NAPANEE COMMUNITY KITTEN RESCUERescuing, Rehabilitating & Adopting Homeless Kittens and Cats.
When looking for information on kittens or cats, there are a lot of pages and sites on Google and elsewhere…much of it can be misinformation. We encourage you to look for information from reputable sources. Your best bet is always a rescue, shelter or vet – not the internet.
We are including here some of our own resources and handbooks, and some of the best spots to look for information.
Care of Orphan Kittens
Kittens need to be kept clean and warm and hydrated.
These are the three top priorities.
They will need a carrier or box that can be kept clean, and from which they cannot wander.
Towels make good bedding as they can be washed.
Babies need to be kept warm until at least 1 month old, no drafts and probably heat from a heating pad or hot water bottles…these must be kept away from the kittens under towels or wrapped well. Pads must be kept on LOW.
Kittens 3 to 4 weeks and under will need to be bottle or syringe fed a good milk replacement.
Never feed cow’s milk or Whiskas Cat Milk. A good formula is KMR or any of the kitten milk replacers. It comes in a reconstitute-able powder or ready in cans. We use Fox Valley Day One replacer.
For the first few feedings after losing their mum, or being intaked, mix formula about 50/50 with pedialyte (or dilute with a little water) and slowly bring it to full strength over the first 12 to 24 hours.
Formula must be fed at room temp or slightly warmer and must be kept refrigerated when not in use. Only mix up what you will need in 24 hours, as it will go bad after that and must be thrown out. Warm it in a hot water bath…never in the microwave. What has been warmed and not used MUST be thrown away.
This effort is a lot of work, but you are not alone! NCKR members are here to provide support and to answer the questions that will undoubtedly arise. Please don’t hesitate to ask for help by calling or texting us…613-770-4357
The guidelines below will give you the basic information you need to raise un-weaned kittens.
Please remember that a cold kitten cannot digest and will be too weak to eat properly. If they have been alone long, they must be warmed gently but thoroughly before attempting to feed them.
The first three topics below are the most important:
WARMTH, FEEDING, and HYGIENE
Keeping the kittens warm is crucial. Those under about 3 weeks old are unable to generate body heat on their own. They depend on their mother and litter mates for heat. Without her or them, they chill easily and can die. They cannot even shiver to raise their body temperature.
A chilled kitten should be warmed up before feeding. Your body warmth is a good substitute for the mother while you prepare a heating pad or hot water bottle. Tuck the kitten against your skin under your clothing, holding it in place with your bra or arm.
Keep the kittens in a place in your home that is warm, draft-free, and isolated from small children and your own pets, particularly cats. Place the kittens on a towel on a heating pad on the low setting (the pad must be under a towel so the kittens are not in direct contact). Be VERY careful to place adequate padding between the kittens and the heating pad to avoid burns. Be sure to tuck the towel under the pad so the kittens cannot crawl between the towel and the pad. If you do not have a heating pad…a hot water bottle wrapped securely in towels will work, or pop bottles tightly sealed and wrapped securely in towels will work in a pinch. Just be sure to refresh them often…and check the kittens often to be sure they are safe.
Place kittens and pad/hot water bottles in a box, cat carrier, or other confinement that is large enough for the kittens to move off the heat source if they become too warm.
Supplies for bottle feeding (bottles, nipples, syringes, formula, etc.) are available at pet stores or can be supplied by Napanee Community Kitten Rescue.
Under 4 weeks of age, feed only Fox Valley Day One, available from NCKR or KMR (or Kitten Milk Replacer), available at pet stores. Or use a milk replacer from a vet. It comes either premixed in a can (expensive but fast in an emergency) or powdered in a can. NEVER use cow’s milk or Whiskas Cat Milk!!
