intentioned first-time cat owners have litters of kittens before they realize that their cats are being reproductively active while exploring their new neighborhoods. The good news is that most cats have their kittens without any difficulties and without any help from their owners.
In preparation for your new family members, you should construct a maternity box and place it in a secluded area. This can simply be a large cardboard box with an opening large enough for your cat to enter and exit easily. The bottom of the opening should be 4 or 5 inches off of the floor. This will keep kittens from accidentally straying from the box. The maternity box should be lined with rags or old towels. Encouraging your cat to sleep in her maternity box now will likely prevent her from having her kittens in the middle of your bed or on your couch. At the time of birth most kittens are still in their placental sacks. Therefore, most queens tear the sacks open immediately following each birth, clean each kitten by licking it, and separate the umbilical cord if necessary. It is normal for the queen to rest for 10 minutes to an hour between the births of each kitten. Therefore, most queens take two to six hours to give birth to three to five kittens.
At any time you believe that the birthing is not progressing normally, you should call your veterinarian for advice. It is likely that if you remain calm and relaxed throughout the birthing your cat will do likewise. However, if you display a lot of anxiety, your cat will also be unduly anxious. Your veterinarian can give you additional information regarding how to handle this exciting time in the life of your cat and family.
Of course if you do not desire to have additional kittens, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your cat spayed as soon as possible following her recovery from this pregnancy. Unwanted kittens are often difficult to place in acceptable homes. Simply taking them to an animal shelter is an irresponsible way to deal with this problem.
Q. Although noninvasive arthroscopic surgery is common in humans I have not heard anything about it being done in dogs. Is this being done? It seems that humans recover much faster following these procedures than when evasive surgeries of the joints are done. I have heard that most everything done for humans is now being done for pets.
A. Indeed, some veterinarians are now doing arthroscopic surgery on dogs. This form of surgery usually only requires two very small incisions - one for the insertion of the scope that allows the surgeon to see inside the joint and one for the instruments which are used for cutting and removal of bone and cartilaginous chips. Recovery time is usually shorter for these procedures than they are for conventional surgery.
Your veterinarian can refer you to a specialist in your area if arthroscopic surgery is ever required. Most board certified surgeons are located at large referral hospitals in large metropolitan areas, or in teaching hospitals associated with veterinary colleges.
Send e-mail to or write to Pets, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest will be answered in this column.


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