How to care for newborn kittens
The main concerns during the first few weeks of a kitten’s life are:
2. keeping them warm
3. developing social skills
4. learning how to excrete on his/her own.
Normally, the human simply watches the mama cat take care of her kittens.
But if the mama cat is not around, or has rejected the kitten, or cannot produce sufficient milk, the human has to take over.
Feeding a newborn kitten
“A mother cat’s milk provides everything a kitten needs during the first four weeks of life,” says
WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA in “Newborn Kitten Care.”
Here are tips on what to do:
1. If the mama cat died or cannot be found, please ask a veterinarian or a shelter to help you find a mama cat who is nursing her kittens.
2. If you cannot find a mama cat, please ask a veterinarian on how to bottle-feed the kittens the proper way using milk that is appropriate for cats.
Kitten milk is available in pet stores and clinics. The instruction on how to prepare the milk ( ratio of milk to water) is at the back of the container.
Save ALL - Save Animals of Love and Ight Inc. (Save ALL), an animal welfare group, gives .5 ml to 1 ml of milk using a dropper every two hours. Put the dropper at the side of the mouth, not in the middle, so as not to “drown” the kitten.
Give water, in the same manner, to hydrate the kitten, especially on a very hot day.
3. Do not give cow’s milk to cats at any age. This cannot be digested well and can cause diarrhea in kittens/cats.
Food for kittens other than milk
At three to four weeks old, you can introduce a milk replacer like moist, chewable food (canned food) or dry food with milk.
Save ALL dilutes a small amount of the cat food by putting water. You can give this to the kitten as is. But we still give milk, aside from this milk replacer.
You can also pound (durugin) a high-quality cat food and put in the milk.
The food must be served on a shallow bowl for the kittens. Feed them several times a day.
At five weeks old, the kittens would have adjusted to the new diet.
At six to seven weeks old, they will start to chew dry cat food even if you do not moisten it with water or milk.
“Kittens are typically fully weaned by around eight weeks of age, “ WebMD says.
It adds,” Kittens need large amounts of energy--about two to three times that of an adult cat. Food for your kitten should contain at least 30% protein. Make sure the food you offer is specifically formulated for kittens.”
Frequency of feeding
WedMD provides below the eating schedule for newborn kittens and young cats:
Newborn kittens: every 1-2 hours.
At about three to four weeks old: milk replacer from a bowl ( dry food with milk or canned food with water) and then small amounts of moistened kitten food four to six times a day.
Kittens from six to 12 weeks old: four times a day as access to milk replacer is slowly decreased.
Kittens from three to six months old: dry cat food or canned food three times a day.
Keep a Newborn Kitten Warm
An orphaned kitten needs to be kept warm.
Here are tips from WebMD:
1. Wrap a heating pad or a hot water bottle in a towel.
2. Put this near the kitten in such a way the kitten can move away from it at will.
3. Please ask your vet about ideal temperature. Too hot is not good for the kitten.
4. Always monitor the heating pad to make sure it is functioning properly.
Weight of kittens
Depending on the breed and litter size, the average birth weight is about 3 ½ ounces, WebMD says.
The body weight may double or triple during the first few weeks, it adds.
“Gaining ¼ to half an ounce daily until they are weaned is considered healthy. Kittens who don’t gain adequate weight during this early period may not survive, “ WebMD says.
If a kitten has a mother, please do not over-handle or get the kitten often as this might upset the mother.
The mother might be stressed out as she might be afraid that you will not return the kittens or will hurt her babies.
“If the kitten in your care is younger than one week old, please consult your veterinarian. In order to properly socialize a young feline to humans, start to handle him from the second week on through the seventh week-this is considered an important time for socialization,” WebMD says.
It adds,”Please note, kittens are prone to injury if handled roughly-anyone who handles the little ones in your care will need to be very gentle. Young children in particular should be supervised.”
Teaching Kittens to Go to the Bathroom
The mama cat grooms her babies after feeding. She gives special attention to the anal area to stimulate excretion. Kittens can’t poop on their own until their second or third week.
If the kitten is orphaned, you have to stimulate excretion.
Dip a soft washcloth or a piece of gauze in warm water, then gently massage the anal and urinary areas. You can also use a cotton bud.
“The warmth, texture and movement mimic a mother cat’s tongue,” WebM says.
WebMD also says that at four weeks old, “you can teach them to use a litter box by placing them in the box after their meals. Cutting one side down will make it easier for the kittens to go in and out. “