Mix the powdered Day One or KMR as directed on the container (2 parts water to one part powder) and feed based on the kitten’s weight. (see the chart below)
Weigh the kitten using a kitchen scale (or pet stores/vets usually have a digital scale they’ll let you use.) A kitten needs approximately 8 mls of formula per ounce of body weight per day – for those of us metric people, that is 8 mls per 28 grams of body weight per day.
1 cc = 1ml 15cc/ml = 1 Tablespoon
So weigh the kitten in grams, divide the weight by 28, and then multiply by 8. That gives you the approximate amount of formula they should get each day. Divide that by the number of feedings and you have an idea of what the kitten should eat at each meal…give or take a little.
The following table gives an idea of weight of kitten in ounces and grams…amount per day of formula in cc/ml’s and the number of feedings to divide it into. Some kittens will eat a little more, some a bit less…try not to overfeed…it can cause digestive upset and diarrhea, which can dehydrate and kill a kitten.
[15cc or 15ml = 1 Tbsp.]
Newborn to 1 week old -weight 2.8 to 3.5 oz. (80 to 100 grams) – needs 22.8 to 29 cc/ml per day – and must be fed every two to two and a half hours – 10 to 12 feeds per day – 2 to 3 cc/mls per feed
1 week old- weight 4 oz. (113.4gms) – needs 32cc/ml formula per day – 6 feedings per day so 5cc/ml per feeding
2 weeks old- weight 7 oz. (198.4gms)- needs 56cc/ml formula per day – 4 to 5 feedings per day so 11 to 14cc/ml per feeding
3 weeks old- weight 10 oz. (283.5gms) – 80cc/ml formula per day – 4 feedings per day so 20cc/ml per feeding
4 weeks old- weight 13 oz. (368.5gms) – 104cc/ml formula per day – 3 to 4 feedings per day so 26 to 34cc/ml per feeding
5 weeks old- weight 16 oz. (453.6gms) – 128cc/ml formula per day – 3 feedings per day so 42cc/ml per feeding
A plastic water bottle (such as the 16 oz. size) is perfect for shaking/mixing the formula, storing the day’s supply in the fridge, and also for ease of pouring into the small nursing bottle. If syringe feeding, pour into a cup or bowl before warming in a hot water bath.
Both powdered formula mixed with water and any opened can of premixed KMR is to be stored in the refrigerator.
The opened can of powdered KMR should be refrigerated as well; it is good for 3 months if kept cold. If kept in the freezer, an opened can of powder lasts 6 months.
HOMEMADE FORMULA’S FOR KITTENS ARE NOT ADVISED UNLESS INSTRUCTED BY A VETERINARIAN, HOWEVER IN AN EMERGENCY GOATS MILK IS A SHORT-TERM SUBSTITUTE.
To save time, make up a 24-hour supply and keep it refrigerated. Any formula left over after 24 hours should be thrown out.
Formula should always be fed warm (approx. 100 degrees F). Warm the formula in the bottle or bowl in a pan of water.
Do not microwave the formula; although you may microwave the water to warm it in in a glass cup before placing the bottle or bowl in the water. Test a few drops on the back of your hand to make sure it is warm but not hot.
DO NOT ALLOW THE FORMULA TO BOIL. Any formula that boils must be thrown out, as the protein has been destroyed.
Only heat as much formula as you think the kittens will drink. ANY HEATED FORMULA REMAINING AFTER FEEDING SHOULD BE DISCARDED. Reheated formula can cause a bacterial infection.
Kittens under 4 weeks old should be fed every 3 and a half to 4 hours during the day. Night time feeding is not necessary as long as the kittens are fed at least 4 to 5 times during the day. However, feed as late in the evening as is convenient and as early in the morning as possible.
Newborns (neonates) need feeding every two to two and a half hours round the clock.
We feed with nipples attached to syringes, syringes can be used without nipples as well…but store bought kits come with bottles and nipples.
