Note: browse down to see pictures for items in the below list marked with an asterix *
- * Borrow, rent or buy 2 of the biggest 2 door dog crates/kennels you can find (e.g. Midwest Lifestages 49″ is the brand and size we used)
- Get door stoppers (long stuffed ‘sausage-rolls’ to stop draft); good to help with blocking the bigger holes in the lower parts of the crate’s mesh so newborns cannot fall through or get stuck. Alternatively: block the lower sides of the crates with carton or towels and fasten these with zipties through punched holes. An unexpected benefit of the door stoppers is that they can act as a pillow for mom’s head and as a sitting cushion for the kittens
- Get a tarp cut to size and use underneath the trap so debris will not get trampled on your room’s floor
- Get puppy training pads as initial bottom layer in both crates to absorb and easily discard debris; don’t by the biggest ones, if you have a choice, because you may prefer to cover the floor with multiple small ones that are easier to remove and refresh; they are cheaper too
- Use old towels or t-shirts for softer cover
- Get litter that is kitten friendly (Yesterday’s News was our preferred choice, mainly because when it causes a mess the paper pellets is easier to pick up than other types of litters. Stay away from clay clumping litter, as it may hurt kittens when they take a bite from it or get it in between their toes. The paper pellets of our preferred litter cannot do damage if a kitten accidentally nibbles on it. Yesterday’s News has discontinued the non-clumping type: why?! We have not tried the clumping variety yet, but I am sure we will have to in due time.)
- Get the best kibble and wet food you can afford (Kitten and Mother and Kitten – Royal Canin – or ask for food from your chosen Rescue organisation
- Get food bowls that can be placed in a holder that can be fastened to the side of the crate, off the ground, so that mother has access, but kittens cannot stumble in the food dishes until they are big enough to have meals instead of milk. Example:
- Get anti-slip non skid cloth to cover the bottom of the crate (Dollar Store, Canadian Tire, Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B07VYM5MNK/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1).
- Cats love the feel of the anti-grip cloth but make sure to put it outside for a week or so, in order to get rid of the human and store smell. It is easy to clean, easy to attach to anything with zip ties if needed and it will let fluids seep through without staying wet
- Get a sizable warm blankie for the family to lie on; see if your vet can get you some of the material they use in their crates, when cats are recovering from surgery
- Buy a good number of bottles of source water to feed to the cats; easier than running to and from the tap
- * Buy some cheap plastic placemats. Cut into 3 lengths and roll each into a long funnel and use duct tape to create a spout that fits through the crate opening. This is a cheap way to create an easy ‘feed wet food from outside the crate’-tool, when opening the crate is not an option due to an aggressive, fearful or protective mother cat
- Get a couple of long-stemmed, narrow spoons to shove the food through your self-made feeding funnel
- Also for the security of all involved: double up!
- Have 2 watering cans (Dollar Store!) with a long narrow spout that you can use for filling up water and kibble from outside of the crate.
- Have 2 litter boxes so you don’t have to be in the crate too long to poop-scoop. Simply exchange one with the other and do the scooping in a safe environment
- Have 2 sets of food dishes to do the same, unless you are using paper or other one use food containers. Having spares significantly reduces the time you have to spend inside the crate – which is not fun when the captivated animal charges and attacks…
- Have plenty of compostable poopy bags for waste
- Have plenty of sanitizing napkins for all materials
- Have plenty of surgical gloves so that your hands cannot spread nasties in poop or food (saliva).
- Have a secure carrier that the animal can own as a safe space and that you can use to transport it in to the vet or to the place of adoption or release; know how the locks work and test thoroughly before use!
- Get clamps to double secure the doors and locks on the crate and to keep the door of the carrier in place by leaning it to the side of the crate; see the image in List 1.
- Have blankets or sheets to cover both crates individually; this may help calm down a stressed-out animal and it can also help them stay warm in a cold basement. Stress lowers body temperature and new kittens also need some help to stay warm when mom is taking a break. Make sure to put something heavy on top of the blanket cover so that the animal cannot pull the blankie inside when in the middle of nesting obsession or frantic efforts to escape. Use heavy clamps to secure it and place a heavy plank on top of it that they will be unable to move. If you have spare office chair mats, they can be the first layer that covers the top of the cage. Place blanket and counterweight on top and secure all
- This is important because when your animal suddenly goes into a frenzy when you do not expect it, you have no time to do all of these things to keep everyone safe. Better to come prepared and test by tugging on your construction
- This happened to us the day before the birthing. This was the cat’s third day in captivity; we are not sure if she just wanted to escape, or that the birthing process had started, causing her pain; or that she felt the birth was imminent and she instinctively wanted to go to her preferred birthing place in the outdoors. It might have been a bit of all of the above…
* 1: Extra large dog crate
This one from MidWest looks pretty big in the store, but once you put everything in place, it seems to shrink. I would therefore suggest that you get 2 of the biggest ones you can afford and connect them. They are pricey (over CAD 200) though. Some Cat Rescue Groups and Humane Societies let you rent or even borrow them.
We bought 2 that were 49″ deep, 30″ wide and 33″ heigh. The model had a side door and a front door. When connection time comes, you can simply shove one against the other and secure with zip tie, or take both connecting doors off with lock plyers for a tighter fit. However, having at least one crate that can be closed is a good idea. For the initial birthing one crate is plenty, but when the ears and eyes of the kittens start to function, they need more space, while still being contained and protected.
* 8: Food dishes in the crate
Below is our set up as seen from the front door; the blue food dishes are fastened to the crate and the food dish itself is metal. The space underneath is a place for the cats to lounge. Having the dishes fastened means you can adjust the height to the comfort of the cat and there is less chance of spills at ground level.
* 11: Safe feeding from outside of the crate with self-made utensil
When the first crate is the birthing shelter, the distance between the cat and the food dishes can cause uncomfortable and possibly unsafe situations. We used a plastic placemat to create a feeding funnel. We cut it in 3, then used duct tape to make it fit the width of the crate’s mesh. We pushed it through the mesh so that it ended in the food dish, then shoved the food down the funnel into the food dish. In the early days this was easier and safer than opening the crate and refreshing the dishes. We had to remind ourselves not to be totally anal about hygiene: we were caring for a cat that had lived outside and ate from much dirtier places than a dish that had simply been refilled instead of replaced for a couple of days. We would keep an eye on the cat cam to find a good moment to quickly go in and do a refresh. It worked really well!
We used an old Ikea watering can that had a crack to do the same with kibble as needed. Good re-use instead of throwing it out! And a new one that did not leak for the water. It kept all of us safe and out of reach of angry claws and teeth (which we did not encounter much of, fortunately).