Our Introduction
Tiffany Comes Home
Living with Ragdolls
Then There Were 2
Our First Litter
New Arrivals
Growing Up
In My Experience...
Belle Comes Of Age

In My Experience...

 

As I write this, we have been involved in breeding Ragdolls for nearly three years and  our journey so far has been an amazing experience, but sadly not one without heartache.  It is often suggested by those who do not know, or understand, that cat breeders are motivated by money and care little or nothing for their cats or the breed they are involved in.  “After all,” as we were recently told, “you do not have to do anything, except watch your cats push the kittens out”.  I can assure all, who take the time to read this, it is a total myth that breeding provides a lavish income and brings easy money to breeders.  For the caring, reputable breeder, it is a wonderful hobby, but one that requires great personal dedication, hard work and financial commitment.  Never have we or will we consider VelvetSky Ragdolls as a business, it is a very important part of our lives but is purely a hobby and does not provide us with any form of income.

 

Through the next chapter in our Cat Story I hope to share with you the good and bad times we have encountered so far and show that being a cat breeder, far from being a quick source of income, is very costly, not just financially, but emotionally too.  This part of our story begins with the famous last words our vet and friend, Chris, said to us....
"In my experience,  problems with cat birthing are extremely rare... I have only performed two cat caesareans in 30 years.  I am certain she will not have any problems with this pregnancy."

 

Great Expectations


Chloe’s first litter of kittens have grown into wonderful adult Ragdolls and we are so proud of them.  We cherished every minute of caring for our first VelvetSky babies and watching them thrive and blossom, so it was not difficult to make the decision to continue with our new hobby.  Chloe visited Shirley, of Peachisncreme Ragdolls again in February 2003, this time for love and romance with RagsnRiches Blue DejaVu, ‘Aubrey’, a gorgeous blue mitted boy.

 

The mating was successful and we waited with great anticipation for the arrival of Chloe’s second litter of kittens.  The very early signs of labour started on Sunday 27th April, when Chloe became restless and wanted to be with us all the time.  She is a very vocal little Ragdoll and spent the day going to her birthing box, scratching up the bedding, while telling us all about it in a series of chirrups and purrs.  By the end of  the day, there was no sign of the tell tale straining which signals that a kitten will shortly arrive and we were up with her throughout the night, observing her closely and  giving her plenty of reassurance.

 

The following morning, 28th April 2003,  at about 9am, Chloe went to her kittening box  and we could see she was having strong contractions, so we watched her carefully and waited for the safe arrival of  the second litter of VelvetSky babies.   At this time anticipation and excitement is mixed with worry and nervousness that everything will go well.  All our Ragdolls are first and foremost our pets, much loved members of our family, so we care for each of them greatly and  while Chloe was pregnant and having kittens our primary concern was always for her well being.  After about 45 minutes of pushing, a little tail appeared. 

The kitten was in a breech position, but there was no sign of a foot, so we could not help ease the baby out safely.  We observed Chloe very closely, reassuring her, while trying  to stay completely calm.  We  hoped that she would be able give birth to the kitten without intervention from our vet, but after several more minutes of straining, she had made no further progress and we were becoming  extremely concerned for Chloe and the welfare of her kittens.

 

We phoned our vet and were advised to take Chloe to them immediately.  Our vet, Chris, examined her and he decided to admit her.  The plan was to give her an injection of oxytocin, which would increase the strength of uterine contractions and hopefully help Chloe to deliver the breech kitten and any others in the litter.  Leaving her at such a time was very upsetting,  but  leave her we had to and wait at home for news.  It was a difficult wait but within an hour we received a phone call, informing us Chloe had not managed to have her kitten and so  Chris was preparing to perform an emergency caesarean. We were by now so worried about our precious Chloe, but we could do nothing but wait once more.  About 20 minutes later Chris phoned again, this time with the unexpected news that while he had been getting ready to operate, Chloe had given birth to a healthy kitten!  He decided then to give her a little longer before resorting to surgery and promised us he would keep us informed.  Still more  waiting,  but after 15 minutes Chris called again, with the news that  Chloe had given birth to another kitten, but now she was tired and was making no more effort.  An x-ray had shown there were at least two more kittens in her uterus, so now the only option was a caesarean.  We spent an agonising hour just hoping that Chloe would come safely through the surgery.  We said very little to each other and just paced up and down.  The emotions we felt are really indescribable here, but even knowing that two kittens had been born safely, was no compensation for the knowledge that our Chloe was under going major surgery.  Our heads were just full of thoughts of what could go wrong  and the implications of this.  Would Chloe and her kittens survive?  Would the two kittens she given birth to be ok without their Mum for so long?  Would she reject her kittens and leave us with the task of hand rearing them, a challenge even the most experienced breeder would be tested by?  It was certainly a worrying time and one that no one can be prepared for.  Finally the phone call we had hoped for came.  Chloe was fine, and was already bonding with and feeding her four healthy kittens.  The relief we felt was immense and we just rushed by car to collect Chloe and her beautiful kittens.  The reality of the situation was this……Chloe had suffered uterine inertia (insufficient, weak or a total lack of contractions) and although she had managed to deliver two kittens herself, she would never have managed to give birth to the other two babies.  By the time the vet operated both the kittens were distressed and it took the veterinary nurses over half an hour to revive them.  We had come close to losing at least two VelvetSky babies and our heartfelt thanks goes to Chris and all his staff for their skill and commitment in caring for Chloe and her little ones.