Store bought nipples come without holes. Take care in creating a nipple hole. Use the smallest cuticle scissors you have and start small; once the hole is cut too big, it cannot be corrected. The hole is perfect when you hold the bottle upside down and it goes drip – drip – drip. Gushing out might cause the kitten to aspirate the formula; a hole too small will keep the kitten from getting any formula at all. Syringes come in various sizes…the 3 ml size is easiest to manipulate…you just have to fill it more often. A 6 ml syringe works well too.
If the kittens are asleep at feeding time, wake them gently by holding and stroking them. Aside from feeding time, allow them to sleep at will.
To feed your kitten, place it stomach down on a towel or other textured surface to which it can cling. This is similar to the position when nursing on the mother.
Grasp the kitten gently under its armpits. Gently open its mouth with the tip of your finger, then slip the nipple/syringe between its jaws. You may have to wiggle it, and squeeze out a tiny drop of milk so the kitten gets the idea.
NEVER TURN THE KITTEN ON ITS BACK TO FEED. KEEP BOTH THE KITTEN AND THE BOTTLE/SYRINGE IN AS UPRIGHT A POSITION AS POSSIBLE.
Hold the bottle/syringe at 45-degree angle, keeping a light pull on the bottle to encourage vigorous sucking. If using a syringe…use the gentlest of tension on the plunger…once they suckle vigorously…you may find no pressure is necessary at all.
If the kitten is sucking effectively, their ears move in rhythm to the sucking. The Waggle is a sure sign of effective nursing.
Take your time; some kittens nurse slowly. Some need a break and a burp before eating more.
The kitten will let you know when it has had enough simply by refusing more. Or bubbles will form around its mouth. Burp the kitten on your shoulder (like a baby), tapping gently with your finger on its back, or massaging its belly gently. Try the bottle twice more to see if the kitten will take more after burping.
Sometimes the kitten will get a grip on the nipple and the nipple will collapse in its mouth. Then gently twist the nipple to release the kitten’s grasp, which will then allow air to enter and the nipple to expand again.
If the kittens are not eating, they may have become dehydrated. They will need fluids under the skin (lactated ringer’s solution or plasmalyte). Call a NCKR member to get help.
Before and/or after each meal, place a warm, moist cotton ball, facial tissue or soft towel over the kitten’s genitals and jiggle gently to stimulate urination and a bowel movement.
DO NOT RUB; this will cause the area to become raw and sore. (The mother typically cleans this area herself before they’re litter trained.) Do not worry if they do not have a bowel movement every time or even every day…contact NCKR if they have not pooped or their belly feels hard. Urination should happen every time after feeding…keep an eye on the colour of pee and poop…more about that later.
By about 3 weeks of age, a kitten should be able to eliminate without help. Their towels will need changing more often and they may even begin to use a litter box with low sides…and a natural litter. Don’t be surprised if they make a lot of noise when peeing or pooping on their own for the first while…it feels strange to them to have it happen without help.
Weigh the kittens daily to be sure they’re gaining weight, and keep a record. Weight gain may skip a day or two, then jump a bit. Kitens should gain about 10 grams per day. A newborn should double it’s birth weight by the end of week one.
A kitten’s instinctive need to suckle (frustrated by the lack of a mother’s nipple) may cause the kitten to suckle its litter mate’s ears, tail or genitals, causing irritation. If they suck on each other, they must be separated. NNS or non nutritive sucking can be deadly.
When kittens reach 340 grams or 12 ounces (about 3-1/2 to 4 weeks of age), feed every 6 hours. It is now about time to begin to wean the kittens off the bottle and onto solid food. Any solid food eaten counts towards the daily total. WEANING will be covered in the next booklet.
As with all newborns, hygiene is extremely important. The spread of germs is an ongoing threat to kittens. To keep this spread to a minimum, make cleanliness a high priority:
If you’re feeding more than one litter, keep the litters separate from each other – preferably in different rooms. Feed each litter with separate bottles/nipples/syringes. Use different lap towels for each litter. Wash your hands before you handle each litter. You might also want to change shoes when you enter each room, and use a separate apron or other garment for each.
