Birth is messy work. Little ones come into the world wet and slippery. Kittens are no different. Mamas generally don't need much in the way of assistance when it comes to caring for their babies after delivery, including cleaning; but sometimes your helping hand keeps everyone comfortable and safe.
Mother Nature has made sure your Mama cat is completely capable of dealing with labor and birth all by herself, barring complications. When it's time to give birth, she finds a safe, quiet spot and do what comes naturally. Once her babies are born, she licks them clean, disposes of the placenta and settles in to let one newborn nurse as the next kitten in line enters the world. This cycle of delivery, cleaning and nursing continues until all kittens are born.
A Helping Hand
A kitten comes out of Mom inside an amniotic sac that needs to be removed quickly to keep the kitten from suffocating. Mama usually licks the sac open to both release the kitten and stimulate the little one to take his first breaths. Should Mama take too long to tend to her newborn, you can mimic this action with a clean, dry washcloth. Gently rub the kitten's face to break open the sac and dry his face and nose, clearing out anything that may prevent breathing. Use the cloth to gently push the sac down and free the kitten, being careful not to pull on the little one's umbilical cord. Once he's free from the sac, wrap the kitten in the cloth and rub his body firmly to encourage breathing. When he begins crying, dry him as well as you can and place him close to his Mama for some snuggle time. She should remove the umbilical and dispose of the sac once her baby rejoins her.
Newborn kittens are helpless even to eliminate; they need Mama to help them go potty for the first few weeks of life. Mama cats encourage potty breaks by licking their little ones' bottoms. If you need to assist with this chore, you can substitute a warm washcloth. After every feeding, gently wipe the kitten's nether-regions with the cloth to stimulate a movement, and clean away any waste that appears. Kittens typically start going by themselves between 2 and 3 weeks of age, and you can introduce a litter box at about a month old.
No Chemicals Necessary
Although birth is messy, you won't need to worry about baby's first bath for a long time. Helping your Mama cat clean her babies requires only a few clean cloths and some warm water. No soap is necessary, nor is a sink-full-of-water type of bath. A simple wipe-down with a warm washcloth should be all that's necessary to clean the newborns and keep them healthy.
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