Orphaned Kitten Care

Caring for Newborn Kittens


Growth and development

4 days old: Rooting reflex - head pushing on everything
5-10 days old: Extensors reflex (like starting a backbend)
10-14 days old: Eyes and ears open
11-15 days old: Pelvic limb support (walking)
16-28 days old: Begin eliminating on own (urinating/defecating)
21 days old: Socialization period begins, most important phase of neonates life
21-28 days old: Offer moist food
4 weeks old: Can right themselves

Warmth (this is extremely important!)
  • Cold is one of the major causes of death in small kittens! Every time a kitten's body temperature falls below 102 degrees, their respiratory system is affected and part of them dies.
  • Wrap the kitten in a soft or fuzzy cloth immediately, or better yet, hold the kitten next to your skin with a cloth, and keep them covered until they are warm. Kittens need to maintain a 102-degree body temperature.
  • Send someone to purchase a heating pad immediately. Once the kitten has warmed up, set the heating pad in a box, turn the control to the lowest setting. Lay a towel over the pad and place the kitten on the towel. Cover 2/3 of the box with another towel.
  • Important: Never put a cold kitten on a heating pad to warm. A cold kitten must be warmed more slowly. This can be accomplished by putting the kitten next to your skin underneath a shirt.


Food

Note: Never give kitten or cat cows milk. It is extremely difficult for them to digest.

Kittens from birth to the age of two weeks (eyes still closed) must be fed every two hours.

In an emergency prepare the following warm milk formula if there is no K.M.R. (Kitten Milk Replacement):
  • 1 can of Carnation milk
  • 1 can of pure water
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 egg yolk

Use an eyedropper or, if none available, just slowly drip tiny drops of milk formula into the kitten's mouth. You can also purchase a small animal nipple and bottle at Walmart for $1.00. Do not make the nipple hole too large. Too much milk will cause the kitten to aspirate and possibly choke. You must make the hole large enough, however, for the milk to flow easily as little kittens do not have the strength to draw the milk through a pinhole.
  • K.M.R. (Kitten Milk Replacement) is a ready-made commercial kitten formula available at pet stores and veterinarians. Follow the directions on the product.
  • When the kitten is two weeks old, add small amounts of baby cereal to the milk formula (mixed cereal is best). At three weeks of age add baby type food such as chicken, liver, etc. This will help strengthen the kitten.
  • Kittens should be weighed every other day. You want to see them gain weight, not lose weight.
  • At every stage, the tiny creature must be stimulated to potty. You must help by gently rubbing its genitals and anus with mineral oil and a Q-tip. If mineral oil is not available, simply use a soft cloth or paper towel and any hand or body lotion (mineral oil is best). This should be done before or after each feeding until the kitten is about 4 weeks old. Perfume-free baby wipes work well also. Sometimes when you first take your foster pet home, it takes approximately 24 hours before it has a bowel movement; if it goes any longer, please call your veterinarian.


Immunity

A kitten is most vulnerable during its first two weeks of life. They are born without natural immunity and normally receive it through their mother's milk. Without mom, it can be most difficult to bring them through.

YOU WILL HAVE A BETTER CHANCE IF YOU:
  • Never miss a scheduled feeding.
  • Work closely with your veterinarian or TLC Rescue.
  • Never expose a new kitten to other animals or take them out in public.
  • Handle them minimally, but use both hands.
  • Do not allow children to hold small kittens...they are very fragile.

Love
  • Provide a quiet place for the new kitten.
  • Gently touch, caress and tell them you love them over and over and over again.

SIGNS THAT WARRANT IMMEDIATE VETERINARIAN CARE
  1. Sneezing and runny eyes or nose, or eyes pasted shut.
  2. Refusal to eat for 12 hours.
  3. Severe flea infestation.
  4. Broken bones - not to be confused with a sprain. Kittens like to jump off high places. Sometimes they sprain their little ankles. The sprain heals by itself.
  5. Vomiting or diarrhea.


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