KEEP ALL FEEDING EQUIPMENT EXTREMELY CLEAN! Sterilize all utensils before each feeding.
Wash bottles, nipples, storage bottle and bottle brushes, etc., in hot soapy water and rinse well. Bottles and nipples should also be placed in a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes to sterilize them. Not syringes!
BE SURE TO CLEAN THE PLASTIC MIXING/STORAGE/FEEDING BOTTLE THOROUGHLY EACH 24 HOURS. If a film appears inside the bottle, use either a bottle brush made specifically for kitten bottles, or put 10-15 grains of dry rice in the bottle, with a drop of dishwashing liquid and a small bit of water; shake vigorously. The rice against the bottle will remove the film.
Keep the kittens clean and dry. The mother cat keeps them scrupulously clean. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR A KITTEN THAT HAS FECES ON IT. Do not be afraid to give a kitten a bath or wipe with a wetted washcloth. Use a shallow sinkful of warm water, or run warm water from a faucet. MAKE SURE WATER IS WARM, NOT HOT! Use a mild soap (Baby Shampoo is especially good). Clean the kittens gently but thoroughly. Rinse and IMMEDIATELY DRY THE KITTEN COMPLETELY with a towel and a blow dryer on low. Be sure to keep your hand between the kitten and the dryer to avoid burning. A kitten must be completely dry before putting it back in the box. Chilling is a major cause of death in kittens.
The towels in the kittens’ box should also be kept clean. You might not notice soiling on the towels, but the kittens will urinate and they should not lie in urine-soaked beds. Sometimes you will need to change the towel with each feeding. You might find you will be doing more laundry for the kittens than for your own family, but cleanliness is important to the health of these babies, so KEEP THE TOWELS CLEAN AND DRY!
Any problems, questions or concerns…call a NCKR member for help or advice.
More about poop below!
always contact someone if at all abnormal and before doing any of the following!
Loose and/or yellow poop? This could indicate a mild case of
overfeeding. Try diluting the formula strength by about 1/3 until the stool returns to normal, then gradually bring the formula back to full strength.
Loose and/or greenish color? This could be indicative that food is moving too quickly through the kitten’s system, and the bile is not being absorbed, and is probably attributed to moderate overfeeding. Cut the formula back with the Pedialyte or bottled water.
Poop that looks like cottage cheese? The formula strength is too rich, there is severe overfeeding, or the kitten may have a bacterial infection. Check with us or a vet who may recommend that you cut the formula in half with bottled water and/or Pedialyte liquid, and start the kitten on antibiotics. If the kitten is seriously dehydrated, fluids can be given under the skin.
Constipated or straining kittens? In this case, you would want to increase the strength of the formula, and feed slightly smaller amounts, but feed more frequently. If the kitten has a swollen abdomen and hasn’t passed a bowel movement in over a day contact us or a vet.
• Bloody – Actual red blood seen in stool. Could indicate panleukepenia or coccidia. Grossly abnormal, must be seen ASAP.
• Mucous – yellowish/white/clear slimy substance. Indicates severe bowel irritation. Grossly abnormal and needs immediate care.
• Black – True dark black color to stool. Usually indicates bleeding high in the bowel. Severe sign, needs immediate attention.
• Brownish – Normal color. Be happy!
• Orange – Usually indicates too much bile in stool, can occur with reflux. Seek medical advice.
• Yellow/greenish – Almost always indicates bacterial imbalance in the bowel. If has diarrhea also, usually related to coccidia. Seek medical advice.
• White – Grossly abnormal color, usually indicates, severe bacterial imbalance and severe infection in the bowel. Kitten at risk – needs medical attention, ASAP.
• Dry/hard – Abnormal, usually indicates dehydration. Seek care, promptly.
• Firm – Normal, be happy.
• Formed but soft – Low range of ‘normal’. If stools change from firm to soft you should seek advice.
