Xia is getting very little peace. Wherever she tries to rest the babies find her and she soon has two rows of little feet sticking out from underneath on each side, like mini car mechanics. In common with most mother rats, Xia usually rests on her stomach to feed and the babies flip themselves onto their backs and scrumble under her to nurse. There’s a lot of tussling with fifteen babies trying to latch onto twelve nipples, but somehow they are all getting fed and are thriving. I’ve put the cage base inside the playpen for today’s photos. There are babies everywhere! They are very interested in solid food now, and take some of Xia’s breakfast of fruit and vegetables into their hut. The bowl of milky couscous also attracts some interest, but no great enthusiasm. The kittens can climb out of the base quite easily and are very happy to come and explore my lap. They are so tiny that I can hardly feel where they are, so I need to sit very still. The interesting bit comes when it’s time to put the cage top back on.

20 days