CARING FOR NEONATAL KITTENS (ONE TO THREE WEEKS OLD)

Be aware that sometimes, no matter what you do, some neonatal kittens do not survive. You can only try to be the best surrogate guardian possible, and hope for the best.

  • Try to find a nursing mother cat or experienced volunteers available to bottle-feed the kittens. People have had a lot of success having mother cats “adopt” more kittens.
  • Heat and Bedding: Kittens can easily become chilled and can actually die from chilling within a short timeframe. Be sure that from the moment you find them, the kittens are kept constantly warm.

It is important to note that kittens cannot control their own body temperature until they are at least three-weeks-old. Do not bottle feed until kittens have warmed up completely.

At home, provide kittens with a soft nest (like a box or kitty bed) with a heating pad or other warming device, warm water bottle COVERED with a towel to avoid direct excessive heat. Completely cover it with a blanket or towel, and make sure that kittens can move away from the heat if they want. Keep the bedding dry and hygienic.

  • Food: Never feed kittens cow’s milk, this causes diarrhea. Feed only kitten formula, available is veterinary clinics. Follow the directions of the bottle manufacturer for bottle preparation and feeding. If you find yourself with a kitten and no store is open, this emergency kitten formula can be made at home. It should only be used in emergencies, and should NOT replace kitten formula.
  • 8oz can evaporated milk
  • 1 beaten egg yolk
  • 2 TB Karo syrup

Mix all ingredients well and strain. Warm before serving. Keep refrigerated.

  • Feeding: Hold or place kittens on their stomachs and arch the bottle so less air gets in (do not feed kittens on their backs). Always warm the kitten replacement milk and test it on your wrist to be sure it is warm but not hot. Remember, do NOT feed kittens with chilled milk.
    Feeding should occur every two hours around the clock for kittens one week or younger. You can reduce feeding to every three to four hours at two weeks and from then on, most kittens can be fed about two to three times daily with a wet food/formula mixture. Follow the guidelines on the formula label for how much to feed. Kittens will usually stop nursing when full.
    If you are having trouble getting a kitten to latch onto the bottle, try pulling on the nipple when they start to suck, this will encourage her to suck harder and latch on. You can also try moving the nipple back and forth in the kittens mouth.
    If your kitten is too ill to suck on a bottle, you may have to use other methods such as tube feeding. Excess milk could harm the kitten please consult a veterinarian before attempting this yourself.
    Weaning occurs around four to five weeks of age. Mix formula with wet food so kittens can begin to lap it up, or put the mixture in a bottle. Then mix with dry food and begin providing water.
  • After feeding: As long as kittens are eating formula, you must burp them. Put them on your shoulder or on their stomachs and pat them gently until you feel them burp. Kitten formula is sticky, so be sure to clean kittens after feeding with a warm, damp washcloth and make sure they are dry.
  • Elimination: Kittens under four weeks must be stimulated in order to go to the bathroom after each feeding. Usually a mother cat would lick her kittens, but you can use a warm, moist cotton ball to gently rub the kittens’ anal area to stimulate urination and defecation. Completely solid feces usually will not form while kittens are drinking formula. Start litter training at four weeks. Use a small litter box with non-clumping litter. Show kittens the litter box and put in a used cotton ball, and this should do the trick.
  • Health Concerns: Upper Respiratory Infection (URI): Though this is common in kittens, you should not ignore it. If heavy yellow discharge develops or the kitten has trouble breathing or eating, see a veterinarian immediately. A mild URI can be cleared up by simply wiping away discharge with a warm, wet cloth and keeping kittens in a warm, damp environment. Parasites/Diarrhea: Any drastic change in stool consistency can mean trouble. Parasites can often cause diarrhea, strange looking stool, and dehydration. If you notice any unusual signs, your kittens should be seen by a veterinarian.

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