Church is a smoke-grey cat that gave birth to five healthy kittens. Sadly, Church suffered some complications from labor. The mama cat would eventually recover, but with a prolapsed uterus, she needed immediate medical attention— but her kittens also needed their mom.
Church was rushed to an animal hospital to ensure her survival, while the kittens were abruptly picked up by the MSPCA-Angell shelter. In a release, Alyssa Krieger, community outreach coordinator for the shelter, said:
“The kittens were weak and underweight because they were unable to feed.”
Newborn kittens usually nurse from their mother every 1-2 hours, so the clock had been ticking since Church was taken for medical care. Kittens can be bottle fed and raised by loving humans with success— but nothing truly replaces the comfort of a mother cat or the nourishment of their mother’s milk.
According to The Nest, “If for whatever reason a kitten’s mother is absent from her life, then it is important either to search for a foster cat to temporarily “replace” mama for nursing purposes, or to purchase and use ‘KMR’— kitten milk replacer.”
Additionally, if a kitten is weaned too soon, it can bring about some unpleasant consequences, “particularly in the realms of chewing and suckling,” they explain.
Fortunately for the kittens, an orange tabby named Betty was already at the shelter, patiently awaiting adoption. She was roughly 2 years old, and although her past was a mystery, Betty was about to become a hero!
“Betty was abandoned in an apartment building and some Good Samaritans kept her for about a month before bringing her in. It’s possible she had kittens over a month ago and was still lactating a little bit, but it’s also possible that it was a hormonal response— which is relatively rare, but not unheard of,” Krieger told The Dodo.
“Female cats may sometimes produce milk, that is lactate, when they are not pregnant,” The Nest says. “Even spayed females can experience this. This is the result of a condition called false pregnancy, phantom pregnancy, or pseudopregnancy […] Like humans though, hormonal imbalances can be one of multiple potential causes.”
When Betty met the kittens, her maternal instincts immediately kicked in.
She took the kittens into her warm embrace as if they were very own! At their first meeting, Betty began by cleaning the babies, giving them each the proper grooming their mother wasn’t available to provide.
Betty shocked everyone with her amazing mothering skills!
After a quick bath, Betty then began nursing the kittens— and although she didn’t have kittens of her own, she seemed to know exactly what to do!
Cats will often nurse the kittens of other cats, and if needed, they’ll even nurse other newborn animals if given the chance. Mammals are hardwired with maternal insctincts— and Betty is a great example!
“She spent the next two days caring for all 5 kittens until Church was back on her feet and able to be with her kittens again.”
Thanks to Betty, the kittens did great, soaking up all the snuggles and milk their surrogate mom had to offer. After recovery, Church was reunited with her babies and did her best to step into the motherly role.
Sadly, Church wasn’t able to produce enough milk to feed all 5 kittens— but Betty was willing to stick around and help the Little Mama out!
“Neither cat was producing quite enough milk for all five kittens, but we were very happy to see that each could support half of the litter. This was truly an ‘it takes a village’ moment.”
Betty took over nursing three of Church’s kittens, while Church nursed the other two. With the two devoted kitties working together, all of Church’s litter was happy, fed, and protected. “It’s extremely rare for us to have a mom cat who is able to take over kitten care for another, and we often have to resort to bottle-feeding kittens. But we were lucky that Betty was able and willing,” Krieger explained.
Too often we hear stories about kittens being forced to survive without their Mamas. In this case, it’s so beautiful to see another female cat stepping in to help out the small family. Our society could take note from these cats— it truly does take a village.
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