Weighing in at only 3.5 ounces, newborn kittens are a precious handful. They are one of nature’s most vulnerable creations. Cats reach sexual maturity at 6 months old and have a gestation period of 58 to 72 days. Unspayed females can have three litters per year. While spaying and neutering owned and free-roaming cats is more prevalent than ever before, there are still a lot of kittens out there. And many of them will need human intervention to survive. So, learning about newborn kitten care helps to save lives. Knowing the proper protocol for bottle feeding kittens and what to feed them is newborn kitten care 101. Let’s dive in!
Kittens are born completely defenseless. Their eyes and ears are shut, and they are unable to even crawl. But they develop quickly. Each stage of newborn kitten care is different, so determining a kitten’s age is key to his survival.
Here’s a handy age-at-a-glance guide (a postal scale works great for weighing the wee ones):
The reason it’s imperative for newborn kitten care to pinpoint a kitten’s age is because this information will determine what to feed him, how much to feed him and how often to feed him. What to feed newborn kittens is important information, especially for folks who find themselves in an emergency rescue situation.
Before getting into best feeding practices, it’s important to stress that keeping a kitten with his mother is the best type of newborn kitten care out there. However, if she is out of the picture, cow’s milk is not a suitable substitute. Newborn kittens can have goat’s milk (short-term) in a pinch until the proper kitten milk substitute can be procured. There’s also a recipe from The Feline Foundation of Greater Washington that can be used for 24 hours. Appropriate newborn kitten care starts with feeding the proper kitten milk replacer, which can be bought at pet supply stores, Amazon and Walmart.
At 4 weeks old, kittens begin to wean. See Catster’s article on what to feed and when to feed weaning kittens.
An important part of newborn kitten care is helping the newborn kittens eliminate. In addition to needing his temperature regulated, a neonatal kit requires frequent feedings (don’t forget the burping), and hands-on help eliminating waste. Take a warm washcloth and gently rub under his tail. This should stimulate him to pee and poo. He must do this after eating — it can happen quickly, but be patient, because it can also take a while. Then, with a fresh, warm washcloth, clean his hindquarters and dry them with a towel. If the kitten does not eliminate after eating and you’ve been very patient, he must go to the vet immediately.
If you’ve found a kitten, take him to the veterinarian. After he’s gotten a clean bill of health, your knowledge of newborn kitten care will ensure he’s on the fast track to a healthy adulthood.
Tell us: What are your newborn kitten care tips?
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