What If You Cant Take The Kittens
If you cannot take those kittens into your home to raise until they are old enough to be fixed and adopted, then you have a couple of choices.
- Do nothing
- Take them to your vet and hope someone there is willing to bottle-feed.
- Your local open-intake shelter HAS to take them, but if no foster can be found that day, they will be humanely euthanized.
- Ask around local Facebook groups for some stranger willing to bottle-feed kittens
You may not find a bottle feeder quickly if you can find one at all.
If you happen to locate a foster or rescue willing to take them, they may require you to take them back after weaning. They may require you to be responsible for their vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries. Rescues dont run on air, they need funds to save lives.
They Still Need A Clean Warm Environment To Live In
Kittens at 4-8 weeks old are starting to explore their environment. However, you still need to provide them with a warm bed or nest. Young kittens remain sensitive to the cold until they are at least 8-weeks of age. So, you should continue to keep the surrounding temperature between 20-22°C until then. In addition, you will now also need to provide your kitten with a safe space to explore and play. A childs playpen is ideal! Make sure there are no objects that your kitten can hurt itself on and ensure that no other animals can get into the pen.
What To Do First: Making Your Kittens Warm And Comfortable
If the mother is not there to do it, it is important that you keep newborn kittens warm, as they are not yet able to regulate their own body temperatures and can easily go into hypothermia. To ensure your kittens are warm enough, keep them in a quiet room, out of the way of any drafts. Keep the room temperature at around 25°C. You can make them a cosy bed from a cardboard box lined with blankets or purchase a ready-made kitten bed. You can use an infrared light or hot water bottle securely wrapped in fabric to heat their bed. But make sure it is not in direct contact with kittens.
Reminder: if your kittens eyes are still closed or partially opened, this stage is even more vital. Once warmed up, take them immediately to the vet.
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Keeping Your Kitten Lean
It is important to keep your kitten lean It is important to keep your kitten lean in the first few months of life, to reduce the risk of future health problems. High body fat has been linked to a number of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Be aware that neutering reduces the number of calories your kitten needs to grow.
How To Take Care Of Kittens Without A Mother
Wherever possible, it is best for kittens to be brought up by their mothers . This ensures they receive the correct nutrition, socialization, and care they require. When you take on a stray or abandoned kitten, you often dont know its background. So, it is essential that you seek the advice of a professional veterinarian before you dive into 24-hour kitten care!
The advice given below can be applied to all kittens . However, these guidelines are particularly beneficial when raising orphaned kittens. You can check out this article for advice on when you should hand-raise kittens.
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How To Tell If A Mother Has Abandoned Her Kittens
The very first thing we need to do when we find a kitten or a litter of newborn kittens alone is determine if they are indeed abandoned. Although there are animal welfare organizations offering trap-neuter-release programs, many stray and feral cats will become pregnant. The likelihood the cat will abandon her kittens is slim as it goes against her instincts.
For this reason, it is possible a mother cat has only left her kittens temporarily so she can find food for them. We shouldn’t immediately assume they are abandoned. To tell if the mother is around we should:
- Check their hygiene: if a mother is still with her kittens, she will groom them and remove their waste. If the kittens look clean and healthy, it means they have been recently attended to.
- Monitor them: if a mother cat sees humans around her nest of kittens, she may not approach out of fear. We need to stay well back and wait for an hour or two and see if the mother returns. An attentive mother will not be away from her kittens for too long.
- Single kitten: although it is possible a cat will only have one kitten, it is unlikely. If we see a kitten on their own, it is likely they have been abandoned or have become lost from the nest. The only time when a kitten will be left on their own by their mother is if she is moving the nest and this kitten is the last to be taken away.
When it is not possible to bring them to a wildlife facility or one cannot accommodate them, we can take the responsibility on ourselves.
Milking Formulas For Kittens
For abandoned kittens, it is recommendable to feed the newborn kittens with powdered kitten milk formulas instead of canned milk. Avoid feeding the kittens human baby formula or cows milk. They are not nutritionally suitable for kittens and can result in health issues and even demise if you feed them for a prolonged time. The high-quality powdered milk formulas are nutrient-powered and help to ward-off diarrhea. Hence, you should only use kitten milk formula from the start of bottle feeding to avoid diarrhea.
Also, ensure that the powdered formula you are using is fresh by opening the top and smelling it. If it has a sharp odor like that of chemicals, cheese, or cooking oil, it is dangerous to feed to the kittens. You should also check the expiry date to avoid feeding them any formula past the expiry date.
After opening the kitten milk replacement formula, you should refrigerate it immediately and store it in the refrigerator. Take care of it as fresh milk. You cant keep opening the milk formula out of the refrigerator for a long time before it spoils.
