Looking after kitten without his mother
Some fosters prefer the Catac brand of kitten feeders, which feature a specially-shaped bottle and nipple, but these are harder to find. You know that you have made the nipple opening just big enough if, when the bottle is held upside-down, formula drips slowly from it. Too large an opening will force too much formula into them too fast.
Before each feeding, sterilize the bottles and nipples by boiling them in water. Formula should be warmed to room temperature. You can do this by microwaving it in the bottle for no longer than 10 seconds never let it boil , or placing the bottle in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. Before each feeding, you should also wash your hands thoroughly. An alternative to this is to purchase a box of latex surgical gloves and use a new pair for each feeding.
Many fosters like to keep a special t-shirt, sweatshirt, or apron in the room where the kittens are kept, and slip it on before feeding and removing it afterwards. Some viruses can live on clothing, and this can help prevent cross-contamination to and from other animals in the house. Kitten positioning for feeding is very important; this is where the crucial surrogate-mom bonding happens. You can also sit cross-legged on the floor with the kitten inside your legs, and let the kitten place its paws on your leg as it nurses. Remember to keep a towel on your lap for this, and use a fresh, clean towel each day.
Open the mouth gently with the tip of your finger and slip the nipple in. Once your kitten gets the hang of it, they will search out the nipple enthusiastically! The kitten should be allowed to suck at its own pace. Sometimes a kitten is simply picky.
Caring for Orphaned Kittens
Kittens who seem too weak to nurse can often be stimulated by rubbing some Karo syrup on the lips. The kitten should be put on Amoxicyllin. If it does not respond in 10—12 hours then you should absolutely take the kitten to the vet. Kittens have been known to accidentally suck formula into the lungs.
How Do I Feed a Newborn Kitten?
If this happens, hold the kitten upside down until it stops choking. Weigh the kittens daily to calculate the amount of formula they need, using a kitchen scale or small postal scale. Kittens under one week old should be fed every hours. At two weeks old, they can be fed every hours.
Should any kittens not be hand-reared?
After three weeks old and until they are weaned, kittens should be fed every hours. If you notice that your kittens are not eating enough in one feeding, increase the frequency of feedings.
Feed the first kitten until it stops nursing, then feed the second, etc. Then go back to the first and repeat this round-robin. Usually after two or three nursing turns, a kitten has had enough for one feeding. When a kitten has had enough formula, it will usually get some bubbles around its mouth and its tummy will be very rounded, almost pear-shaped.
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Hold it upright against your shoulder and pat it on the back. Do not overfeed kittens, since this can cause diarrhea and a host of other problems. Older kittens will want some serious play and cuddle time. After each feeding, gently rub the kitten on its low abdomen, as well as the genitals and rectum, with a fresh cotton ball, cotton pad, or with tissues moistened with warm water. Make sure you rub only long enough to get them to eliminate. Overstimulation will irritate the area. Keep an eye out for chafing and lingering dirt.
Kittens should — and almost always will — urinate during each stimulation. They should defecate at least once a day.
Johnny Cat, etc. After each meal, put the kitten in the box and see what transpires. After each feeding session, you should also give them a full-body, once-over wipe with a barely damp washcloth, using short strokes like a mom-cat would use. Kittens will often get very dirty and mucked-up in between cleanings. You should also check their ears regularly for dirt and — especially after initial rescue — ear mites. Dirt can be cleaned gently with a cotton ball or swab. If you find fleas or flea dirt on kittens of any age, you must get them flea-free as soon as possible.
Young kittens can easily get anemia from flea infestation and really endanger its life. First, use a flea comb to remove as much of the dirt and fleas from the fur as you can. Always read the warnings on any flea product to confirm at which age it is safe! Place the kitten on a towel for about 20 minutes, and then discard the towel with the dead and dying fleas that have come from the kitten.
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After using the spray, give the kitten a bath in gentle or surgical soap. Make sure water temperature is lukewarm so as not to chill the kitten.
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- Need to learn more about bottle feeding kittens? Find out about hand rearing in our guide..
Dry the kitten, if old enough, with a blow dryer or you can towel-dry it, then put it in a carrier and aim the blow dryer into it the carrier to gently dry the kitten with warm, circulating air. Other skin irritations to look for are ringworm and mange. Weigh them at the same time each day with a kitchen scale or small postal scale. Lack of gain or weight loss beyond 24 hours is cause for alarm and requires a visit to the vet.
Their bellies should always be rotund — if you squeeze them between two fingers and slowly try to bring the fingers together, you should NOT be able to do it! You can check to make sure a kitten is properly hydrated by pulling up the skin at the scruff of the neck. If it bounces back nicely, hydration is good.
Weaning occurs at about four to five weeks of age, but keep in mind that some kittens take a bit longer, especially without a mom-cat to show them the wonders of eating solid food.
You will know that a kitten is ready for the weaning process when it is a biting its nipple often and forcefully, and b able to lick formula from your finger. A heating pad on low, a warm water bottle, or even a sock filled with rice and put in the microwave can all provide a steady but mild heat source to a cold kitten. Instead, you will need to purchase kitten milk replacer, sold at most pet stores or feed stores. It comes as a surprise to some people that newborn kittens actually do not go to the bathroom on their own — their mother licks them to stimulate elimination and urination, and to keep them nice and clean.
You will need to mimic this behavior by stimulating the kittens with a warm, wet cloth at each feeding. Fostering kittens is fun, rewarding, and lightning-fast if you do it right!
Plan on caring for them until they are old enough to be neutered — right around eight weeks old. In the meantime, search for the perfect forever home, get them all their standard veterinary care, and enjoy watching them grow. Search for a local TNR Trap-Neuter-Return group to help you get what you need to sterilize any free-roaming cats so that you can prevent the next round of kittens! Thank you for being a neonatal kitten warrior!