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How to Feed and Care for Orphaned Kittens


Over the last 15 years, I have raised nine orphaned kittens. Four of them were two weeks old when their mother was killed; three others were only hours old when their mother died; two more kittens fell out of the nest in our barn when they were only a day old.

Raising motherless kittens is not a difficult process, but it does require patience, time and plenty of TLC.

Here are some tips to help you raise your orphaned kittens:

1. Make a nest.

Normally, a mother cat spends many hours a day in the nest with her kittens, which helps her babies stay warm. Keeping the kittens warm is important because if they're not warm enough, they won't want to eat, and in fact, all of their bodily functions will slow down.

To keep your orphaned kittens warm, make a nest in a small box and line it with towels or old t-shirts or sweatshirts to help the babies conserve their body heat. Put a towel over the box to keep out the light. Female cats choose nests that are dark. If you don't have a heat lamp, use a small 40-watt desk lamp and place it several feet above the box to help keep the kittens warm.

If the box is big enough, you can also use a jug or another large container filled with hot water to keep the babies warm. Place the jug in the box and then make a nest with towels beside it. Refill the jug when it cools off. You can use a quart jar as a "hot water bottle" too except that a quart jar cools off very quickly.

2. Use an eyedropper or a syringe to feed the kittens.

The first time I raised orphaned kittens, I discovered that the small nursing bottles available at vet clinics were too big. The kittens couldn't get their mouths around the nipples. So, at first, for newborn kittens, I used an eyedropper. As the kittens grew bigger, a syringe worked very well, the kind of syringe for giving injections (without the needle of course!). I started out with the 3 cc size and used larger syringes when the kittens grew bigger. The tip of a syringe is about the size of a cat's nipple, and my kittens eventually sucked hard enough on the end of the syringe to draw the plunger down by themselves. Check with your vet clinic to see if any used syringes are available or to see if you can buy new syringes from the clinic.

A word of caution: Whether you're feeding with an eyedropper or a syringe, be careful to give only a few drops at a time. My veterinarian told me that if the kittens were given too much formula at once (more than they could swallow), they might inhale it. Inhaling formula will make your kittens much more susceptible to pneumonia.

Along the way, I have also discovered that it is best to feed the kittens as much as they want to eat. They will settle down and sleep until the next feeding if they are getting enough to eat. Tiny kittens will start out taking maybe 1 CC at a time. As they grow bigger, they will eat around 12 CCs at a time (usually in several different helpings).

Kittens learn very quickly that food comes from the syringe you hold in your hand. If you are having trouble getting them to take the formula from the syringe, let nuzzle in the palm of your hand for a few seconds or let them suck on your fingers. Then introduce the syringe and let them suck on it while you very slowly press the plunger down.

3. Feed the kittens KMR or kitty formula that you have mixed yourself.

KMR, the canned cat milk replacer, is available at most vet clinics in either a premixed or dry form. It is specifically formulated for kittens to provide all the nutrients they need. Follow the directions on the label. The amount to feed is determined by body weight. My newborn kittens weighed three ounces each, and for the first several days, they only needed a half an eyedropper of KMR at a time.

My vet clinic also gave me a recipe for "kitten formula." After the first can of KMR, this is what all of my kittens have been raised on.

Here is the recipe for Kitten Formula

1 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon white corn syrup

1 egg yolk

a pinch of salt

Mix in a blender and mix it up far enough in advance so the bubbles will have time to dissipate.

Warm over medium heat. Heat the formula so it feels slightly warm to the touch. All of my kittens have refused to swallow the formula if it was too cold or too warm. The same was true for KMR.

4. Feed your kittens on a regular schedule three times a day.

Mother cats nurse their kittens every couple of hours. The veterinarian I consulted cautioned me not to feed them that often. "They won't eat well and you'll get frustrated and they'll get frustrated and it will be harder on everybody," he said. He was right. Feeding the kittens three times per day worked out very well.

5. Groom your kittens with a warm, wet washcloth and help them to empty their bladders and their bowels.

Young kittens are unable to empty their bladders or move their bowels, so you'll have to help them. Use a warm, wet washcloth and wipe under their tails until they have emptied their bladders and/or moved their bowels. Be prepared to use as many as four washcloths for each kitten. If they only have to empty their bladders, you won't need that many. If they have to empty their bowels, look out -- it could get messy! Smaller washcloths that you can wring out with one hand while you hold onto a squirming kitten with the other work best. I put the washcloths in a pail of warm water and put the pail where I can reach it easily.

Young kittens also do not know how to groom themselves, and after a day or two of eating kitten formula, they become sticky from the formula that inevitably dribbles down their chins. From time to time, use a warm, wet washcloth to wipe off the formula, but be careful not to get the kittens TOO wet or it will be hard for them to stay warm.

