L'aventure de Kōun'na
A new misadventure was waiting for me in 2018!
This one really tested my limits as a breeder.
On July 3, Soushi and Kina are introduced to each other. I can not wait to see their first litter! On August 25, she gave birth to only two babies. Kina's behavior worried me, as she did not really seem to care for them and seemed overly stressed. I quickly realized that the babies had not drink any milk. It is not uncommon for females with small litters not to produce milk, and it is not uncommon to have a small litter at the first. Having given birth during the night, the shops were closed and I had no way to make baby milk. I warmed the pups as much as I could during the night, but when I was finally able to buy formula (for cats) in the morning, it was too late.
On the 19th of September, Kina gave birth again, since I had left her with Soushi. This time, no less than 7 little ones came into the world. I was reassured to see that she was busy this time, so I decided to leave Kina alone while watching from a distance.
Nevertheless, a few hours later, I realize that some pups had a full stomach, but not others. That's when I realized that Kina just couldn't make milk.
So I immediately separated Soushi, hoping he did not manage to mate with Kina again. As Kina is the oldest female I have mated, and as I did not know if it was age or a genetic defect, I decided to remove her sister, Saya, from the breeding program as well.
I therefore begin a diligent task: feeding baby gerbils less than 24 hours old. It involves bottlefeeding them every two hours. I work the next morning at 9:00, it's midnight when I start. I quickly realize that the task will be difficult: out of 7 babies, only 2 drink and I have to fight with the other 5 to make them swallow a few drops. Two hours later, I finally finished feeding them. Oops, here we go again!
When I got up the next morning, everyone was still there. After inspection, I see milk in their stomachs. So I decide to let things go and go to work. My boyfriend visits me at work before going to work himself and tells me that he has been feeding them before leaving. Returning from work, I find 4 little lifeless. Of the remaining 3, only one has milk in the stomach. I spend another evening feeding everyone, fighting with them, for them, to make them live, relaying with Kina, who stimulates them to do their needs.
On Friday morning, September 21st, a new baby is dead, the other two have a full stomach. I realize then that Kina is able to make milk, just in very, very small amount. I decide to continue to bottle them anyway, to be certain. Luckily, I had a 4 day break in front of me.
On September 23, there remains only one living baby, who clings on with all his strength. He is also the only one who does not struggle when I try to bottle him. I'm doing everything I can to give him a chance.
At 10 days of life, I have great hope. It's been two days since I last feed the baby, Kina seems to manage to feed him by herself. I keep my stock nearby, but I let mom handle things.
At 12 days, I talk with my cousin, who is the biggest fan of Quasimodo, and as I keep calling the little "my survivor" and saying how lucky he is, she starts to call "Lucky". But I think it sounds a little too popular, and his parents have Japanese names. I do a little research and I realize that "Lucky" in Japanese can be spelled "Kōun'na". Ironically, it looks like a contraction of "Kina" and "Soushi". This is how my little survivor found his name.
As he grows up, I notice a few details that demonstrate how lacking in nutrients. He has a huge growth retardation, it takes almost 2 days for him to open his eyes, and he has a spot free of hair on his back. It is only later that I will learn that hairless areas are signs of malnutrition (and yes, 10 years of breeding does not keep you from learning every day) and that the formula for kittens is not recommended.
At 7 weeks of life, Kōun'na finally begins to look like a real gerbil. The hairless spot on his back is finally covered, and his male assets end up showing. The only problem is that he is as big as a 4-week-old baby. But, by I-do-not-know-what miracle, he survived the weaning and gets better again. He is experiencing a growth spurt and he is gaining strongly in personality.
It is now high time to separate him from his mother. He will remain with the kennel, in the company of a young of another litter.