|Purred: Thu Jul 21, '11 7:58am PST |
My mom and dad have recently taken in two orphaned kittens, and they're raising them by hand. They've been consulting with a vet and doing lots of research, so things are going well, but they're getting confused on how to train the babies in using the litterbox.
--A bit of background--
The babies are almost 5 weeks old (we're absolutely sure of this), but I should mention that they look and behave a bit young for their age if all of the guides my mom & dad have looked at are to be believed. Mom & Dad think this is because they were malnourished. (Very long story short: Their mom was young and small and malnourished herself--unsurprisingly, they had a third sibling that was stillborn. Add to that, the poor things went 3-4 days without their mother before my mom & dad finally found them.) It's been about a week since mom & dad found them, and they are doing SO much better: fat and happy and purring, and they've been to the vet to make sure they're in good health.
--Progress so far/Questions--
Mom & Dad have been stimulating the kittens to pee and poop, and they've started setting the kittens down in a very shallow pan (actually, it's a tupperware lid) of non-clumping clay litter while they do the stimulation--hopefully this will start giving the kittens the idea that "this stuff is what you stand in while you pee". The kittens don't seem to be peeing without help yet, so mom & dad do the stimulation after every feeding (we started out feeding them every 3 hours, and are slowly backing off to every 4-5 hours). One of the kittens did poop on his own yesterday, though, on the towel in their "nest" (what a MESS, lol).
We keep reading that we're supposed to just set out a low pan of litter (no higher than 2" on a side) where they can get to it anytime. We should set them in the box after feedings to help give them the idea, but other than that, they ought to figure it out on their own. That doesn't seem right, though:
- First, while they can walk just fine, they're still a little unsteady on their feet--2" would be a major obstacle to them, so that right there makes me think that all these litterbox-training guides are intended for older kittens.
- Second, they eat the litter, and I don't mean a piece here or there. When they get in that litter, the first thing they do is try to chow down! (They're not hungry, believe me. They just seem to think it's fun.) I understand that it's expected that they'll probably ingest a LITTLE litter during the training process, but mom & dad can't just let them sit there and munch! Right now, mom & dad have resorted to holding them when they're standing in the litter, with the kittens' feet resting on the litter--it's the only way they can keep the little guys from eating it. I don't see how it could possibly be safe to leave the kittens alone with a box of litter within reach...
Mom & Dad are also in the process of introducing solid food (the kittens always get a bit of canned food mixed with formula prior to bottle-feeding time, and they're progressing well). Perhaps their litter-eating will subside once they're eating more solid food?
So, I guess my question is: What should mom and dad be doing?! When is it safe to give the kittens access to a litterbox without supervision? Is there any way to discourage them from eating the litter besides, well, wiping out their mouths when they get a mouthful?
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