We were asked to take in a stray cat last week, who is either an ex-farm cat or has been dumped. The lovely tabby girl was quite clearly pregnant, but we didn't think she would be ready to deliver for a week or so.
Imagine our surprise on Sunday afternoon when one of our volunteers went to stroke her and found a tiny newborn kitten in her bed.
Over the next hour, Zelda had two more kittens, with our delighted work-experience student quietly watching her - what a great story she will have to recount in class this week.
Zelda settled down quietly and we assumed that three would be all, but to our surprise an hour or so later she suddenly delivered another. This little one was born breech, was quite weak and had to be helped to start breathing, but once he had been cleaned up, he was fine.
Again we assumed that Zelda had finished, but no, out popped number five, much smaller than all the rest and not breathing at all. We carefully cleaned his face and gently rubbed his chest and he took that all important first breath, at which Zelda, purring for England, began to groom him. To our surprise, less then ten minutes later a sixth kitten was delivered, this one shouting loudly and waving his legs in the air. That one's going to be a real character!
Zelda, as is the norm, diverted her cleaning habits to number six, which left tiny number five rather cold and abandoned. We dried him off as best we could then put him under the pile of siblings.
Zelda, with a huge smile on her face, settled down for an afternoon of licking and purring and we went to cook her well-deserved plate of fish.
Back in her pen, we did a careful head-count and were amazed to find seven! She'd sneaked another one out when we weren't looking.
Mum and babies are all doing well. The kittens may need supplementary feeds as female cats only have six nipples but for the moment all seem to be suckling and thriving. If they do need extra feeds, we'll give it to the bigger ones.