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The birth of a litter can be exciting, stressful, unique, like a miracle,
but it can also be sad and dreadful, when something goes wrong.
Even the umpteenth birth is exciting, when birth is overdue and you have to wait another day,
another night, another day, another night....; it is like a mircale to see the newborns suckle;
but it is sad and a desaster when mother and babies have health problems, when things go wrong...
But on this page a want to describe to you how the tiny newborn grows into an adult cat. 


After mating the breeder has to wait for 3 weeks. Then the nipples turn pink, a sign for pregnancy. 6 more weeks and birth is due. On average a cat is 9 weeks pregnant, but our Ragdolls tend to add few more days. Right before birth the mother cats try to find a quiet and dark place to give birth to her babies. I have to keep all my wardrobes and chest closed.I stuff different places with cushions which my females could choose as a place to have their babies, but which I donīt find suitable. Or close the doors to these rooms.
The uterus of a female cats is divided. So quite often a baby is born from one part of the uterus, the next one from the other part and then the female pauses. On average babies weigh 90 to 100 gr.

Usually babies below 60 gr are not viable, babies over 120 gr give their mothers a hard time. Some are born with their head first, some with their behind coming first, it does not make a big difference for the mother. Either the fetal membrances already tear open during birth or the female opens them right after birth. Some babies start whimpering right after birth, some seem to need a little rest until you can hear them for the first time. The female licks the newborn to stimulate circulation of blood. Dead kittens or those you are not viable are usually ignored by their mothers. It is still not known how the females know which of the kittens is prone to die. They just know. In contrast to a number of other breeders I usually donīt interfere. I know what to do in case of an emergency. Birth is a perfect system which has evolved over millions of years. It is not my duty to cut the umbilical cord or to clean the newborn. Even young mothers usually know what to do, just leave them time and you will see that their instincts work just well. An average litter comprises 4 kittens, 1 to 8 kittens is possible.

The First Two Weeks

Right after birth the babies try to find a nipple to get the colostral milk. This `special drinkī is only available for about a day, contains high percentages of proteines, vitamines and antibodies. During the first few days females are usually reluctant to leave their kittens. So I offer them food and water directly in the box or carton where they stay with their babies. Quite often babies double their weight within the first week - if it is a litter of average size. Eyes and ears are firmly closed. Our Ragdolls are a colourpointed breed and all their kittens are born white. Only about 2 days after birth the nose leathers of the Colourpoint or Mitted kittens colour. Nose leather of Bicolour kittens stay pink. The Colourpoint kitten will have coloured paw pads after about one week, also ears and tails show colour after few days.Only the Cream- and Redpoint kittens are different. To see some colour on the ears, the breeder has to wait for at least 4 weeks.
Determination of sex seems to be an easy thing. Anus and genital opening in male kittens are farther apart than in female kittens. Some say that in a male kittens it looks like a colon (:), in female kittens it looks like a semi-colon (;).
But even experienced breeders sometimes have difficulties in telling the boys and girls apart.
Kittens may gain weight right after birth. Especially in young females it may take some time until they provide enough milk for their kittens. In case the mother does not have enough milk or - worst case - she dies, then babies have to be fed every two hours - day and night!!!
To stimulate the flow of milk, kittens are pawing the belly of their mothers. Even adult cats show this behaviour, indicating with it that they are feeling utterly well.
Babies donīt see and hear, so smelling is vital for them. They recognize their mother and their nipple by its typical smell. Strong kittens fight for the nipple which provides most milk. The strongest will finally succeed over the others and has a better start into life. The smallest kittens usually gets the nipple which provides least milk.
After few days the babies know their individual nipple and will not accept another one.
Everything with a strange smell is recognized as dangerous and even the tiny kittens will spit.
Some kittens start to purr at such a tender age, some cats hardly ever do it. Why? Who knows...
Eyes usually open during 2nd week


Third and Fourth Week

In their third week usually all kittens have opened their eyes. At the same time the auditory canals open and they can hear. The breeder suddenly notices that kittens are turning their heads, when they hear noises.
When talking to them they listen to you and look at you. From now on you can daily observe changes in behaviour and overall appearance. I make them get used to my voice and to being touched.
Clumsily they move in their box or carton, with their belly still touching the ground. Muscles in their neck are still to weak to hold the head up for long. They begin to play with each other.