• Toothpaste – Still has somewhat tubular form but falls apart once touched. Abnormal, needs medication.
• Cow-patty – Never formed but thick enough it falls into a ‘cow-patty’ shape. Abnormal, kitten is at significant risk and needs immediate attention.
• Liquid – Just fluid that falls out of rectum, thin and may have mucous. Kitten is at severe risk and must be seen immediately.
• The ‘Squirts’ – Animal has no control over bowel and watery fluid squirts or drips out of rectum. Kitten in danger of dying, contact someone immediately!
How to Use Food to Socialize Kittens
Food is the most important tool used to facilitate the socialization process. Kittens younger than 8 weeks can usually be socialized without much difficulty, while older kittens who have had no positive interaction with humans can take much longer. These guidelines can help you successfully socialize kittens with the help of food.
What You’ll Need:
Baby food (turkey, chicken, beef flavors)
Two food dishes
Staff Time & Resources:
A patient staffer or volunteer who can work with a kitten over time to monitor and enhance progression. Make sure the kitten is comfortable with each step before moving on to the next.
Before you start working with kittens, make sure you’re on their level so you can comfortably interact without looming over them or backing them into corners. A large dog kennel might provide the right space if the socializer can sit inside; a bathroom or any small room without hiding spots can also work well.
Growing kittens have an insatiable appetite—and that fact works in your favor because it spurs them to approach and be touched. Don’t put food down and walk away—make kittens interact with you to get that reward.
If the kittens are healthy, using the litter box and will eat in front of you, you can safely begin delaying meals just enough to give you the advantage of hunger. If the kittens will eat in your presence, progressively pull the dish closer. Stay with the kittens until they have finished eating and then take any remaining food with you when you leave. (Always leave water, of course.)
When the kittens have progressed to eating right beside you with your hand touching the dish, start offering something tasty off your finger. Turkey, chicken or beef baby foods are favorites (with no rice, vegetables, onion powder or garlic powder).
You can also let the kittens lick from a spoon, popsicle stick or tongue depressor if at first they want to chew your finger instead of lick off the food.
Initiate contact at the beginning of a session when the kittens are particularly hungry.
Start with them eating from a dish or off the finger and eventually progress to touching and petting while they are in your lap eating. Start petting in the head and shoulder area only. If the kittens run off, lure them back with baby food on the finger. You can also put a dish in your lap and let an entire litter climb on you to get it!
Next, expand petting and touching around the head and shoulders by touching the underbelly. Also try nudging them from one side to the other while they are engrossed in eating. Just having your hands near them and gently pushing them around is an important preparation to being picked up.
Picking Them Up
Set up two dishes and gently lift/scoot a kitten the short distance from one dish to the other, just slightly off the ground. If the kitten is engrossed in eating she won’t mind being lifted if it goes smoothly and quickly. If not, lure her back and start over.
Next, sit on the same level as the kittens so the first real lift is close to the floor. Have a full jar of baby food opened and ready ahead of time. Lift under the chest with a small dish of food directly in front of the kitten’s nose the entire time. Hold the kitten loosely on your knees and eventually up to your chest so your heartbeat can be heard.
Once that’s mastered, try lifting while you’re kneeling. Then work your way to lifting while you’re standing.
When the kitten is very full and getting sleepy, try gentle petting and work up to holding and petting without the incentive of food being present. If this works, you can begin to try it at other times between meals.
Transition to Handling Without Food
Most feral kittens are frightened by interactive play when first exposed to humans. Start with a toy that isn’t too threatening and allows distance—a toy on the end of a stick, for example. Be flexible and experiment—and then use whatever proves to be the kitten’s favorite toy as a reward for new steps or a break-through to a new plateau.
Ready to Go Home
Before putting kittens in a cage at a shelter or adoption event, make sure they have been exposed to and responded well with a few different socializers.
*These instructions are based on an article by the Urban Cat League, which provides in-depth instructions in socializing.