 

"You just have to watch the cat..."


So after a dramatic and heart wrenching six hours, Chloe arrived home with her new babies.  She was truly amazing, in spite of her ordeal and she cared for her little ones as if nothing had happened.  Her litter of two little boys and two little girls thrived well and every moment we spent with them was even more special, knowing how different things might have been.   Raising a litter of kittens from birth to the point when they are ready to join their new families is time consuming and hard work.  Every kitten is weighed regularly to check he or she is growing properly.  We cuddle our kittens from the day they are born, getting them used to being handled, so by the time they leave us they want to be cuddled and actively seek out a comfortable lap.  We start grooming them from the very early days, first just using our hands to stroke down their backs and then we start to use a very soft baby brush.  In this way our kittens quickly become used to the sensation of brushing and learn to enjoy their grooming sessions.  They even learn to happily tolerate having their nails clipped.  We teach them to be happy to have their ears, eyes, mouths etc. examined, by giving them gentle checks every day from just a few days old, so that during vet visits they are co-operative and unconcerned by the basic examination. Weaning  and litter training kittens takes time and  patience and is not always easy, but when our babies leave us they are fully litter trained and eat a healthy varied diet.  All our kittens are extremely well socialised.  We are careful to make sure they meet many  different people of all ages, other animals and that they are introduced to all the noises they are likely to encounter in their new homes, for examples hoovers, washing machines, power tools, banging doors, hair dryers, children etc.  We are proud that our efforts result in loving, affectionate kittens who settle quickly into their new homes.  Our kittens have two vet checks before they leave us, are fully vaccinated against flu and enteritis, are wormed and given a preventative flea treatment.  We take our responsibilities as breeders very seriously and for 13 weeks we dedicate a huge amount of time to our VelvetSky babies.  In addition there is the time we give to potential adoptees, over the telephone and during visits to our home, along with all the paperwork which is involved, for example pedigrees, care sheets, GCCF registrations, petplan etc.

 

All four of Chloe’s kittens grew into large, happy, healthy, kittens.  Three of them, Ainslie, Malachi and Rosie, left us for their new homes but, as we had always hoped to  extend our Ragdoll family, we kept Belle, our beautiful seal colourpointed little girl.  We were mindful, as Chloe’s kittens left for their new homes, that we had to seriously consider whether to have Chloe neutered or have another litter from her in the future.  We sought the advice of our vets and after much discussion with them, and given that the chances for the need of another caesarean was slim, it was agreed to try and have another litter from Chloe the following year. 

 

Third time lucky?

 

Spring 2004 arrived and we waited with nervous anticipation for the arrival of Chloe’s kittens, after a successful mating during January.  She always blossoms throughout her pregnancy and we are careful to feed her a well balanced, excellent quality diet throughout.  Her kittens were due 17th March 2004 and we pre-warned the vet of her due date, just incase of complications.  She was very restless for a couple of days before and because we were mindful of what had happened with her previous litter we watched her very closely and hardly slept for two days.  At 1.30am on 17th March, Chloe began to have visible contractions and she settled into her kittening box.  We hoped so hard that everything would go well and that Chloe would manage the birth without intervention.  At about 2.30am the first signs of the foetal membranes appeared.  Chloe’s contractions were strong and we were reassured by this that soon her kitten would be born.  Then she delivered the first part of the kitten, not a head as we had so hoped for, but a tail and again there were no feet visible.  As soon as we observed this our hearts sank, but we waited a little while longer to see if Chloe could push the kitten out herself.  At 3am she had made no progress and we knew then we needed to call the vet. 

