The addition of newborn kittens can be stressful for you and your family, but it can also be a very stressful time for the mother cat as well. To ensure the survival of the new additions to your family, here are some pointers for newborn kitten care.
The first two weeks of a kittens life are the most crucial. One of the biggest dangers to a new kitten is lacking warmth. While the mother cat usually takes care of this, you can guarantee the health of the kittens by providing some extra blankets, so the mother cat and her kittens will be more comfortable. Placing them inside a box or carrier with towels and blankets can provide extra added warmth. Make sure that you’re not overheating the new family, and that both the kittens and the mother cat are all comfortable in their space. A kitten’s ideal body temperature is between 100 to 102 degrees.
The mother usually provides her kittens nourishment. However if there are too many kittens in the litter and the mother cannot feed them all you may have to step in. Another possible reason for the mother not feeding a kitten is rejection. Look for telltale signs, such as the mother ignoring one or more kittens in favor of another. The mother may also refuse to feed an entire litter which means you will have a lot of work ahead.
How to Bottle Feed a Kitten
Bottle feeding is done to enhance nutrition especially if the kitten is in bad condition or if the mother is no longer present. Usually, bottle feeding is necessary with cats or kittens that have gone through nutritional trauma. Your veterinarian can help in determining what is needed on a case by case basis.
For newborn kitten care, you will need K.M.R. ( kitten milk replacement), which you can usually find at pet stores or you can order Petag PMR from Amazon. A specialized bottle will help feed the kittens the milk replacement. Bottle kits designed for feeding kittens are available at most pet supply stores or you may want to consider these veterinarian designed bottles by Sleeky. Instructions on preparing the nipples and milk are usually provided on the packaging. Nipple openings should not be too large or wide and you will need to sterilize your kitten’s feeding bottles between feedings.
A kitten should eat about 8 milliliters (mls) of formula per ounce of body weight per day. To feed, use 1 part powdered KMR formula to 2 parts water and mix or shake in the bottle. Always underfeed a kitten rather than over feed. It is safer to give more frequent, smaller feedings than a few large ones. Over-feeding leads to colic and bloat.
Use the following chart as a general reference for feeding your kitten:
Amount per feeding
Every 2 hours
Every 2-3 hours
Every 3-4 hours
Every 4-5 hours
Every 5-6 hours
(weaning; offer ample wet food)
Every 6 hours
You may need to warm the formula by placing it in a bowl with hot water. K.M.R. formula should be warmed to 100 degrees Fahrenheit before feeding. Always test the temperature on your wrist are before giving it to the kittens. A meat or baking thermometer can also be used to determine the temperature of the milk. When feeding, you may want to sit with a towel in your lap with the kitten facing you. Never feed the kitten on his back. The kitten should be on his stomach in a position similar to how he would lay next to his mother to nurse. Start by turning the bottle upside down and allowing a drop of formula to come out. Place the bottle nipple in the kitten’s mouth while gently moving it back and forth, holding the bottle at a 45-degree angle to keep air from getting into the kitten’s stomach. This process should encourage the kitten to start eating. If it does not, try rubbing the kittens head to replicate his mothers licks.
Newborn kittens, up to 1 week old, should be fed every 2 to 3 hours and by 2 weeks old, every 4-6 hours. Once they are 3 weeks old, they can be fed every 4 to 6 hours. Continue to use the rule of 8 milliliters of formula per ounce of body weight per day, as described above, to determine the amount of food the kitten should be ingesting or follow the provided chart. Always clean the kittens face and wash your hands when you are done with feedings.
After bottle feeding or nursing, most kittens are likely to want to sleep but kittens need to be burped, just like human babies. Lay the kitten on his stomach, using your shoulder or lap, and gently pat his back until you hear a little burp. You may need to burp kittens a couple times per feeding.
Helping Kittens “Go”
Mother cats stimulate kittens to go to the bathroom by licking them. If the mother cat is still around, allow her to do her job by licking the kittens to stimulate them in going. If you are caring for an orphan, you will need to help them by stimulating them at each feeding. Use a soft and disposable cloth like toilet paper, wet or dry works,while holding the kitten steady with one hand, then gently rubbing the genital area in a circular motion. The kitten should begin to pee and you should keep rubbing until he is done. This process can also be used near the bottom area if the kitten needs to poop.
How to Wean a Bottle Fed Kitten
Weaning is a process where most kittens are slowly introduced to a solid cat food diet while withdrawing from the usual feeding of its mother’s milk or bottle feedings, just like in humans.
Normally kittens begin solids at 7 or 8 weeks, but the process of weaning usually begins during the 4th week. Try offering the kittens formula on a spoon and once they are lapping it off the spoon, try putting some formula in a saucer. You may also want to try giving kittens solid wet cat food in the formula in the saucer. During this time you will still need to bottle feed them.
As the kittens adjust to eating wet food, you will need to also add more water to the formula mix. As the kittens eat more solid cat food and less formula, you will need to have a bowl of fresh water available for them at all times to keep them well hydrated. During this time, you may also add a dry kitten food to their diet. Pay attention to your kittens’ stools to assure they are tolerating the new food well. If diarrhea or constipation becomes an issue with the change in diet, contact your veterinarian.
Taking care of a newborn kitten is fun and exciting, but proper kitten care is vital to the health and development of your kitten. Monitor your kittens and make sure they are gaining 1/4 to 1/2 ounce per day. If you have any concerns about the health of your kittens, it is imperative you contact a veterinarian immediately.