How to Feed and Care for Orphaned Kittens
I’ve raised nine orphaned kittens over the previous 15 years. Four of them were two weeks old when their mother was slain; three others were just hours old when their mother died; and two more kittens were only a day old when they fell out of the nest in our barn.
Raising motherless kittens is not difficult, but it does need patience, time, and a lot of love.
Here are some pointers to assist you in raising orphaned kittens:
1. Build a nest.
A mother cat normally spends several hours a day in the nest with her kittens, which keeps her offspring warm. It’s critical to keep the kittens warm because if they’re not warm enough, they won’t want to eat and, in fact, all of their basic processes will slow down.
To assist your orphaned kittens conserve body heat, construct a nest in a small box and line it with towels or old t-shirts or sweaters. Cover the box with a cloth to keep the light out. Female cats like dark-colored nests. To keep the kittens warm if you don’t have a heat lamp, use a modest 40-watt desk light several feet above the box.
If the box is large enough, you may also keep the infants warm using a jug or similar large container filled with hot water. Insert the jug inside the box and create a nest with towels beside it. When the jug has cooled, refill it. A quart jar may also be used as a “hot water bottle,” although it cools down rapidly.
2. Feed the kittens using an eyedropper or a syringe.
I realized the first time I reared orphaned kittens that the little nursing bottles supplied at vet clinics were too large. The kittens’ lips couldn’t fit around the nipples. So, at first, I used an eyedropper on newborn kittens. As the kittens grew older, a syringe, the sort used for injections (without the needle, of course! ), worked really well. I started with a 3 cc syringe and graduated to larger syringes as the kittens became larger. My kittens soon sucked hard enough on the end of the syringe to bring the plunger down on their own, and the tip of the syringe is approximately the size of a cat’s nipple.Check with your vet clinic to see if they have any old syringes or if you can get new syringes from them.
A word of caution: Whether you’re using an eyedropper or a syringe, just deliver a few drops at a time. My veterinarian warned me that if I gave the kittens too much formula at once (more than they could consume), they may inhale it. Inhaling formula increases your kittens’ susceptibility to pneumonia.
Along the road, I’ve realized that feeding the kittens as much as they want to eat is best. If they are receiving enough to eat, they will calm down and sleep until the next meal. Tiny kittens will begin by taking one CC at a time. They will consume around 12 CCs at a time as they grow (usually in several different helpings).
Kittens rapidly learn that food comes from the syringe in your hand. If you’re having problems getting them to take the formula from the syringe, let them a few seconds to nuzzle in your palm or suck on your fingers. Then insert the syringe and let them to suck on it while gently pressing the plunger down.
3. Give the kittens KMR or cat formula that you made yourself.
KMR, or canned cat milk replacer, is available in either premixed or dry form at most vet clinics. It is specially designed for kitties and has all of the nutrients they require. Follow the label’s instructions. Body weight determines the quantity to feed. My newborn kittens weighed three ounces apiece, and they only need half an eyedropper of KMR at a time for the first several days.
My veterinarian also provided me with a recipe for “kitten formula.” This is what I fed all of my kittens after the first can of KMR.
Here is the Kitten Formula recipe.
1 quart whole milk
1 tbsp. white corn syrup
1 yolk of an egg
a dash of salt
In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and blend well ahead of time to allow the bubbles to disappear.
Warm gently over medium heat. Warm the formula until it is slightly warm to the touch. My kittens all refused to drink the formula whether it was too cold or too hot. The same may be said about KMR.
4. Feed your kittens three times a day on a regular basis.
Every couple of hours, mother cats breastfeed their babies. The veterinarian I contacted advised me not to feed them so frequently. “They won’t eat properly, and you’ll be irritated, and they’ll be frustrated, and it’ll be worse on everyone,” he explained. He was correct. It worked out extremely nicely to feed the kittens three times each day.
5. Use a warm, damp towel to groom your kittens and assist them in emptying their bladders and intestines.
Because young kittens are unable to empty their bladders or move their bowels, you will need to assist them. Wipe beneath their tails with a warm, moist washcloth until they have emptied their bladders and/or evacuated their bowels. Prepare to use up to four washcloths for each cat. You won’t need as many if they merely need to empty their bladders.Look out if they need to empty their bowels; things might become nasty! Smaller washcloths, which you can wring out with one hand while holding a wiggling cat in the other, work best. I placed the washcloths in a bucket of warm water and placed the pail in a readily accessible location.
Young kittens do not know how to groom themselves, and after a few days of ingesting kitten formula, their chins get sticky from the formula that unavoidably dribbles down their chins. Wipe off the formula with a warm, wet washcloth on occasion, but be cautious not to get the kittens TOO wet or they may struggle to remain warm.
6. When they are four weeks old, provide a litter pan.
Cats have a strong tendency to scratch about in material when they need to empty their bladders and move their intestines. By four weeks old, the kittens will be thinking in this way, and supplying them with a litter pan will assist them acquire the notion. You may need to help them with a washcloth for a bit, but it won’t be long before they’re using the litter pan on their own.
To begin, kitty litter in an aluminum pie dish works great. As the kittens develop, use a larger litter box container.
7. Begin providing solid food to the kittens when they are around six weeks old.
Kittens reared by their mothers will likely begin eating sooner than six weeks, but you will be able to supply more milk than their moms would.
You may start feeding your kittens solid food after they have developed teeth. If you want to provide dry food, a high-quality kitten chow will suffice. Kitten food contains all of the minerals and protein that kittens require to develop. Kitten chow is also available in kitten-bite-sized bits. You may also try a little canned kitten food to whet their appetites and give them a “treat.”.Make sure your kittens have access to clean drinking water. Supplement their caloric intake with kitten formula until they are eating solid food on a regular basis. You won’t need to use a syringe to feed them by this point. You may put the formula in a little saucer, and they will drink on their own after they figure out where it is and what it is.
8. Be prepared to be startled and surprised.
Kittens grow swiftly, and you may believe they are growing right before your eyes on some days.
When kittens are around 10 days old, their eyes open.
They will begin purring as early as 6 days of age.
When kittens are two to three weeks old, they will begin additional “kitty activities” such as shaking their heads, attempting to groom, and lifting a hind leg to scratch behind their ears.
Young kittens will occasionally have the hiccups (!) while being fed.
In some ways, kittens are similar to babies. They spend their days eating, sleeping, and emptying their intestines and bladders. When you place the kittens back in the “nest” after they’ve eaten enough and had their bodily functions taken care of, they’ll sleep or rest peacefully until you’re ready to feed them again. If they are restless, wailing, and meowing, it might be that they need to eat more, that they need to empty their bladders or move their bowels, or that they are chilly.
As the kittens grow bigger, they will stay awake for longer amounts of time and will ultimately begin to play with one another.
You will most likely have to shift the kittens into a larger box by the time they are four weeks old, if not sooner, because the first one will be too tiny and they will know how to get out on their own!