 

We met Chris and his wife, Rosemary, at the practice at 3.45am.  Chloe was examined and then taken to theatre for another emergency Caesarean.  This time we could not go home and wait for a phone call giving us news, we had to stay and help.  We stood in the operating theatre as Chloe was  being anaesthetised and then  watched as Chris shaved her belly and prepared her for surgery.  I have worked as a veterinary nurse and a nurse and during those times saw many surgical procedures performed, but when it is happening to your own cat who is part of your family, then it makes the whole experience so different.  We could not be disassociated or unemotional as we watched the events unfold, because this was our beautiful Chloe, but at the same time we knew that as the kittens were born we needed to be ready and alert to revive them.  Chloe had three kittens, but all were very ‘flat’ when they made their sudden entrance into the world.  They were not breathing and we had to rub them vigorously with towels for nearly 20 minutes to revive them.   The relief we felt when one by one Chloe’s ‘little miracles’ took their first breathe was over whelming.  Each of the tiny kittens was perfect and within half an hour they were warm and maintaining their breathing well.  The sound of their little cries was so beautiful.  Chloe was neutered during the operation, so in our hands we held her very last kittens and to us there was nothing more precious.

 

We were able to take Chloe and her babies home within half an hour of Chloe waking from the anaesthetic and by 6am she was in the kittening box where she belonged, with her new little family.  We had been awake all night, but sleep seemed impossible, with so many emotions still going through our heads.  The kittens, two girls and a little boy were feeding well and Chloe seemed contented  and so at about 9.30am Darren and I fell into bed, with Chloe in her box beside our us.  I was awake within an hour and I checked on Chloe and her little ones immediately.   

 

Chloe had been  bleeding from her wound, due to some disturbance to her stitches.  It may have been that she  pulled them herself, but it is more likely that they were pulled by the kittens as they fed from here.  Even when they are so tiny they have sharp, needle like claws, which were catching Chloe's wound as they kneaded to stimulate milk flow.  So Chloe was rushed back to the vet, along with her kittens.  Chris had to admit her and we were left to take the babies home and keep them warm and fed ourselves, while Chloe was away.  

 

Chris applied a pressure bandage to Chloe’s wound and kept her at the practice for a couple of hours.  Once the bleeding had stopped she was allowed home, but the reunion was short lived as within less than an hour the bleeding had started again, probably aggravated by the kittens feeding.  This time Chloe was admitted, anaesthetised and her wound was opened up and then each layer of tissue re-stitched.  We were by now totally exhausted, but the kittens needed bottle feeding and while Chloe was only away for a few hours this was a difficult and time consuming task. 

 

Finally, by late afternoon we had Chloe back with her kittens and she lay in the kittening box feeding them, washing them and sleeping off the trauma of the day.

 

Chloe took several days to recover from her ordeal and for the first couple of days she was obviously in a great deal of pain.  She was able to feed her kittens but was less capable of washing them and toileting them herself, because the movement involved hurt her.  Quite sensibly she wanted to lie still.  New born kittens have no control over their bowel or bladder muscles and are usually stimulated to urinate and defaecate by their Mum licking them.  For the first few days we took on the role of toileting Chloe’s babies, before and after each feed, so approximately every two hours throughout the day and night.  

 

Surrogate Mum

 

It was during the first week of the kittens lives, while Chloe was so unwell, that we discovered just how amazing  Ragdolls really are.  When the kittens were about 5 days old, Belle, who was now a year old, became fascinated by the activity in our bedroom and took it upon herself to investigate.  With each of her litters, Chloe was very trusting and was happy to leave her kittens for short periods while she cared for her own needs and it was on one of these occasions that Belle discovered Chloe’s little ones.  During one of my regular day time checks on Chloe and her litter I found Belle curled up in the kittening box with the babies, washing them, toileting them and keeping them warm. She continued to help Chloe with the kitten care throughout the following days and weeks, in fact she rarely left the babies during the day, at all.  I believe that Belle’s commitment to Chloe’s kittens played a huge part in their progress and in Chloe’s recovery. Belle was a wonderful surrogate mother and as the kittens became more active and began to explore their surroundings, she watched them carefully and returned them to their kitten pen, if she felt they were not safe or were straying too far.   If we had not witnessed the concern and care that Belle afforded this precious litter of kittens and the bond she developed for them, we would never have believed such a thing was possible. But there it was before our eyes everyday and it was a beautiful thing to see.

 

Chloe’s kittens, named Alice, Byron and Jasmine did blossom and thrive, despite their difficult beginnings and they grew into three healthy, affectionate bundles of fun.   

 

We decided, now Chloe was neutered, that we would keep Jasmine, with the hope of being able to breed from her in the future so that through her, and Belle, we could continue Chloe’s genetic line.   Chloe gave us 10 beautiful kittens from three litters, all with her amazing temperament and nature and now she is retired from breeding, she will live the rest of her life with us being loved and spoilt every single day.