When a young orphaned joey like Chrissy comes into our care, we must take over the loving and nurturing duties usually held by her mother and the rest of the mob. These duties also include feeding and toileting the babies.
After the initial medical check, we try to give the joeys a bit of milk formula. Tanya has different sizes of glass bottles and silicone teats that match the age and development of the joeys.
Despite this, it can still be hard to get the babies to drink. The milk doesn’t taste like mum’s milk; the teat doesn’t feel like mum’s teat. The joeys are often still experiencing some shock from the accident hat took their mothers’ life. Sometimes it takes several attempts before achieving a successful feeding.
Once the babies learn that the milk is nourishment, some can be extremely demanding. They quickly learn when each feeding takes place and sometimes cry as soon as they hear you preparing their food in the kitchen. They’re such cheeky buggers!
After each feeding, it’s important to make sure they use the bathroom. If they were still with mum, she would stimulate their cloaca by licking it. This would encourage them to pee and poo. Mum would then lick that up to keep her baby clean
Since their mother isn’t here, carers imitate her actions to keep a healthy baby. Hard-core wildlife carers will use their finger to lightly tickle the joey’s cloaca. It usually doesn’t take long for them to do their business. You can also use a tissue or toilet paper and get the same results (and I think it’s a lot more sanitary).
I was quite nervous when Tanya taught me to toilet Chrissy. She was so tiny and wiggled around a bit. I was afraid I’d drop her! It was also very awkward to hold her as she was mostly all legs with a big head.
But, I soon learned that joeys are extremely flexible and you can easily lift their legs up to get to their cloaca. It was a new experience for the both of us, and once we realized what we were both supposed to do things got better.