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How To Feed Newborn Kittens

Bottle Feeding The Newborn Kitten

How to Syringe Feed a Newborn Kitten

Kittens grow at an astounding rate, making proper nutrition vital for healthy growth and development.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to feed your newborn kitten. This can be because of abandonment or loss of the mother, because the mother cannot produce enough milk to feed all of the young or because one of the newborns is not as strong as the others and is not receiving enough nutrition. Feeding a young kitten is best accomplished with a bottle specially designed for newborn animals. The opening in the nipple of the bottle should only allow one drop to fall at a time when the bottle in inverted. Sometimes a slit will work better than a small hole for this purpose.

Use a milk replacer formulated for kittens do not use cows milk or goats milk as the fat, protein, and lactose levels are not correct for a kitten. If you are using liquid milk replacer, it should be ready to serve as is. If you are using powdered milk replacer, it is important to follow the manufacturers instruction for reconstitution. If the formula is too concentrated then the kitten may become constipated and if the formula is too dilute, not only will your kitten not receive the proper amount of nutrients but she could develop diarrhea. Both of these can be life threatening to your kitten. Never heat the formula itself instead, soak a bottle in a mug of hot water. After a minute, test the temperature of the formula on the inside of your wrist. It should feel warm, but not hot.

Get Your Supplies Ready Before Feeding Your Kittens

Before feeding your newborn kittens, you’ll need to sterilize the bottles and nipples or eyedroppers you’re using. Submerge them in boiling water for at least ten minutes. Gather a towel, a washcloth and a bottle of warm water near your feeding station.

Fill up the sterilized bottle with kitten formula. Place the bottle into a bowl of very hot water to warm it to the right temperaturebetween 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Test the temperature, and the nipple, by squeezing out a bit of the formula onto your inner wrist.

Kitten Feeding Schedule: How Much Food Kittens Need

Just like human babies, kittens do a lot of growing in the first year of their lives. The kind of food and how much a kitten consumes directly affects their growth rate and development. By making sure a kitten is on a proper feeding schedule, you’ll be able to monitor your kitten’s growth and ensure they are receiving appropriate nutrition.

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Newborn Kitten Care: The Important Things To Know

Cats are very prolific breeders and as such many kitten litters are unplanned. Helping a pregnant cat give birth can be a technical process, however, and requires a lot of skill. That’s why its important that you speak to your vet if you suspect that your cat is gestating. They will provide recommendations and guidance on how to support your cat through their pregnancy and labour.

In this article, well outline a few of the actions you can take to ensure you give any newborn litter of kittens the care they need.

What do you need to do for newborn kittens?

Identify each kitten

Youll need to monitor each kitten individually. A simple way to ensure you recognise them is to create collars using different colours of wool for each kitten. Remember to change these for bigger collars as they grow.

Weigh the kitten

The growth rate between birth and two days old is an important health indicator in neonatal kitten care, so its important to record a kittens birth weight, followed by daily recordings of their weight to track their progress. Use digital scales to take accurate measurements within 1g and make sure theyre clean and disinfected. Healthy kittens should double their birth weight in the first two weeks, then continue to gain weight steadily.

Examine from head to tail

Determine the sex of the kittens

Sexing kittens is not always easy, and even professional breeders can struggle in the first hours, but there are two key indicators to look out for:



Assessing The Kitten Before Feeding

How to Bottle

Bottle fed kittens should be fed every two or three hours during the daytime: if they are fed this frequently, there should be no need to feed them during the night.

You should not wake them to feed them: leave them alone if they are sleeping. When they are hungry, they will wake up and move around. When you examine them, check their abdomens: hungry kittens have empty, tucked up abdomens, while full kittens have swollen, plump abdomens.

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Supplies For A Newborn Kitten

Part of kitten care involves getting the right supplies.

Your first stop should be your veterinarian. I knew very little about newborn kitten care , so a visit to my local veterinarian was the first thing on my list. Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions or for recommendations.

Your primary concern in caring for your newborn kitten is temperature regulation. Newborn kittens get cold very easily. A kitten with a low body temperature is in dangerfeeding that kitten can actually be dangerous. You will want to make sure he or she is stable first and given a once over by a doctor.

Kitten Hygiene: From Birth Until 3

Newborn kittens cant urinate or defecate for themselves. They start to control these functions at 3 weeks. Up until then, its the mother who stimulates them by licking the anal and genital areas.

To help him, you just need to follow these simple steps:

  • Gently rub his abdomen and genital and anal areas with a soft, damp cloth. This will push him to urinate for a few seconds. Kittens can only defecate once a day, but if more than a day and a half goes by, take him to the vet. As hes so tiny, constipation could be fatal.
  • Keep him dry. Several newborn kittens living together can get dirty, urinating on each other as theyre so close together. Clean you little kittens with a damp cloth, and then dry them with a soft one. In this way youll make sure that their body temperature doesnt fall.

