Newborn kittens need milk and care from their mother to live healthy lives. Sadly, it's not uncommon for newborn kittens to lose their mothers at such a young age. When this happens, it takes care and human intervention to keep the babies alive. Taking care of newborn kittens is a job that requires a lot of time and effort. But it is thanks to your actions, the survival rate of the kitten can rise to 70-80%. To assist you, Pet Choy would like to provide a list of things to do and keep in mind while taking care of newborn kittens under 3-weeks old. .
Creating the Right Environment for Kittens
1. Hug and hold the kitten properly.
Newborn kittens are very fragile. The first thing you need to learn is how to hold a kitten correctly so that you can avoid hurting or injuring it. - Always be gentle and careful when holding the kitten.
- Make sure the kitten's body is always kept warm. You can check if your kitten is cold by feeling the temperature of the meat pad under its paws. Kittens may start to meow when they are cold.
- Remember to wash your hands before and after holding a kitten. At this age, kittens are often very susceptible to infections from bacteria on human skin.
- Similar to bacteria on human hands, you also need to separate other pets from newborn kittens. Do not let them eat together, share water bowls, or go to the toilet in the same place.
2. Keep kittens warm.
Newborn cats (under 2-weeks old) cannot regulate their body temperature. They often receive warmth from the mother's body. If the mother goes away and the babies lose their heat source, you can improvise by using a hot water bottle or a heating pad covered with a towel. Then continuously check and maintain the temperature at about 37°C.
3. Make a nesting box for the kittens.
The kitten's nesting box should be located in a quiet, warm, isolated place away from other pets. Materials used can be cardboard boxes or metal cages. The inside of the box needs lining with several layers of towels to keep the kittens warm. It is paramount that the cardboard box or cage you use has plenty of ventilation holes for the kitten to breathe. Please do not cover the box; it will suffocate the kitten.
Choosing Milk And Feeding Kittens
1. Buy kitten milk formula.
Cats cannot drink cow's milk or condensed milk for humans. Cow's milk will cause diarrhea, a possibly life-threatening condition for young kittens. Only feed your kittens an approved kitten formula. Please ask a veterinarian for advice and recommendations. One brand of cat formula that is commonly sold is Cimicat. This is a type of milk specifically created for newborn kittens, as it contains the same ingredient formula as their mother's milk.
If you can't find a milk formula, you can give your cat a temporary drink of cooled boiled water to keep the kitten hydrated and not cause stomach upset. Feed the water through a liquid dropper or a needleless syringe.
2. How to bottle-feed kittens.
To safely feed your kitten with replacement formula, it's best to follow these four steps:
- Step 1: Sterilize the bottle and teat with boiling water, place on a clean towel, and wait for both to cool. Bottles must be cleaned thoroughly before each use.
- Step 2: While waiting for the bottle and teat to cool, mix the formula thoroughly so that the milk powder is completely dissolved and there is no residue.
- Step 3: Warm the milk to about 35-37°C before feeding the kittens.
- Step 4: Pour the milk into the bottle. Always test the temperature of the formula by placing a few drops on your inner wrist to be sure it is not too hot.
Important notes when bottle-feeding kittens:
- Always keep kittens warm before feeding them.
- If the kitten's body temperature is below 35°C, do not feed the kitten at this time because it can cause pneumonia, making it difficult for the cat to breathe and even cause death.
3. Correct position for bottle-feeding kittens.
Never feed a kitten on his back. The kitten should be laying on its stomach, similar to how it would naturally nurse next to its mother. So place the kitten in a prone position, paws down, and head kept straight. Secure the cat's head by gently grasping the nape of the neck, insert the teat into the corner of the cat's mouth, and then slowly push it out the center of the mouth. The kitten will then latch onto the teat in a comfortable position. It's best to let the kitten suckle at its own pace. Do not spray or push milk into his mouth. If a kitten refuses to nurse, try stroking the kitten's back or gently rubbing him on the forehead. This stroking is similar to a mama cat's cleaning, and it may stimulate the kitten to nurse.
After eating, kittens need to be burped, just like human babies. You can do the same thing as you would with a baby - hold the kitten on your chest, lap, or shoulder and gently rub their back, patting them on the back with two fingers until you hear a little burp.
4. Frequency of feeding.
Newborn kittens will show their hunger by meowing and wiggling. Kittens up to 2-weeks old should be fed every 2-3 hours.
To determine whether the cat is well-fed is to observe his belly. If the kitten has a round belly and often falls asleep while feeding, it means that the kitten is fully fed.
If the kitten has been orphaned or has been hungry for too long and needs urgent milk, and the bottle cannot be found, use a clean dropper or a syringe to put drops of milk into the kitten's mouth.
From the third week onwards, the kitten still needs formula milk, but the frequency of feeding changes to every 3-4 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night.
Comprehensive Kitten Care And Cleaning
Newborn kittens are often unable to evacuate on their own and need to be stimulated by their mother. To do this, the mama cat licks the kittens' genitals after each feed. As their caregiver, it's now your responsibility to help them until they are 6-7 weeks old. To toilet a kitten, you should:
- Place the kittens on a clean blanket and turn them over to their side.
- Use a damp cotton pad to rub the genitals and anal area in one direction, do not rub back and forth as this may cause friction.
- With proper and sufficient rubbing, you should see the kitten begin to eliminate within a minute. Continue rubbing until they stop going to the bathroom.
Important notes on how to recognize kittens' poop and urine:
- Newborn kittens' urine is usually pale yellow and odorless.
- Newborn kittens' poop will usually be a yellow-brown color.
- You should take your kitten to the vet right away if you notice that their urine and stools have a strong odor or a strange color (like white or green).
2. Wipe the kitten clean to keep the body clean.
Gently wash the kitten after toileting by using a clean, damp, soft cloth. Gently wipe the fur with the cloth, dry it thoroughly with a paper towel or a dry towel, and place the cat in the nest.
While wiping, if you find dry poop on your cat's fur, dip it in warm water. Warm water will soften the stool; now, you need to take a paper or a cloth to wipe the kitten's fur clean again gently.
3. Check the kitten's weight.
Weight measurement is one of the ways to know if you are taking care of your kitten correctly and if the kitten has any nutritional or health problems. Usually, kittens will gain weight steadily for the first few months. For an accurate measurement, check your cat's weight every day, at precisely the same hour, then record the weight in a logbook.
With adequate care, a kitten's weight will double a week after birth. After the first week, kittens need to gain 15 grams per day to develop healthily and fully. If the cat is orphaned and not gaining weight, or worse, losing weight, take the kitten to the veterinarian immediately for timely support.
4. Know when to take your kitten to the vet.
In addition, you should observe your kitten and seek professional help as soon as any of the following signs appear:
- Abnormally high or low body temperature (above 39°C or under 37°C)
- Anorexia and lack of appetite. In particular, kittens will need urgent medical attention if they do not eat for 1 day.
- Vomiting and diarrhea. Your kitten will need immediate medical attention if either of these signs persists.
- Weight loss, lack of energy.
- Cough, sneeze, eye, and nose discharge.
- Bleeding in any part of the body, difficulty breathing will also need immediate medical attention.
Now that you know the basics of caring for kittens, Pet Choy hopes you will no longer hesitate to help and caring for newborn orphaned kittens. Even though you cannot fully replace a mama cat, we are sure that your loving care will be incredibly beneficial in helping the kittens live and grow into healthy pets!