Tiffany Comes Home
Living with Ragdolls
Then There Were 2
Our First Litter
In My Experience...
Belle Comes Of Age
Belle Comes Of Age
Even after the trauma and worry that we had endured with Chloe’s last two litters, we were determined to continue breeding and we had much to look forward to. Belle was now old enough to have her own kittens and we had found a beautiful boy for her, Aveleigh Apollo Moonstar, owned by Joanne Gadd. In April 2004 we travelled to Joanne’s home in East Sussex, with Belle, so she could spend a few days being romanced by Apollo. We were introduced to Joanne earlier in the year by Shirley, a great friend and mentor. We had been seriously considering the possibility of finding a stud cat of our own and having researched carefully, were fully aware of the work, time and commitment involved. Having spent quite some time with Joanne, she was happy to home a male kitten with breeding potential to us, when that special kitten became available. We had our hearts set on a blue mitted Ragdoll and prepared ourselves for quite a wait until the perfect kitten came along. However when we visited Joanne in April, she had some exciting news for us. She had a litter of four week old kittens and two of them were blue mitted males. We would have to wait until the boys were about 9 weeks old before we knew if either were going to suitable for breeding but one of the babies in particular already had us smitten! He just had the most beautiful face and he was the one who came to the edge of the kittening pen to see us.
In the mean time our thoughts returned to Belle. She met Apollo and spent 5 days with him. Three weeks after mating the tell tale signs of pregnancy were there and we began preparing for the first ever litter born from one of our own VelvetSky Ragdolls. Over the following weeks we not only looked forward to the arrival of Belle’s kittens, but also the prospect of our new blue mitted boy joining our family. Joanne had been in contact often about the little man we had fallen for and after assessing him, she felt he was the ideal kitten for us. So it was all arranged, we were to collect Grayshus Orlando Mystiblu, our future breeding boy, on 23rd June, after the birth of Belle’s litter.
Hope and Anguish
Belle’s kittens were due on the 19th June and as the day approached she became more restless and spent much of her time preparing her nest in the kittening box. We had seen and felt movement from the developing kittens but Belle was not very big, even in the latter stages of her pregnancy, so we were expecting a small litter. At 7.30pm on 17th June 2004, I found Belle lying in the cat bed in our kitchen, with Chloe’s kittens who were now 13 weeks old. She did not come to me as usual when she saw me so I sat on the floor beside her to give her a stroke. As I placed my hand on her abdomen, I felt it tighten as it does during a contraction. Belle was in labour and as I carried her upstairs to her birthing box, she began to strain. Darren and I sat quietly with Belle, observing and waiting for the imminent arrival of her kittens. Within 30 minutes a foetal membrane was visible, but to our horror, the first part of the kitten to present was a tail. Belle’s kitten was breech, tail first and no sign of the feet. We could not believe what we were seeing, but we tried hard to keep calm for Belle and just sat with her gently encouraging and reassuring her. After about 25 minutes, despite so much effort on Belle’s part, she had made no more progress. It was now nearly 9pm and feeling dispirited, we called our vet.
Once again we found ourselves waiting in the practice car park, this time with Belle still trying so hard to deliver her kitten. We only waited a few minutes for Chris, but it seemed an eternity before his car turned the corner and pulled up beside ours. Once in the consulting room, Chris examined Belle and tried to help ease the kitten out, but his efforts failed. We were once again faced with the prospect of one of our Ragdolls under going an emergency caesarean and we felt numb. Belle was anaesthetised and prepared for surgery, just as Chloe had been exactly three months earlier and there we were once more armed with towels and preparing to revive new born kittens. Belle was carrying just one kitten and by the time he was born he was in a critical condition. Darren took Belle's little boy and for forty minutes he worked on him, rubbing him with the towel and trying to stimulate him to breathe. We willed the little man to live and he fought so hard, finally taking a breathe for himself. But something was very wrong. When Belle’s kitten opened his little mouth to cry no sound came out. Chris was immediately alerted to this and came over to examine the kitten. What happened next will stay with Darren and I forever. Chris opened the kitten’s mouth and then delivered us some unbearable news. Belle’s precious little boy had a serious cleft palette, a deformity of the roof of the mouth. He would not be able to feed from Belle and hand rearing him would leave him at risk from choking and inhalation pneumonia. The only certainty was that Belle’s kitten would not live more than a few days and we were faced with a heart breaking decision. Either we took him home and watched him die a slow death, or we handed him back to Chris and let him die with dignity, right there and then. I looked into Darren eyes and he, like me, was crying. In his hands lay a kitten that looked perfect to us. He was now breathing on his own, was wriggling and was trying to cry for his mum. After all Darren’s effort to revive him and the heroic battle the kitten had won, we would have to say good bye and let him die. Words are useless here, but we were heart broken, not just at our own loss, but for Belle who was now waking from her anaesthetic and would soon be looking for her baby to care for.