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Fostering Kittens With Mama
If you were able to get the mother cat, kudos to you! You now have it relatively easy.
Let mama do all the hard work!
1. Keep mama and the kittens in a quiet area.
You can use a playpen, animal crate, or a small bathroom with a plastic storage container if necessary. Try not to disturb them as much as you can, even if the mother is friendly. Even the sweetest cat can turn into a tiger when she feels her young are in danger!
2. Monitor the mama and kittens carefully.
Mother cats will sometimes reject a kitten or an entire litter and refuse to let them nurse. Some mother cats just dont know what to do, especially if they are basically just kittens themselves! And sometimes, a mama cat can become dangerous to her kittens.
Always remove kittens from the mama if they are not being fed or being harmed. You will need to bottle-feed at this point. Please visit the above advice for orphaned kittens if this happens.
3. Weigh kittens daily.
This should be done at least once a day to be sure they are getting enough milk from their mama. If they are not gaining weight properly, you will need to provide supplemental bottle feeding.
Read more about weighing kittens.
4. Provide Mama with enough nutrients!
I highly recommend doing more than just feeding mama cat kibble. She should be fed kitten food or supplemented with Kitten Milk Replacement . Preferably both! Nursing so many babies is hard on mama cats and they need all the nutrients they can get!
Editor’s Note: For Assistance With An Abandoned Kitten Please Contact Your Local Veterinarian Or Animal Rescue Organization
Kitten season is around the corner, and if youre anything like me, you might soon find yourself crossing paths with a little mewing orphan or two Im Hannah Shaw, founder of a rescue and advocacy project called Kitten Lady and Im here to give you my top 10 tips for what to do if you find kittens outside!
1. Assess the situation.
Dont assume that a litter of kittens is orphaned just because you dont see the mom. Its common for the mother to leave her babies, so give the kittens a bit of distance and see if the mom returns. If she does great! The mom is the best suited to care for them, so leave them with her If the mom does not return within an hour or two, it is time for you to step in and help.
2. Dont take the kittens to a shelter.
Unless your local shelter specifically has a program for neonatal kittens, bringing an orphaned kitten to a shelter is a death sentence. The majority of shelters do not provide care to unweaned kittens, so if you want them to have a shot, its going to be your responsibility to help them yourself, or to find someone who can.
3. Dont panic but do act quickly.
4. Gather the appropriate supplies.
Youre going to need to quickly gather supplies so you can get them warm, stable, hydrated, and fed. Check out my Preparing for Fostering supply checklist to find out what supplies youll need. Set up a cozy, safe space for the kittens away from any potential hazards.
5. Get them stable.
6. Feed the kittens.
8. Wash, rinse, repeat.
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Find A Warm Place To Nest
After 4 weeks, a kitten will start to have been weaned by their mother. After 8 weeks, they will start the process of leaving the litter. The situation is much different if we find newborn abandoned kittens. They will need to be cared for in a much more intensive way. Although we need to wait to see if their mother is around, once we are sure, we need to start caring for them immediately.
The first thing we need to do is find them somewhere comfortable and warm. If we find them outside, then it is best to move them inside somewhere more protected. A box, basket, old suitcase or, if available, a cat bed are ideal places. You should store your chosen nest somewhere which is away from the traffic of those, loud noises and drafts.
Mother cats provide their newborn kittens with essential body heat to keep them warm. This is because kittens cannot self-regulate their body temperature. In lieu of the mother being there, we recommend you keep blankets in the nest, but also find ways to keep them warm. These include:
- A heating pad for pets, which you must wrap in a fleece fabric to avoid burning.
- Hot water bottle with a temperature of 98.6 ºF/37 ºC. Also wrap it in a cloth and place next to the kittens.
- Your own body heat can also comfort them, but you won’t be able to be there all the time. Also, kittens warm each other by the way they sleep, close together, so make sure you don’t separate them into separate beds or baskets.
How Do I Feed Orphaned Kittens
Most kittens will suckle on small pet nursing bottles, also known as pet nursers. When bottle fed, kittens will nurse until they are full and then reject the bottle.
Be sure the opening in the nipple restricts the outflow of fluid to one drop at a time in order to avoid a flow rate that is too rapid for the kitten. When the flow rate is too rapid, it can lead to aspiration, pneumonia, and/or death.
When feeding, hold the kitten in a horizontal, head-neutral position. If the kitten is too weak to suckle, your veterinarian can show you alternative feeding methods and assist in tube feeding if needed.
TIP: Handling kittens during feeding contributes to critical socialization.
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What Else Do I Need To Consider As My Kittens Get Older
As your kittens open their eyes and start to move around, you will notice them becoming much stronger and more mobile. At this stage, you will need to start giving them space to explore, especially if their nest is quite small.