6. Provide a litter pan when they're four weeks old.

Cats have a strong instinct to use material that they can scratch around in when they have to empty their bladders and move their bowels. By the time the kittens are four weeks old, they will already be thinking in this direction and providing them with a litter pan will help them get the idea. You might still have to assist them with a washcloth for a while, but it won't be long before they are using the litter pan.

Kitty litter in an aluminum pie plate works well to start out. As the kittens grow bigger, use a bigger container for a litter box.

7. Start feeding solid food when the kittens are about six weeks old.

Kittens that are raised by their mothers probably will start eating sooner than six weeks, but you will be able to provide more milk than their mothers would have available.

When your kittens have gotten their teeth, you can begin feeding them solid food. If you want to feed dry food, a good quality kitten chow will work fine. Kitten chow has all of the nutrients and protein that they need to keep growing. Kitten chow also is made in tiny kitten-bite-sized pieces. To tempt their appetites and to give them a "treat," you can also try a little canned kitty food. Be sure to provide fresh water for your kittens to drink, as well. And until the kittens are eating solid food regularly, supplement their caloric intake with kitten formula. By this time, you won't have to feed them with a syringe. You can put the formula into a small saucer, and once they discover where it is and what it is, they will drink by themselves.

8. Be prepared to be surprised and amazed.

Kittens grow very quickly, and on some days, you will think they are growing right before your very eyes.

Kittens get their eyes open when they're about 10 days old.

They will start purring when they are as young as 6 days old.

Kittens will start other "kitty behaviors" such as shaking their heads, attempting to groom and lifting a hind food to scratch behind their ears when they are between two to three weeks old.

Young kittens will sometimes get the hiccups (!) while you are feeding them.

Young kittens are like baby humans, in a way. Their days consist of eating, sleeping and emptying their bowels and bladders. After the kittens have gotten enough to eat and have had their bodily functions taken care of, when you put them back in the "nest," they will sleep or rest quietly until you are ready to feed them again. If they are restless and crying and meowing, they might need a little more to eat, or they might have to empty their bladders or move their bowels, or they might feel cold.

As the kittens grow older, they will be awake for longer periods of time and will eventually start playing with each other.

By the time the kittens are four weeks old, you will most likely have to move them into a bigger box, if not sooner, because the first one will be too small and they will know how to get out on their own!

If you have any questions concerning the raising of orphaned kittens, you can e-mail me at bigpines@ruralroute2.com

*************

© 2004 LeAnn R. Ralph

About The Author

LeAnn R. Ralph is the author of the books: *Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm)* (trade paperback) and *Preserve Your Family History (A Step-by-Step Guide for Writing Oral Histories)* (e-book; 66 pages). To read sample chapters and to sign up for the FREE! monthly newsletter, Rural Route 2 News & Updates, visit - http://ruralroute2.com


TODAYS NEWS BY OFFICEJAX FREE ADVERTISING AND AD EXCHANGE SOLUTIONSMORE PETS INFORMATION RESOURCES updated Wed. March / 20 / 2019

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UPDATE: 25 pets found dead at Crestview home  The Northwest Florida Daily News

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Augustas pet registration efforts end  The Augusta Chronicle

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Pets lost in Turner blaze  Lewiston Sun Journal

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Pot for pets: Here's how vets and others say it can help  Detroit Free Press

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Pet licensing deadline coming up in La Crosse County  News8000.com - WKBT

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KCBD’S Pet of the Day: Meet Binkz  KCBD

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Misunderstood pets: Cats love us on their terms  Brookings Register

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Tulsa Group Helps Care For Pets When Owners Can't  News On 6

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Fur-ever Friends: Adoptable pets available March 12, 2019  WJAC Johnstown

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Groomer charged with 9 more counts of animal cruelty in pet strangling case  KOMO News

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Renting with pets: a minefield that led to one Scottish family living in a VAN with their dogs - Edinburgh Live
Renting with pets: a minefield that led to one Scottish family living in a VAN with their dogs  Edinburgh Live

We're a nation of renters, and a nation of pet lovers...but unfortunately those two things don't go hand-in-hand.


First Coast No More Homeless Pets to stay open until midnight - WJXT News4JAX
First Coast No More Homeless Pets to stay open until midnight  WJXT News4JAX

Jacksonville's main nonprofit veterinary clinic will be extending its hours, allowing pet owners to come in for veterinary visits and emergencies until midnight, ...


Human food: What's okay, what's not for pets - WRAL.com
Human food: What's okay, what's not for pets  WRAL.com

Despite warnings from veterinarians, people love feeding their pets table food. So what's safe and what's not?


21 pets discovered dead at home near Crestview - The Northwest Florida Daily News
21 pets discovered dead at home near Crestview  The Northwest Florida Daily News

CRESTVIEW — Animal control officers assisted by law enforcement are investigating the death and possible abuse of more than 20 pets at a home just north of ...


