Home from the nursery
Well, today was kitten day. And I gotta confess, I'm pooped. Who knew taking care of little kittens would be so tiring? But there are 17 now and that's quite a few kittens to feed and love. (Yes, socializing with the kittens is part of the job.)
Someone asked me what's involved in kitten duty, so here's the scoop.
First you mix up some food. A blend of canned kitten food and KMR (kitten milk replacement) which you stir up into a stinky brownish goo. Then you lay down lots of towels, for kitten feeding is a messy job. Then you grab some syringes and go to the first nursery. Each kitten is weighed before feeding, and the weight noted on its personal sheet. You also note how much he/she eats in a feeding, if they resisted feeding or ate eagerly, if they're eating on their own, if they go to the bathroom on their own or if you have to stimulate them into pooping.
The feeding is basically grabbing the little one by the scruff of the neck, putting the syringe in their mouths and letting them have it. Some kittens are easier to feed than others and you will always get food on you, the towels, the table, the kitten, your hair, the floor, and anything else within reach. After the feeding (or sometimes in between bouts of feeding) comes the cuddling. That's the best part. These little guys (average weight about 11 ounces) love to be loved. They'll curl up in your lap or on your shoulder and purr, try to eat your hair, nibble on your finger, and generally get used to having people around them. Even at a few weeks old they definitely have personalities. Some are more shy, others more curious. Each is a total delight in their own way.
Once each kitten in the litter is fed and loved, they go back into their nursery and then we clean up. We change towels, syringes, disinfect the scale, the table and ourselves. (You can either wear gloves or wash hands in between litters. I prefer to wash hands so I can pet them without latex.) This is to protect the litters from getting each other's germs. The poor things have been trading a cold around so we're being extra careful with them now. Oh yeah, you also have to clean their litter box, make sure they have water and clean bedding, and are generally comfy until the next crew comes in.
And then you repeat the process with each litter. There are currently 5 litters in the nursery: one with 5 kittens, one with 4, two with 3, and one with 2. My favorite kitten, the one I christened "Tioga" still is a sweetie -- but I have to confess that the two newest litters (the really tiny ones) are almost unbelievably cute.
It's a surprisingly amount of work really and today took about 3 1/2 hours, and three people, to get through the whole nursery. We usually only had 2 people on shift but today we got a new Monday afternoon volunteer. Which, considering the population boom, is a good thing....if it had just been the two of us I'd probably still be there.
I'm doing a fill-in shift on Wednesday, so I'll get to see them all again. Now I really must go and wash my one and only volunteer t-shirt -- it looks like I've rolled in kitten chow.