We called Belle’s kitten ‘Hero’, because to us that is just what he was. He was a brave fighter who had tried so hard to live for us all. Darren and I kissed him good bye and handed him to Chris, as we held onto each other for comfort. The thoughts in my head were so muddled and I felt so full of grief that I could not rationalise my feelings, but at that moment I was beaten. We had tried so hard to do everything right throughout our cat breeding journey and yet this is where we had arrived. I was certain of just one thing, that this was the end of VelvetSky Ragdolls.
Time to Reflect
We left our vets at 11.15pm feeling broken. As we drove home with Belle, the realisation that at home our children Matt and Clare were excitedly waiting for us, expecting us to return with Belle and a litter kittens just compounded the sadness. We concentrated our efforts on settling Belle and trying to comfort her as she cried and cried for her baby. We tried to keep her separate from Chloe and her kittens, so she could recover, but Belle was becoming more and more distressed, so we took her to them. She laid beside Jasmine in the cat bed and there she stayed for the whole night.
I did not sleep that night at all. How could I when all our hopes and dreams were shattered? So much was running through my head, so many unanswered questions and ‘what ifs?’ Belle spent the following day looking and calling for her kitten. She searched every room to find the baby she so needed to care for and there was nothing we could do except watch with heavy hearts. We discussed our feelings about continuing breeding our beloved Ragdolls, but we both felt defeated and very negative about the whole thing. Darren phoned Joanne to tell her what had happened and it was this call, followed by a subsequent discussion with our vet which was pivotal in what happened next. Joanne was so sad for us and understood our feelings of defeat, but she was encouraging in what she said to us and in some of her own experiences she subsequently shared with us. Her reaction and positive attitude was inspiring and gave us hope, in fact more than hope, we now had the beginnings of a renewed determination to try again. We spoke with our vet, Chris and asked his opinion. He too was encouraging in his words of advice and we spent the weekend carefully considering our future as Ragdoll breeders.
Belle’s physical wounds healed quickly, but for more than two weeks she was depressed and unhappy. She sought comfort in mothering Chloe’s kittens who were still with us at the time and thank goodness they were. They seemed to understand how much she needed them and stayed close by, particularly Jasmine who hardly left Belle’s side for the next 10 days.
It is 4th July 2004 as I write and sitting beside me is part of the future of VelvetSky Ragdolls, Grayshus Orlando Mystiblu and VelvetSky Sweet Jasmine. Still just 15 weeks old, with these kittens, along with a little blue tortie girl, promised to us by Joanne, rest our hopes for continuing our wonderful hobby. It is a hobby which has brought so much pleasure and taught us so much, but at great cost. Financially we have spent hundreds of pounds, but the emotional cost has been far higher. On 17th June 2004 we paid with part of our hearts, as we said goodbye to Hero, with great pain and sadness. But it is to him, a tiny innocent life, that I dedicate this chapter of our cat story and it is to him that we owe our determination to fight and continue our dream. In his short life on this Earth, which lasted less than an hour, he gifted to us an important lesson, to fight and not accept defeat. Hero, rest in peace our precious one and always know you touched our hearts and our lives xx.