Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My cat, Smokey, gave birth to five kittens. They’re about 10 days old and they just started meowing loudly. It’s driving me insane! Please help!
Siouxsie: Well, Katrina, most kittens don’t make all that much noise unless there’s something wrong. They’re like human babies: They cry when they’re hungry, uncomfortable, or scared because their mother isn’t around.
Thomas: Of course, vocal breeds like Siamese may be an exception to this rule. So if your kittens are of Oriental breeds, you may just have to put up with the crying.
Dahlia: Let me tell you a little bit about the life stage your kittens are in right now. Their eyes are just opening and they’re just starting to be able to hear — so their world just got a whole lot bigger and more scary. It may take them a while to adjust to this, so they may do a bit more crying than usual.
Siouxsie: Mama’s been the midwife to several litters of kittens, and she says that all of them were quiet except for a young mother cat’s first kittens. In that case, mama cat didn’t have enough milk and two of the three kittens died before Mama figured out what was going on. She bottle-fed the third kitten and he survived.
Thomas: This video shows a litter of healthy 10-day-old kittens. If your litter is behaving like this one, they may be OK, if a bit noisier than these guys.
Dahlia: If your kittens really are crying a lot, it could be a cause for concern. If something is wrong, your kittens will make “alarm cries” like the hungry kittens in the video below. I’ve never had kittens, but even my ears perked up and I came running to see what was wrong when I heard this!
Siouxsie: You should be feeding Smokey kitten food while she’s nursing her babies. She needs the extra nutrition and calories to produce enough milk to keep her babies healthy and developing as they should.
Thomas: But even if Smokey has enough milk, the kittens may be having trouble feeding. If they have a cleft palate or they’re weak because of an illness or other congenital defect, they may not be able to get the nutrition they need.
Dahlia: Here’s another video of a 4-day-old kitten making an “alarm cry.” Unfortuntely, in this case, it turned out that the kitten was sick with a congenital defect.
Siouxsie: We’d definitely recommend that you contact your vet, even if the kittens are acting healthy. They should all go in for checkups anyhow. They’ll probably need to be dewormed (almost all kittens have roundworms when they’re born) and your vet will be able to give you a schedule of the vaccinations they’ll need.
Thomas: And while we’re talking about the vet, we urge you to please get Smokey spayed as soon as the kittens are weaned!
Dahlia: There are so many homeless kittens in the world. Shelters are overflowing with them! Please don’t add to the problem by letting your cat have more babies.
Siouxsie: The kittens will be pretty much fully weaned by 8 weeks of age and should stay with their mother until they’re 12 weeks old. After the kittens reach this age, Smokey can be spayed.
Thomas: Schedule the spay ahead of time because Smokey could go into heat very quickly once she’s done taking care of her kittens.
Dahlia: If you’re concerned about the vet costs, contact your local animal shelter. If you’re planning to find homes for the kittens anyway, the shelter may work out a fostering arrangement with you, which will allow the shelter to pay for their vet care.
Siouxsie: We hope your kittens are healthy, and we hope we’ve been able to help you figure out what kind of meows your kittens are making. Remember, these little ones are like human babies: they need lots of nurturing and care, and they need to be in the best possible environment.
Thomas: There are a lot of things you’re going to have to do in order to make sure your home is kitten-safe, because once they start walking, they’re going to get into, under, and on top of everything!