Authored by Darlene Zagata in Cats
Published on 07-30-2009
Although most feline mothers have a very strong maternal instinct and do a wonderful job raising their litter of kittens there are circumstances in which you may have to help them along or do the job for them. The mother cat may abandon or neglect newborn kittens that don’t seem to have much of a chance of thriving or the mother may get killed or die during childbirth. In situations such as these the newborn kittens must be cared for if they have any chance of surviving. It is possible that the kittens may not survive no matter how well you care for them.
Newborn kittens must be kept warm since they cannot generate their own body heat. Newborn kittens normally cuddle close to each other and their mother in order to stay warm. Since the mother is not there, you must find another way to keep them warm. Place newspaper in the box or bedding area where the kittens will be kept for extra insulation. You can also use old towels or a sheet. You can use an insulated heating pad on a low setting for extra warmth. Use precautionary measures to prevent accidents. When using a heating pad, cover with a blanket or towel.
You will have to hand feed newborn kittens. This is best done with a small nursing bottle. Milk -replacement formula can be purchased in most pet stores and stores like Wal-mart. Never give newborn kittens regular whole milk because it is difficult to digest and lacks nutrients that they need. Milk should be warmed by placing the bottle in a cup of warm water. Hold the kitten upright and support its head when feeding. Gently open the kitten’s mouth and place the nipple on its tongue. Squeeze the bottle gently so the milk comes out to get the kitten started feeding on its own. Never lie the kitten down or hold it in a reclining position when feeding since it may aspirate fluid into its lungs. If bottle feeding does not seem to work, use an eyedropper. Newborn kittens need frequent feedings of small amounts five to six times per day.
Kittens need help in order to defecate and urinate. The mother normally licks the kittens around the genital and anal areas after feeding to stimulate elimination. You can stimulate the process by dipping a cotton ball in warm water, squeezing it out to remove excess water and massaging the genital area. Start weaning the kittens at approximately four weeks of age by adding small amounts of soft food to their diet.
Caring for newborn kittens can be a challenge. Often they will do well but there are some that just may not thrive regardless of your efforts. Pay close attention to signs of illness. If a kitten begins to lose weight, fails to gain weight despite proper feeding or has a discharge from the eyes or nose should be taken to a veterinarian. Kittens gain their immunity through the mother’s milk and may be prone to illness if they have not had the advantage of being fed by the mother. However, kittens that start out frail and fragile often grow to be strong and healthy with proper care and attention.