Cats are clean animals and kittens at that age begin to clean themselves. During their 4th week I offer them a litter box with a low rim. Until then mum has licked up everything. They usually are very interested in the litter box and start to use it after few days. Milk teeth are breaking through and depending on the size of the litter and and the overall condition of the mother I offer them their first food. Well fed babies donīt see why they should accept the new food, kittens of big litters (or when mum has little milk) are literally plunging into it. For those who show interest, but donīt know exactly what to do, I spread some food on two of my fingers and offer it directly under their nose.

Fifth And Sixth Weeks

Now kittens are really cute. They practise hunting for prey, waylaying for their siblings, arching their backs, but never run too far away from their mother. The box or carton they were born in, is already too small for their various activities. The breeder either provides them a bigger box or separates a part of a room for them. With the rising level of activity they also need more food. Some females have obviously lost a lot of weight and their overall condition is not good, especially when the litter is big. Then mother and breeder are glad to see the kittens accepting the food which is offered.
With the change of food a lot of babies get diarrhea, which usually lasts for few days. They are making a mess when they eat, canīt yet clean themselves properly - so they donīt always look their best at that age.
All cat babies have blue eyes. Eye-colour in non-pointed cats changes from the deep baby blue to the yellow, green or brownish eye-colour of the adult cat. The change of colour in the pointed cats starts around the fifth or sixth weeks. Then the colour turns into a lighter shade of blue. The sooner the change of the eye-colour begins, the lighter the blue will be in the adult cat. Only extremely few cats have a very dark blue eye-colour and the change of colour is hardly recognizable.

Seventh And Eighth Week

The babies are losing their roundish shape. Their faces get longer, ears get bigger, also legs and tail, the whole body grow steadily. This is typical for the Ragdoll, although there are differences between the lines. Eating habits have definitely improved, they can clean themselves much better now. Only two weeks ago breeders were not too happy to accept visitors to see their little ??? pigs????
The scratching post is taken by storm, they have conquered all the rooms they have access to.
Every day they breech another speed record.
Now I allow visitors to see their babies. Some wonder whether these tiny and furry bullets are specimen of a so-called "quiet breed". My answer is of course "Yes".
All babies have to play and romp around. After few 
months and after spaying things will change anyway.
Mothers have already given up to keep the kittens close
to them. They still take care, but are not overanxious 
any more. If two females have kittens at the same time, they also share their `supervision dutiesī.
Now kittens are shown what they are allowed to do and what not. Before long the other cats in the breederīs household will do the same. It is important to confront the babies with everyday life, with devices used in a regular household.
In their fifth weeks kittens have already been dewormed; now they are dewormed again, as their first vaccination is due.

Ninth To Thirteenth Week

First vaccination is due in their ninth week (or late eighth week). The antibodies they received with the colostral milk have protected them during their first weeks. Now they have to build up their own immuno-protective system. Reactions to vaccinations are possible, but rare.
The amount of food they take in is impressive. No wonder that from now on to the end of their sixth month they grow fastest.
On average female kittens weigh around 1.5 kg at the age of the months, male kittens around 1.7 kg. These are only approximative values and depend on the size of the litter, whether they have ever been sick (just think of small children!). Kittens from certain lines grow faster or slower than others.

To Month 12

Experience shows that vaccinations have an influence on the eye-colour. Some Ragdoll kittens have a very bad eye-colour when they are 4 or 5 months old. But the colour nearly always improves.
The unharmonious bodily structure is typical for the Ragdoll. Even in the adult Ragdoll the hind legs are longer, but in kittens or young adults this feature is even more obvious. Ears seem to be way too large for the relatively tiny head. This is especially true for fast growing males. But just wait and let them grow.

Depending on the individual and the line sexual maturity begins around month 9. Again - this is only an approximative value. There are females coming into heat as early as 5 months, males who have fathered their first litter at that age.
And there are females and males who have their first offspring at the age of 3 years.
My lines tend to be sexually mature at an early age. So I suggest having the cats spayed around month 7.
No female must have have into heat or must have had a litter before spaying. Unspayed males will spray ( I promise) and even unspayed females may spray. And they can be real loud!!! Just ask the next breeder you meet.
After spaying your Ragdoll will be more relaxed and quiet. Her or his coat improves, this also applies to the overall condition of the cat. They still grow and gain weight until they are 3 years old. Some Ragdolls seem to be nearly short-haired, but suddenly, after their 3rd birthday, they get a full and wonderful coat.

Copyright Đ Doris Mabrouk, 1999 - 2005, Please donīt copy or use any texts, photos, graphics without my consent
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