The pregnant cat, when she realizes that the birth is near, creates a comfortable habitat for kittens: usually a quiet, dry and warm corner, hidden from prying eyes and easy to defend.
The house cats, on the contrary, feel protected within the domestic walls, so much that very often they choose as den where to give birth their kennel or the corner where they usually sleep.
As soon as the first babies come to light, the cat licks them thoroughly to clean them and at the same time promote their breathing.
Immediately afterwards she breaks the umbilical cord with her teeth and eats the placenta (this act is a legacy of the cat’s wild origins, of the time when it was absolutely necessary to make all traces that could attract predatory animals disappear).
After performing the same ritual with each kitten, the mother washes herself meticulously, then lies down next to the kittens, to spread the warmth of her body, and encourages them to get closer to the udders for the first feed, pushing them gently with her snout.
At the moment of the birth, the kittens are deaf and blind, but their extremely developed smell serves them to find the udders of the mother.
They, on the contrary, react immediately to unknown smells by meowing.
As soon as the kittens come into contact with their mother’s udders, a lively fight begins to “grab” the nipple, which is soaked in the particular smell of each kitten.
During the first two days the kitten feeds on colostrum, contained in the mother’s first milk, which is a substance that transmits to newborns the antibodies necessary for survival during the first ten weeks: after this period the kittens develop their immune system.
During the first two days the cat practically never leaves her young. She may be absent just enough time to eat, drink, take care of her needs, but she inevitably reaches the kittens after a few minutes.
The cycles of sleep are invariably altered: the newborns, in fact, need to be nursed at least every two hours; immediately afterwards the mother cat has to lick their belly to stimulate digestion and evacuation.
The cat instinctively licks and eats their excrements as the young are not yet self-sufficient in the first weeks.
The cat’s first teeth come out when her eyes open: the kitten has had her milk teeth since she was eight weeks old; this explains why she is completely dependent on her mother before then.
The cat’s final teeth come out between the twelfth and eighteenth week: his is a carnivorous tooth, with small incisors and more developed canines and molars.
During the first days of life, the kitten simply eats, sleeps and curls up against its mother. Its eyes will only open completely between the first and third week.
During this period, the mother cat may decide to move the brood, even several times, to another place, responding to an instinctive need to ensure better protection to the young.
Kittens begin to drag themselves on their little legs during the second week, starting to walk during the third week and running during the fourth or fifth week. In addition, at four or five weeks, kittens begin to wash themselves.
At this stage, the bonds between kitten and mother begin to dissolve. Although the mother cat always breast-feeds her cubs so that they receive a balanced diet, they are now able to feed themselves on solid food.
Mama cat watches over her kittens from a distance, this distance becomes more and more marked as kittens become more confident in their abilities.
The bonds, with the time, weaken, but if the mother keeps a daily contact with the young, she is able to keep maternal feelings even when the little ones have become adults.
It often happens that a cat continues to bring food to her grown-up children.