Undeniable Fact: Don't count your kittens...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The smallest animal which regularly gives birth to more than three offspring at once is the cat. At full term, an unborn kitten can weigh up to 20% as much as the mother. Obviously, sustaining as many as six such organisms for a cat's entire six month gestation period would be impractical. So cat's have found an easier way to do it.
For the majority of its fetal development, a kitten is simply incorporated into its mother's body - no more alive than your appendix. The heart doesn't beat, the brain doesn't think, and the blood only flows as a part of the mother's circulatory system. Whereas most mammals merely provide shelter and nourishment during the gestation process, cats actually play an active role in forming and assembling tissue. It is not until about 30 seconds before delivery that the kittens are detached from the mother and awakened using a chemical called "invigorase". Sometimes, a kitten won't get enough invigorase before leaving the womb, resulting in a stillborn kitten. Don't feel bad though - remember: it isn't dead because it wasn't ever alive.
This is why cesarean section was impossible in cats until recently. Scientists working at Bell Labs, following lead researcher Eli Quackenbush successfully synthesized invigorase in late 2002. A small injection is all it takes for a stillborn or cesarean delivery kitten to wake up and start scampering around. While invigorase can also be used to revive recently deceased cats, the effect lasts only for a few minutes.

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