Raising Orphan Kittens Part 1

A kitten opens its eyes for the first time.
Baby kitten
When the mother of a kitten has died or has abandoned him, the kitten may need hand raising. In feral cats, the reason for them being taken away is maybe for taming. Kittens should only be taken from their mother after 6 weeks of age if possible. For taming wild kittens, around 4 weeks because taming becomes harder as they grow older. Young kittens need their mommy’s milk for antibodies and nutrition so it is best that the mother feed her kittens as long as possible. Passive immunity normally lasts until about the kittens are 6-14 weeks. Orphans are most vulnerable to diseases since they do not have that protection.

Cats, Kitten
Find a foster mother cat
Orphans need a foster feline mother to have a good chance of survival. Cats usually feed kittens other than their own so try finding one by calling vets, animal shelters, breeders or the cat people you know.

You must devote considerable amount of energy and time in taking care of a kitten if you decide to feed him yourself before weaning age. But still, that does not guarantee survival since the younger the kitten is, the more fragile he is. He may not survive no matter how good the care is without a feline mother to feed him.

Warmth and First Aid

Jeff's KittenWhen you find an abandoned kitten, the first thing you must do is to protect him from chill. Place him under blankets or next to your skin for warmth. Young kitten’s energy is necessary for growth and yelling for more food which is why there is not much left for heat generation. At first, the mother and siblings would give the kitten a good amount of warmth. On their first week, they should be kept at 88-92 degrees F. The following week, around 80 degrees or so would be fine. Once they reach 5 weeks and above, a lower room temperature is tolerable.

Take the kitten to a vet if possible, his general condition needs to be checked out. Without a mother, a kitten may become dehydrated very quickly and may need fluids under his skin. A sign of dehydration in a kitten is when he has very little energy and appetite. This is probably due to lack of fluids or diarrhea. Stools must also be tested for parasites or worms. The vet can have plenty of advice on hand raising kittens and the needed supplies so you better not skip this step.

Upon reaching home, provide warmth for the kitten by placing him in an isolated, draft free, warm place. You can feed him by using an eyedropper or nursing bottle which is available at the vet. Be very careful not to force feed the kitten when using an eyedropper. Let him suck the fluid at his own pace so as not to fill his lungs with milk and cause pneumonia. The bottle method is best once he is old enough to suckle. A company named Catac even designed a kitten nurser which keep air bubbles out of the baby’s tummy. 

Don’t forget to sterilize all utensils before feeding the kitten. To feed the little one, place his tummy down on a towel or textured surface to which he could cling to. With the tip of your finger, carefully open his mouth, then slip the nipple in between his jaws. Keep a light pull every now and then to encourage him vigorous sucking. If the kitten suddenly aspirates milk into his lungs, immediately hold him upside down until the choking stops. Seek veterinary assistance if the kitten is not strong enough to suckle.

Baby kittens must be fed every 3 to 4 hours and the milk should be warmed to body temperature. For recommended feeding amounts and feedings per day, check the package. The number of daily feedings he should receive is determined by the kitten’s age.

Signs to look up when the baby kitten had enough formula are, his tummy will be rounded and bubbles will form around his mouth. Burp him by holding him upright against your shoulder, patting him lightly on the back. Just like humans, baby kittens must burp after each meal. Never overfeed kittens for it can result to diarrhea or other problems.

Feeding Guide
Age in Weeks
Average Weight of Kitten
Amount of Formula Per Day
Number of Feedings Per Day
4 ounces
32 cc
7 ounces
56 cc
10 ounces
80 cc
13 ounces
104 cc
1 pound
128 cc

Stray kitten Rambo001
Kittens with anemia or those lacking appetite may need vitamins and minerals supplement such as Pet-Tinic, which is available at the vet and pet food stores. This will rebuild his systems and stimulate his appetite. Just follow the directions indicated on the bottle and give it through a dropper or by adding it to his food.

To ensure your kitten is growing properly, weigh him frequently. If he is growing at an incredible rate, it’s a sign he is thriving!

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