Shortly after Floki's kittens were born, I noticed that three of them were thin. I got some goat milk and a bottle and started to supplement them every few hours. It became immediately apparent that one of the kittens (blue with white spots) was deformed. His front paws didn't extend, his wrists permanently curled. The little rex girl never did nurse on Floki at all, only cuddling for comfort. Several times as the littlest pink girl nursed from the bottle, she'd bubble goat milk out her nose (typically a sign the bottle hole is too big, but this is the same bottle that the other two did fine with).
Yesterday I noticed one of Penelope's kits was missing. One had gotten out prior and passed away, but this second missing bunny is nowhere to be seen. Fixing the cage will be a priority as soon as weather warms up and her kits can be moved out of the nest box so I don't disturb them by re-doing it.
Last night the white rex kitten died in my hands. Clearly there was something wrong with her to start with. The little deformed kitten wasn't doing well. He'd never been strong at nursing from the bottle, and like his rex sister, I don't think he ever nursed from Floki. I named him Glitch. I thought about bringing him to bed with me, but figured I wasn't going to be able to help him much anyway, and he'd do better with Floki. Boy was I wrong. I was so very wrong.
This morning I woke up to find Floki eating (yes, EATING) one of the kittens. I will spare the graphic details, but I will say that Glitch and Pandarian (the white with blue marked female) are both gone - completely consumed by Floki. I have never heard of such a thing happening, and in all my years doing rescue and breeding small critters, I've only ever seen such a thing with hamsters and mice (and rarely with rats at my old pet store job). I'd heard of rabbits doing this (knock on wood, never dealt with it myself). To say I'm devastated is an understatement. I'm heartbroken, emotionally exhausted, and questioning the future of our little breeding program. I don't know that I can deal with having such catastrophic losses again.
I immediately removed Piggy and Slim (the last remaining kittens), but after a lot of research, and some reassuring from my husband, we decided to give the kittens back to Floki, let her do what she wanted with them, leave the little family alone, and hope for the best. It turns out that cats eating their kittens isn't so uncommon after all, and the reasons are vast on why it happens, but a leading cause seems to be stress. I had locked Mabel up for the night so she wouldn't try to steal the kittens from Floki. Did I cause this horrible massacre? Did I play a role in it? Would the result have been the same even if Mabel was with her? I have no answers. Only heart-break and questions. Once allowed to be reunited, Floki and Mabel moved the remaining kittens to a shelf behind the couch, where they have been snuggling peacefully all day. I am hesitantly leaving Slim with them, no longer bottle feeding her. I'm hoping that between both momma cats, she will figure out nursing and get better on her own. Piggy is in good health, portly, and every bit as a kitten should be. With all of the thin kittens I've been dealing with, it's nice to have a fat healthy one... but Pandarian was fat and healthy too. :(
If that wasn't enough horror for the day, I went out to feed and water bunnies this morning, and finally dug through Lola's nest box. I've only been stealing a peek here and there. I shuffled the fur around and only found six babies. There were nine before. Sure enough, I found the missing three at the bottom of the nest box (passed away). At least they don't appear to have been killed/eaten - just sat on.
We've had an incredible amount of loss here in the last 24 hours, and while I try to stay upbeat in my blog posts, today I'm finding it difficult. I'm hoping for the best for Slim and Piggy, and the remaining bunnies... but at this point, I'm not holding my breath for positive results. I don't know where our breeding program will go from here with regards to the cats. I'm not sure if this is a genetic issue, some kind of environmental factor, or just the worst luck imaginable. Hoping the next post is a positive one.