Adjustments to ‘the Ensuite’ continue

Day 22

I can’t believe that I have not written most of this week!
The kittens are now all officially 3 weeks old! Yay!

All eyes and ears are open, we see them licking and scratching themselves and many of them now know how to use their legs to walk with their belly off the ground. It is clear that Pumba and Kabiri, the two eldest males, are a bit ahead of the rest of the brood. Tiny and Gray, as last-borns, are a bit slower and also a bit smaller. Kunta and Kinte, or Thing 1 and Thing 2 (we cannot really keep them apart yet) are the in-betweens.

Familt portrait – it shows how hard it is to distinguish between the tabbies! I know for sure that the black one on the left is Pumba and the black one with mom is Vampy. The most right tabby is Sipke and the tabby hiding in the left behind mom is Cheetah. I think the tabby next to Pumba is Stripes and next to her is Kabiri. But it is a best guess…

In the past days we have seen Mitsy sleep/rest/nap more and more on her litter box. Not something I want to encourage, but I think I understand why she does it. It is the only spot in Basecamp that the kittens are (still) unaware of. Mitsy can have some ‘me’ time there when she is fed up with her brood. Or, more likely, where she can be absent for a while.

Were she a free cat, this would be the time that she stays away longer and longer from the nest. Some cats start moving their litter to another location in this period. That now makes total sense to me. The birthing location will probably be good for kittens that are not very mobile. But it might be that, now that they are venturing out and explore their surroundings more actively, another location is needed with better perimeter protection. It is probably also the most dangerous time if this was happening outdoors, without owners watching out for the little ones. Mothers can only carry one kitten at a time. This is certainly true for Mitsy, whose kittens are fairly large, I think. They are quite solid, especially the two first borns.

This whole week we were waiting to see if Mitsy would adopt the Ensuite as a ‘me’-space. But that did not happen.

It is one of those quirks of nature that a human does not instantly understand. But we do now. We placed two food bowls in the side of the Ensuite that was close to Basecamp. We also moved the waterbowl there. So, food driven as Mitsy is, she had no hesitation stepping in there to eat. She SEEMED to ignore the rest of the extra space. I write that in capitals because she stole multiple furtive glances in the direction of the Ensuite and my impression was that she was thinking, processing the changes.

Moving the litter box into the Ensuite

This week we were sort of forced to make another change. Mitsy kept up her aggression towards the litter box spot in Basecamp. She is quite a different cat when that happens. Quite ferocious. Hissing, teeth bared…. I Googled what hissing actually is thought to mean. I found that if it is not accompanied by other overtly hostile and aggressive behaviour, it is most often a sign of fear. I can work with fear. Aggression: not so much. Each time we try to remove the litter box, she charges. She does not commit to a real attack but it is quite scary. I pushed through it a couple of time, gloves on, because when the litter is dirty, it really does need cleaning – the box is just too small to not do that. Besides, there are the risks attached to her bringing e-coli to the babies on her feet when it is dirty. So, Wim came up with an idea.

Why not remove the litter box from Basecamp and place it in the Ensuite, side by side to the one that was already there? It meant I needed to remove the scratch pole, but that did not seem like a big deal. Mitsy is entirely unfamiliar with the thing, has shown little interest. Her focus seems to be on resting and feeding. I can tell that she has never in her life been played with, so I took the toys out as well. She has no idea what to do with them anyway. 

The cat bed does not work

I waited for a moment where the whole family was in the Nest and then proceeded to take the litterbox out. Mitsy followed my actions with great interest, but did not hiss or charge. There was one moment, where the removal made some noise, that she came forward a bit, but I only saw that afterwards on the cat cam. I just carried on, squished one of our old cat beds in the litter box space, then retreated for a pause. I had to rip up a lot of old t-shirts to fill in some potentially kitten-dangerous spaces around the bed, but then it looked fairly good. I rewarded Mitsy with a treat on the extendible spoon for her good behaviour. I was not sure about the cat bed: it looked to squished but I could not think of an alternative then.

Scale is hard to tell in pictures, but this might give you a good impression of how huge these extra large dog crates actually are. You can see Mitsy in her Nest with the kittens and me putting in a cat bed after moving the litter box. I fit easily into one of these crates! I exchanged this bed with another one a bit later: it was too squished and Mitsy tried it and did not approve it.. A cat lady’s work is never done!

