Meet Lucy and her adorable five kittens; Atticus, Matilda, Oliver, Winnie, and Leroy.
Lucy was spotted a few months ago by a woman living in Fall River, Massachusetts, wandering nearby her home. The woman suspected she'd been abandoned, so she was keeping an eye on her.
On Apr. 1 she fooled everyone and gave birth to five kittens! Lucky for Lucy, the woman found the newborns and their mother and called an IFAW staff member for help. Kayla Saccoccio came to the rescue and brought Lucy and her babies back to her home on Cape Cod.
Kayla, who already has a cat named Angelo, was looking to adopt a kitten when this opportunity came about. She couldn't say no to helping out the family.
Unfortunately for Angelo, mother cats are very protective of their young, and since Lucy had been living on the street, it's uncertain whether she's up to date on all her vaccines. Kayla is careful to keep Angelo separate from the little family.
Mother cats are generally self-sufficient independent mothers.
In fact, during the early weeks, a human foster parent's primary job is to step back and give the mama cat space to raise her babies. She will take care of nursing, as well as stimulating the babies to urinate and defecate.
All she needs is a comfortable and confined space, and as much high protein food and water as she wants.
As the babies start to get older, it's the foster mom's turn to step in. Though the mother cat will take care of things like teaching her babies to use the litterbox, it's up to the human to socialize and give the kittens plenty of play time.
The early weeks until about eight to 10 weeks of age are critically important in young cat's lives, because it is the time when they learn about humans. Plenty of socialization with fun with human companions during kittenhood will mean a happy and well-socialized adult cat.
Too little contact with humans and kittens will more or less retain their fear and uncertainty of humans for the rest of their lives.
Kayla has been providing plenty of playtime for Lucy's kittens. In just the past few weeks, each kitten has developed their own unique personality. Atticus, the black and white faced kitten is rambunctious and mischievous. He hasn't stopped moving since the day he learned to walk. Matilda, the gray fluffy kitten with the white line down her face is still getting her feet under her and learning the mechanics of walking.
The gray striped kitten is Leroy. He's a real mama's boy, but when he does come out to play he is the sweetest and gentlest kitten.
Oliver is almost all black with white mittens. The most interesting thing is that he - just like his mother - has a single black toe on his front paw. Talk about heredity! And last but not least is Winifred, or Winnie.
Winnie just might be the smartest of the bunch - she was first to walk, first to use the litter box and is very recently the first to try solid food.
Kayla brought a vet in to check the family out and make sure everyone was happy and healthy. In examining her, the vet determined that this was not Lucy's first litter. Since she was living on the street, it is hard to know how her previous litters of kittens fared.
It takes a lot of resources to keep a mother cat healthy enough to feed and raise her babies. Living outdoors also exposes kittens to a number of threats including the elements, natural predators, and other cats. Tom cats have been known to kill kittens in order to induce heat in the mother again for mating.
Lucky for them, Kayla was able to provide a safe haven for Lucy and her kittens. In a few weeks, when the kittens are around eight-weeks old, they will all be sterilized, vaccinated, and adopted into new homes.
The decision to spay or neuter your pet is an important one for pet owners.
In the US alone, it is nearly impossible to quantify the number of homeless animals who get euthanized in shelters, or who suffer and die on the street from exposure, disease, malnutrition, or otherwise.
Spaying and neutering can reduce the number of unwanted births, and so prevent much of this suffering. It can also reduce some of the problems associated with roaming animals, like the yowling of cats in heat, or the angry sounds of Tom cats fighting over females. Some research has also shown that sterilization can provide health benefits for your pet.
Although Lucy may be a wonderful mama cat, we're glad we were able to stop the cycle for her. This Mother's Day, all she needed to worry about was relaxing and enjoying the easy life of a house cat.