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How Much Should You Feed Kittens

Young kittens should be fed two tablespoons of milk replacer per day if they weigh between 3 to 4 ounces within 24 hours. Avoid overfeeding the kitten as it can cause them to become bloated, gassy, and uncomfortable. A feeding guideline should be on the back of the milk replacement formulas packaging which will give you a general indication of how much the kitten should eat per its body weight. It is recommended to weigh the kitten every three days so that you can determine how much formula to feed them. This will also give you an indication as to how much they are growing so that you can accommodate their feeding requirements.

How Do I Feed A Newborn Kitten

How to feed newborn kittens

Kittens under 4 weeks of age cannot eat solid food, whether itâs dry or canned. They can drink their motherâs milk to get the nutrients they need. The kitten will rely on you to survive if their mother isnât around.

You can feed your newborn kitten a nutritional substitute thatâs called kitten milk replacer. Itâs essential that you avoid feeding a kitten the same milk that humans consume. Typical cowâs milk can make cats very sick. If youâre unsure of which kitten milk replacer to choose, talk to a veterinarian. They can help you select the right one.

For many dry milk replacers, refrigeration is not always required. But if extra milk is prepared, it should be stored in the fridge. To feed your kitten, follow these steps:

Prepare the formula. Warm the kitten formula to slightly above room temperature. Test the temperature of the formula right before you feed your kitten. Do this by placing a few drops of the formula on your wrist to ensure itâs not too hot.

Keep things clean. Before and after each feeding, you should wash your hands and the bottle that you used to feed your kitten. Itâs also recommended that you use a âkitten gown.â This could be a robe or a shirt that you only wear when youâre handling or feeding your kitten. Using a kitten gown helps reduce the possibility of spreading germs.

If for any reason you canât get your kitten to eat, contact your veterinarian immediately.

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How To Bottle Feed Your Newborn Kittens

Kellinahandbasket / Flickr

To ensure the survival of a newborn kitten, ample nutrition must be provided. Sometimes, however, the mother cat grows ill and cannot nurse her young or she alienates a kitten from the litter due to an injury or disability. In these situations, you will need to step in and take on the role of the mother cat. This often requires bottle feeding a newborn kitten until the kitten is strong enough to eat regular cat food.

Should Kittens Be Wormed Regularly

Since intestinal parasites are common in kittens, all kittens should be treated with drugs to kill the parasites from about 3 weeks of age. Before each dosing the kittens should be accurately weighed, since if too little wormer is given it may not be effective, and if too much is given it may make the kittens ill. In many kittens the worms cause no clinical signs, while in others they can result in poor body condition, soft or bloody stools, loss of appetite, a potbellied appearance and weight loss. Some worms can be transmitted through the stools of infected cats, while others are carried by fleas. Good hygiene and flea control are therefore essential.

See worming your cat

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My Newborn Kitten Seems Constipated What Can I Do

Contact your vet for advice if your kitten isnt pooing normally constipation is very painful and can be dangerous. Your vet may prescribe medicines to help your kitten poo, or if youve caught it early enough, they may advise replacing their next feed with cooled boiled water . A water meal is fine as a one-off and can help loosen constipation. Constipation in artificially fed kittens is often caused by clumps in formula milk . Clumps tend to develop when formula powder is mixed with water that is too hot, or too cold. Make sure that you follow your milk preparation instructions carefully to prevent problems.

Newborn Kitten Feeding Guide

Important Tips for Feeding Newborn Kittens

During the first few weeks of their lives, eating and sleeping are pretty much all that newborn kittens do.

It is of critical importance to keep kittens close to their mothers at this point, not only for feeding purposes but to keep them warm as well. A mother cats milk has all the nutrients and vitamins a newborn kitten feeding needs in order to develop into a healthy cat. Nursing may continue for as long as up to eight weeks.

There may be instances when the mother rejects a few of her kittens, and you have to feed them on your own. In this case, a few materials are required. First of all, you need to purchase syringes, bottles, and kitten milk replacement formula, which is readily available in any big pet store. After the syringe has been sterilized and the milk has been warmed a tiny bit, you are ready to offer this to the kitten. Take note to test the warm milk to make sure it isnt too hot, and do not leave the formula sitting around for a long time. Offer this to the kitten as soon as it is prepared.

It is important to remember not to overfeed the kitten, but simply let it drink at its own pace. It is safer to give the kitten less than what it wants, than more than it actually needs. Overfeeding a kitten may lead to bloating and diarrhea.

It is a good idea to gently rub the kittens tummy after every feeding, to encourage burping and the passing of gas.

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Which Kittens Need To Be Hand

Normally kittens have their environmental and nutritional requirements met by their mother. However, a number of different situations may lead to kittens requiring extra care, eg, death of the mother, rejection of the kittens by the mother, ill health of the mother, or the production of too large a litter for the mother cat to care for.