All kittens need regular worming from 3 weeks of age. They will also need their first set of vaccinations at around 8-9 weeks old. A veterinarian will be able to go through this with you in more detail.
Kittens 8 Weeks Old And Older
Kittens of this age are weaned from their mother, meaning they dont rely on her milk and are eating on their own. So, dont hesitate: Take them to a veterinary clinic for spay or neuter!
Spaying or neutering kittens when they are 8 weeks old and at least 2 pounds is ideal for their health and wellbeing. You can learn more at alleycat.org/2Months2Pounds.
If the kittens mother is with them, spay her at the same time. This is critical so she does not become pregnant again. We have tips for trapping a mother cat and kittens for a Trap-Neuter-Return program at alleycat.org/TNRKittens.
As you are preparing to spay or neuter the kittens and/or mother cat, you have a choice:
Return the kittens outdoors.Returning kittens to their outdoor homes as part of a TNR program is 100 percent okay! Like all cats, they will thrive. Be sure they are eartipped during their spay or neuter appointment. If a mother cat is not socialized, meaning friendly and accustomed to people, return her to her outdoor home as part of TNR as well.
Foster and adopt the kittens. If you have the means, you can foster the kittens for adoption, or adopt them yourself. You can also do the same for a mother cat who is socialized. We have a guide to find the perfect adoptive home atalleycat.org/AdoptionTips.
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Understanding Your Newborn Kittens Nutritional Needs
If you want your kitten to grow up healthy and strong, you need to feed it a high-quality diet. But what exactly are your kittens nutritional needs?
Here is a quick summary:
- Kittens should start eating solid food around 4 weeks and should be fully weaned off their mothers milk and onto kitten food by 7 or 8 weeks of age.
- A kittens diet should be nutrient-dense and fairly high in calories kittens need roughly 2 to 3 times as many nutrients and calories as adult cats.
- Kittens are obligate carnivores which means that their bodies best absorb nutrients from animal-based foods a kittens diet should be primarily meat-based.
- A kitten needs plenty of healthy fats in its diet, ideally from animal sources like chicken fat and salmon oil fats provide a concentrated source of energy as well as support for skin and coat.
- Kittens should be fed several times a day to provide the energy they need to grow and develop properly without becoming overweight.
Now that you know some of the basics of kitten nutrition, lets dive a little deeper.
The first thing you need to know about your kittens nutritional needs is that cats are obligate carnivores.
Dogs, on the other hand, are scavenging carnivores which means that most of their diet should be meat-based, but they are capable of digesting plant foods when other food is scarce.
Orphaned Kitten Care: Immediate Care For Newly
- Check to see if the kitten is chilled or dehydrated. If it is chilled, its body will be cool to the touch and it may cry constantly. If it is dehydrated, its mouth and tongue will be dry, and the mucous membranes pale, and its scruff will not spring back quickly when pinched.
- Slowly warm the kitten up using body heat only.
- After the kitten has been warmed up, feed it 5-10% glucose in water. Pedialyte is a good example of glucose in water and can be used at a ratio of 1/2 cc per lb of body weight.
- NOTE: DO NOT FEED THE KITTEN IF IT IS CHILLED. WAIT UNTIL IT WARMS UP. Kittens intestines arent working properly when they are chilled, and feeding could cause bloating or death.
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Keeping Equipment Clean To Prevent Disease
Equipment used to feed kittens should be regularly cleaned and sterilized, just as they would for a human baby. Infections are a serious risk so good hygiene is essential. Follow the cleaning instructions for your kittens bottle carefully, as different materials need to be sterilized in different ways. Boiling water, microwave ovens and sterilizing tablets may all be recommended, depending on the item.
What If The Kittens Are In Danger
If a kitten is sick or injured, contact your local veterinarian right away if your kittens show these signs:
- Signs of a sick kitten include:
- Thinstomachsand gaunt faces, visibleribs and spine
- Coldears, bellies,andpaws
- Pale gums and tongue
- Excessively crusted eyesor nose
- Diarrheaor vomiting
Signs of an injured kitten include:
- Visible wounds or sores
- Crying out in pain
There may be rare circumstances in which the kittens current environment places them in immediate danger. This is not a common scenario, so use common sense. For example, kittens may need to be removed if they are in an area that isabout to be flooded or is close to a fire.
If possible, move the kittens to another outdoor spot as close to their original nest as is safe so their mother can find them.
If you believe mother and kittens are in more long-term danger, such as extreme weather or disaster conditions
- Bring the whole family inside to a quiet, small room . You can also use a large dog crate, covered with a blanket.
- Provide the mother cat and kittens with a carrier as a hiding place. Provide foodand water, and a litter box placed as far away from the sleeping and eating area as possible.
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