If you have found abandoned or feral kittens and wish to rescue and raise them, you probably have more than a few questions about how to do it. Here is a guide that will hopefully give you the answers and information you need.
Keeping the kitten comfortable
Kittens under 3 weeks can’t control their body temperature. Keep the kitten/s warm by using a heating pad or a hot water bottle is ideal. If you do use a hot water bottle make sure the water is not boiling hot, the lid is screwed securely and it is not over filled (you just need enough water so the bottle is still relatively flat and the kitten can sit comfortably on it. Make sure you wrap or cover the hot water bottle in at least two layers of towel so the kitten does not come into direct contact with it and burn themselves and keep the kitten wrapped cosy in a blanket also. If the kitten is too hot it will tend to move to the edges. Do not feed a kitten until it is warm, since it can’t properly digest when cold, although you can try and give a few drops of 5% sugar water on the end of your finger or through an eye dropper until you can get a proper feeding bottle.
Kittens should be kept in a box or cat carrier in a warm, draft-free place, completely isolated from other animals. Keep the container covered with a towel or blanket and change the bedding daily if it is soiled.
Unfortunately cow’s milk is not nutritious enough for kittens – they will slowly starve to death on it. It also causes diarrhea which is extremely dangerous for young kittens. Feeding can be done with an eyedropper or a nursing bottle (available from…………). If using the eye dropper be careful not to force feed the kitten. Let the baby suck the fluid at its own pace, otherwise you can fill the baby’s lungs with milk and cause pneumonia.
Kittens are most comfortable in a position similar to the position they’d be in if they were nursing from a mother cat. One position is simply to place the kitten on its stomach on a rolled towel or cloth on which it can cling – it will “knead” its paws on instinct. 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. Open the mouth gently with the tip of your finger and slip the nipple of the nursing bottle in. You will feel a “vacuum effect” when the kitten gets into suckle mode. To keep air from getting into the kitten’s stomach, hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle, keeping a light pull on the bottle. The kitten should be allowed to suck at its own pace. If a kitten refuses to take the nipple or won’t suckle, try rubbing it vigorously on its forehead or stroking its back. This replicates the activity of a mother cat’s cleaning and can effectively stimulate the kitten to nurse. 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.
The chart below gives you a guide to the amount of formula a kitten needs for healthy growth. Nursing bottles are marked with measurements so it’s easy to keep track. You can weigh the kitten/s daily to calculate the amount of formula they need for their current weight. Kittens under one week old should be fed every 2-3 hours; at two weeks old they can be fed every 4-6 hours; after three weeks old and until they are weaned, they should be fed every 6-8 hours. Divide their needed daily intake by the number of required daily feedings, and you’ll know how much they should eat each time.
|Age in weeks||Average weight grams||Amount of formula per day in ml||Number of feeds per day||Amount per feed in ml||Time between feeds||Development|
|0-1||115||32||8||4||3||Ears open at 5-8 days|
|1-2||200||56||6||10||4||Eyes open at 7-10 days|
|2-3||280||80||4||20||6||17 days can crawl|
|3-4||365||105||4||26||6||3 weeks ears are erect and can stand|
|4-5||450||130||4||32||6||4 weeks can elimate without help and can lap and eat solids|
After feeding, you should burp the kitten just like you’d burp a human baby; 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. Kittens under four weeks will go happily to sleep after they’re fed and full; older kittens will want some play and cuddle time.
After each feed gently rub the kitten on its lower abdomen as well as the genital area with a cotton ball, cotton pad, or tissues moistened with warm water. This stimulates the discharge of waste and keeps babies clean. Be careful to rub only enough to get them to expel waste materials. Keep the area clean and watch for chafing which might indicate that you are rubbing too hard or not cleaning well enough.
When you feed and clean the kittens, wash their fur all over with a barely damp towelette using short stokes as the mother would use. This cleans their fur and also teaches them how to clean and groom themselves.
A kitten’s eyes open around 7-10 days. If eyes seem to be pus-filled or sealed shut you can clean them with warm salt water and a cotton ball. Starting from the inside of the eye working out use gentle strokes making sure each time you use a clean part of the cotton ball so as not to re-infect the eye. Eyes will stay blue until they are about 6-7 weeks old, but true eye color won’t settle in until the kitten’s about 3 months old.
You may begin weaning the kitten at 4 weeks of age. Start by intermittently feeding it formula from a bowl instead of the bottle. Gradually introduce ‘solid food’ which can be canned kitten food or you can moisten dry kitten food with formula or water. Don’t expect the kitten to be weaned overnight. As it eats more often from the bowl, reduce the bottle feedings.