When the mother cat is only temporarily ill, the kittens may only need to be hand fed for a few days, while in other situations the kittens may need to be fed by hand until they are weaned. In the case of a very large litter, where the kittens are gaining some milk from their mother, they will only need supplemental feeding.

How To Care For Newborn Kittens

This article was co-authored by Natalie Punt, DVM. Dr. Natalie Punt is a Veterinarian and the Founder and CEO of mPet. She specializes in small animal emergency and general medicine and veterinary practice economics. Dr. Punt holds a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from The University of California, Davis, an MS in Biochemistry from The University at Buffalo, and a DVM from Western University of Health Sciences.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 23 testimonials and 92% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 403,667 times.

Caring for newborn kittens is hard work. They require attention and care around the clock. If you have recently taken in some newborn kittens, you will have your work cut out for you. If the mother cat is still in the picture, she can provide most of the kittens needs herself.XExpert SourceNatalie Punt, DVMVeterinarianExpert Interview. 15 February 2022. You can support her by feeding her and leaving the kittens alone during their first week of life. If the mother cat is not around or not able to care for her babies, then you will have to take over her responsibilities. This will include feeding the kittens, keeping the kittens warm, and even helping the kittens go to the bathroom.

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How Long Can Newborn Kittens Go Without Eating

Newborn kittens are completely reliant on their mother. She nurses them, bathes them, keeps them warm, and comforts them when theyre frightened. In an ideal world, no kitten would ever be separated from her mother before shes ready. Unfortunately, tragedies happen. If you find an abandoned kitten or your kittens are unable to nurse from their mother for any reason, theyll only survive around 12 hours without food. Older kittens may live as many as four days without nursing, but time is of the essence. If you suspect your kittens arent eating enough or fear they may have stopped eating its time for a trip to the vet. Delaying veterinary treatment could have heartbreaking consequences.

What Should You Expect When Caring For Newborn Kittens

How to Safely Bottle Feed a Kitten

Caring for orphaned neonatal kittens takes round the clock effort, but it can be done if you are willing to put in the time and dedication. You have to be prepared to get up throughout the night for the feedings. Its very much like caring for a human baby in that regard. However, they grow up much faster, so you are not doing it for months at a time. But it still takes a similar dedication. You definitely have sleepless nights and periods of worry. Are they getting enough to eat? Are they growing the way they are supposed to?

It can also be really sad sometimes, because they dont all make it. Some studies say that the mortality rate for kittens can be up to 40 percent. But you definitely create a real bond caring for them through that period.

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Heat & Bedding For Newborn Kittens

Kittens can get the chills easily, which can be life-threatening. From the moment you find them, keep the kittens warm and watch out for signs of chilling . If you have nothing else on hand, use your own body heat to warm up a cold kitten, and rub her gently to aid circulation.

Neonatal kittens cannot control their own body temperature until they are at least 3 weeks old. And its very important to hold off on bottle feeding until the kittens have completely warmed up.

At home, build a soft nest with a heating pad that is completely covered with a blanket or towel. Make sure that kittens can move away from the heat if they want. Change the bedding daily or when they have accidents. A kitten can chill if she gets wet, so never submerge kittens in water.

If a kitten needs to be cleaned up, wash only certain parts of her little body with a washcloth. Be sure to always fully dry with a hair dryer and towel.

How Do You Make Your Own Kitten Formula

A variety of recipes for homemade kitten formula exist, but if you can purchase a kitten milk replacement from the pet store to use, that is ideal. For times when store-bought milk replacement is not an option, find a recipe for which you have all the ingredients, until you can get some milk replacement formula. A homemade kitten replacement formula should not be used beyond 24 hours .

The following formulas are from The Cornell Book of Cats by the Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine:

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Week One Feeding Schedule

A kitten typically weighs about 3 to 3.7 oz. at birth but will gain weight rapidly from nursing. For the first several weeks of life, a newborn kitten will depend entirely on its mother to provide it with food. Its eyes and ears are sealed shut when it’s born, so it will rely on the pheromones its mother gives off to find milk and warmth. Most kittens do just fine without human intervention, but if a kitten needs to be bottle-fed, either because the mother cat is absent, ill, or rejects the kitten, you’ll want to weigh the kitten regularly to make sure its weight reflects a healthy and normal growth rate of a kitten.

A kitten will nurse for about 45 minutes at a time every 2 to 3 hours for the first week of life. The rest of the time will be spent sleeping. Kittens that are bottle-fed should consume about a tablespoon, or 15 ml, of special kitten formula at each feeding. This is very time consuming for someone who is bottle-feeding a newborn kitten, so if at all possible, you will want to try to keep the kitten with its mother or a surrogate lactating cat who can nurse it.


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