So, then I went into the Ensuite to make the changes there, and also to add some carton to the sides, to make it more kitten-proof and also to prevent the litter from going everywhere when Mitsy goes to the bathroom. I prepared some new food: every time I am down there, Mitsy sort of expects food or a treat now. That is fine. After she ate, she looked at the new Ensuite, again, without really venturing out. There was a moment where she sniffed the sides of the litter boxes, but showed no further interest. When she went back to Basecamp, the whole family came out and I had some fun touching many of the bigger kittens. I have to be honest: I cannot tell the grey ones apart. I can tell who Kabiri is, but there are 3 other tabbies. Time will tell who is who. I hope 🙂

A new bed and a better set-up bring peace and quiet

That afternoon I kept my eye on the cameras. I saw Mitsy try the new bed, but then leave it. I think that it is too squished for comfort. I then suddenly thought of the foldable litter boxes that I bought online a while ago. I was hoping they would be less wide than ours and that we could use them instead of the plastic one, to minimize the aggression. But they are very flexible and it would be impossible to push them in or manipulate them without causing the same disruption as the other ones. But they are really just shallow trays and I decided to put one of those in the old litter space. I put a blankie in there that Mitsy slept on under the AC unit. She did try it out, but this morning it felt as if it needed something more. That blankie could be too hot. So I put a regular old towel on top of it. Makes it a bit cooler I think.

The Ensuite remains a space to eat, more than anything else, for more than a week. Then Mitsy’s litter box annoyances force us to make this change and it is the start of much more intense use of this space: we move the litter box into it and add a second one. There is a door to the left of the Ensuite that makes it a lot easier to refresh the boxes in a safe way for all involved. Brilliant idea, copyright Wim! My hero!

First kittens discover the Ensuite

On the cat cam from this (early) morning I saw the kittens venture out into the Ensuite. One even nosed around in the bowl of kibble. I will move it to the door, later today, so that they cannot reach it by standing on the threshold between the two crates. (Post script: that did not happen, so it is still in the same place). We will use the bowls that are still on order for the kittens in future and hang them lower (post script: it is almost September now and we still have not received them 🙁 Stupid Covid!).

We are planning to use the carton trays that come with the canned food as a makeshift litter box when the time comes. Although I wonder if we will need them. Maybe as a step-up. The kittens quite comfortably forge the threshold between the crates (post script: now that we have replaced the litter box in the Basement with a second bed, I can see that they are able to climb in and that bed is not much higher than the litter box), so I am thinking that it won’t be long before they can climb into the litter box themselves. That, according to the books, is still a week or 2 away though. Only around week 5 will they be able to go to the bathroom without mom stimulating them. It will be interesting to see how that part of their development happens.

Post script: that turned out to not be necessary. The kittens understood the concept of the litter boxes pretty quickly and all know how to use it!

The Nest door space – again

I am also planning to put two rolled-up towels in the space behind the Nest door. I can see a time coming where the kittens might try to climb that door and that space could potentially imprison them when they fall down. Nerves about that space again! We don’t want that to happen…. That is for later today, because I need to be able to reach across the crate for that. Best way to do it is probably from the second crate in a position where Mom can watch me, but not get irritated with me. It might not be for today, because so much has already been changed in the space.

This morning around 8 am we saw Mitsy take a nice 30 minute nap in the Ensuite, so I think it will see more use from now on. Which also brings us closer to taking one of the kittens out at some point to play with it. I don’t know where we would take it. We probably have to sit in a chair and have it on our lap. Maybe in one of the cat beds. That will be so much fun! (Post script: that never happened… 🙂 Spoiler alert: we were always able to take a kitten in our lap and later play with them freely in the crates and later in the room, after we moved the whole family upstairs)

When I touched them this week, I felt that the kitten bodies are substantial and firm. They truly feel like solid little babies, no longer as flippy floppy and tiny as before.

Mitsy is finally starting to use the Ensuite for some well-deserved ‘me-time’. As per her usual MO, her tail is draped over the threshold to Basecamp, just in case a kitten is looking for her. What a great use of her tail!