Newborn kittens are adorable and yet fragile weighing on 3.5 ounces. Caring for them requires a hands-on approach. Cats become sexually mature at 6 months and the gestation period usually lasts for 58 to 72 days. Females who aren’t spayed can have up to three litters every year.
Despite the efforts to spay and neuter cats, there are still lots of kittens every year. Learning about how to take care of newborn kittens can help save their lives. This article will highlight all the care tips a newborn kitten needs as well as what to feed them and how to help them expel waste.
When kittens are born, they are totally defenseless. Both eyes and ears and closed shut and they cannot crawl. Fortunately, they grow quickly. Newborn kitten care comes in different stages, so it is important to first determine which stage the kitten is in to know the best care for him.
Below is a scale showing how to determine a kitten’s age and this can be used to pick the care routine for the kitten.
|0 to 7 days||Weighs below 4 ounces with ears and eyes closed completely|
|1st week to 10 days||Weight increased to 6 ounces, eyes start opening but ears remain flat.|
|2 weeks||Weight increases to 8 ounces, eyes open completely,start crawling, but sleeps more and nurses.|
|3 weeks||Weight increases to 12 ounces, teeth start to form and kittens start walking about|
|4 to 5 weeks||Weight increases to 1 pound and starts eating solid food and using their litterbox.|
|6 to 7 weeks||Weight increases to 1 ½ pound and they become playful.|
|8 weeks||2 pounds and are strong enough to play, fight, eat, and do every other thing a cat would do.|
Supplies for kitten care
To start caring for kittens, you need some supplies. When caring for newborn kittens, you need to ensure that you regulate their temperature. Newborns cannot do that and that is why they need their mother. They can easily get cold. If you notice a drop in the kitten’s temperature, visit a vet. It could be a sign of trouble and feeding such a kitten may be dangerous. Ensure that the kitten is stable first before feeding.
If it is not possible to reach a vet that day, try to create a comfortable and warm house for the kitten. Ensure that the environment is not drafty, but it should be secluded from a high traffic area. Get a cardboard box and place some towels in it. After that, place the kitten in the box while leaving the top open. You can also place a hot water bottle in the box to keep the kittens warm but do not microwave the bottle. It could pose a risk of scalding the kittens. Simply put it in a pan of water if you need to warm it up. Place the towels on the hot water bottle and in the bed. Ensure that the box is large enough for the kitten so he won’t be too close to the heat source.
The first items you would need include:
- Hot water bottle
- Syringe for feeding
Now let’s consider what you need to feed newborn kittens.
How to feed and what to feed newborn kittens
As stated earlier, you need to determine a kitten’s age because the information will help you to pick the right food for him. It will also show how much to feed the kitten as well as how often the kitten needs to eat. This information is crucial because the survival of the kitten depends on it.
Before starting the feeding process, it is important to state that a kitten should be kept with its mother until he is old enough to be taken away, usually at 6 to 8 weeks old. A mother cat is the best person to care for kittens because of how fragile they are. In case of an emergency in the absence of a mother, then you can take the steps in this article to care for a newborn kitten.
Can kittens drink cows milk
Cow milk is not ideal for a newborn kitten and could make him sick. A better alternative is goat milk in the absence of cat milk. The appropriate newborn care needs to start with giving the kitten milk replacer. This can be gotten at any pet supply store or ordered on Walmart and Amazon.
Just like human babies, newborn kittens need to eat often. The ideal time is every 2 to 3 hours. You can determine how much food to give your kitten by using the body weight of the pet. For each ounce of body weight, the kitten will need up to 8 cc milk formula. This also means that a kitten weighing about 3 ounces needs 24 ounces of the milk replacement formula every 24 hours. To ease this process, know that a teaspoon is 5 cc.
Also, it is important to check the kitten feeding guidelines on the particular milk replacement brand. The guidelines differ from brand to brand most times. The vet is also in the best position to guide you further if you have any difficulties.
Newborn kittens cannot give signs when they are full during feeding. So you need to take the initiative to know when to stop. When the kitten is older, he will be able to turn his head from the bottle and some may even push it away.
Bottle feeding tips for newborn kittens
Bottle feeding for kittens requires patience and some level of skill. Here are some tips to follow:
- Ensure that the newborn kitten’s belly faces downwards during the feeding.
- Be sure to check the temperature of the liquid before every feeding. The formula should be warm, not hot. It should not also be cold. Just like you would with baby food, place a few drops on your wrist. If it is too hot, then you need to cool it down to the perfect temperature.
- Put the bottle at a 45-degree angle while feeding
- Keep warm washcloths close by and use it to wipe the kitten’s face after feeding him. The washcloth can also be kept for later when you need to help him to eliminate waste.
- Place the kittens in a fitted dog crate for the first few weeks as they will be safer there. Also, you can easily regulate their temperature either with a heating pack or a cooling pack for summer. It should also have enough space inside.
- All nursing bottles need to be sterilized each time they are used for feeding.
- Like babies, kittens also need to be burped. This should be done during feeding and after the kitten is done eating. To do this, pat his back lightly until he burps.
- As for the bottle feeding schedule for kittens, remember that newborn kittens need 8 milliliters of milk formula per ounce of their body weight every day.
- Kittens who are not up to 2 weeks old need to be fed every two hours or three hours maximum. This should continue until they reach 2 weeks of age.
- Kittens who are 2 to 3 weeks old should be fed every 4 to 6 hours. When the kittens are 4 weeks old, it is time to wean them. They can begin to eat solid food.
Helping a newborn kitten to eliminate waste
One crucial part of newborn kitten care is aiding the fragile kitten to eliminate waste. Also, the temperature regulation is also important as mentioned earlier. To help the little cat eliminate waste, you would need a washcloth. Take this washcloth, preferably warm washcloth and rub it under his tail gently. Like a mother cat would do by licking beneath the tail. It would stimulate the kitten to poo and pee. The best time to do this is when he just finishes his food. It may not be very easy to do so you may need to be very patient.
You can use another warm washcloth to clean up the waste and then use a towel to dry the kitten. It is crucial that the kitten eliminates after eating, so if after being patient and nothing happens, it would be wise to visit the vet. The vet would diagnose any problems with the kitten and help him to grow healthy and strong with each passing day.
Weaning the kitten and introducing solid food
The process of weaning off milk is a natural one and usually begins when the kitten is about 4 weeks old. So when the kitten reaches this age, it is a good time to introduce some solids into his diet. The process should be gradual and should cover a 4 to 6 week period. Sometimes it could reach 10 weeks before the kitten adapts to this change. The kitten has to learn how to take food from his plate by himself. First, start with some warm milk replacement in a shallow bowl. Place the bottle or the syringe in the mill and give the kitten to lick it off. Draw the kitten to the bowl with the bottle as he licks it. Soon, he will be able to visit the bowl without any aid.
Do not force a kitten to use the bowl by pushing his head into the bowl. It can cause choking if he inhales the milk.
While your cat drinks the milk replacement placed in the bowl, you can start mixing it with good kitten food. There are so many good ones on the market and when mixed with milk, it looks like oatmeal. For a few weeks, you need to reduce the milk in the mix and putting more cat food in its place. When the kitten reaches 5 to 6 weeks, he can eat food that is only slightly moistened. You may no longer need to monitor him as he eats anymore. When the kitten is at least 8 weeks old, he will be totally done with the milk replacement mixture.
While you teach the kitten, remember that kittens like to play with their food bowls most times. They could roll in it, walk in it and even rub it in. You shouldn’t be worried if you notice this as it is part of the growing process.
Caring for newborn kittens is no walk in the park, but these steps can help make it easier.