Iowa files lawsuit to shutdown alleged puppy-laundering ring against 'pet rescue' groups - Daily Mail
Iowa files lawsuit to shutdown alleged puppy-laundering ring against 'pet rescue' groups  Daily Mail

A judge has been asked to shut down pet rescue groups and breeder J.A.K's puppies that were allegedly involved in a puppy-laundering ring in Iowa. They sold ...


Which foods aren't OK to feed your pets (and which are) - KXAN.com
Which foods aren't OK to feed your pets (and which are)  KXAN.com

The Houston Humane Society explains which foods are actually OK to share and which should be considered forbidden for the sake of the animal's health:


Everything Pet Owners Should Know About Microchipping and How It Can Save Their Pets - PEOPLE.com
Everything Pet Owners Should Know About Microchipping and How It Can Save Their Pets  PEOPLE.com

Once a microchip is implanted in your pet, it stays in place and lasts for their lifetime.


Paws and Pages Pet Expo to offer adoptions and more - Ocala
Paws and Pages Pet Expo to offer adoptions and more  Ocala

The event Saturday will feature adoptable dogs and cats, library resources, vendors, guest speakers and demonstrations. The third annual Paws and Pages Pet ...


Pets of the week for March 12, 2019 - Duluth News Tribune
Pets of the week for March 12, 2019  Duluth News Tribune

Minerva is an 8-year-old calico domestic shorthair cat who is available for adoption through Animal Allies in Duluth. Minerva is a sweet little lady. She likes to ...


Cuteness alert! Watch the FOX6, Wisconsin Humane Society Pet Telethon on Friday, March 22 - WITI FOX 6 Milwaukee
Cuteness alert! Watch the FOX6, Wisconsin Humane Society Pet Telethon on Friday, March 22  WITI FOX 6 Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- This Friday morning, the cute factor will be out of control on FOX6 WakeUp and Real Milwaukee! We're holding the 2nd Annual FOX6 and ...


Drivers Can Safely Lock Their Pets in the Car with Tesla's 'Dog Mode' - PEOPLE.com
Drivers Can Safely Lock Their Pets in the Car with Tesla's 'Dog Mode'  PEOPLE.com

The new feature allows Tesla drivers to set a comfortable temperature for their pets before leaving the vehicle.


Fewer Ingredients, More Mealtime Excitement: Wellness® Natural Pet Food Launches New Line of Limited-Ingredient, Grain-Free Dry Food for Dogs - PRNewswire
Fewer Ingredients, More Mealtime Excitement: Wellness® Natural Pet Food Launches New Line of Limited-Ingredient, Grain-Free Dry Food for Dogs  PRNewswire

TEWKSBURY, Mass., March 19, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The "clean plate club" just took on a whole new meaning – for dogs! And we're not just talking about pups ...


Peeved pets -- Iditarod lead lost as dogs quit - ESPN
Peeved pets -- Iditarod lead lost as dogs quit  ESPN

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Musher Nicolas Petit lost a huge lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday when his dog team refused to keep going after he ...


Pet Project: Owner’s Personality Can Influence Behavior Of Their Cat - CBS Philly
Pet Project: Owner’s Personality Can Influence Behavior Of Their Cat  CBS Philly

Follow CBSPHILLY Facebook | Twitter. PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – An owner's personality can play a role in the behavior of their cat, according to a United ...


Extend a paw to pets in need, Lucky Paws dinner & silent auction Friday night - WWMT-TV
Extend a paw to pets in need, Lucky Paws dinner & silent auction Friday night  WWMT-TV

Animal lovers who want to extend a paw to pets looking for their forever homes will get a chance to do that through the Animal Rescue Project. The organization ...


Checking Your Pet for Lumps and Bumps - FOX 59 Indianapolis
Checking Your Pet for Lumps and Bumps  FOX 59 Indianapolis

Keep your pets feeling and looking healthy. Lumps or bumps on your cat or dog may cause you lots of concern. Dr. James Speiser joins us now about different ...


N4T Investigators: Pricey Pets - KVOA Tucson News
N4T Investigators: Pricey Pets  KVOA Tucson News

Your browser does not currently recognize any of the video formats available. Click here to visit our frequently asked questions about HTML5 video.


Proposed law looks to criminalize inadequate pet housing - KRIS Corpus Christi News
Proposed law looks to criminalize inadequate pet housing  KRIS Corpus Christi News

One lawmaker is working to amend state health code to govern how Texans house and restrain their dogs. State Representative Sara Davis yesterday ...


Lawmakers in Albany look to stop pet stores from selling pets from large commercial breeders - WKBW-TV
Lawmakers in Albany look to stop pet stores from selling pets from large commercial breeders  WKBW-TV

Two Democratic state lawmakers from New York City are pushing to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits from large commercial breeders.


NJ pets in need: March 11, 2019 - NJ.com
NJ pets in need: March 11, 2019  NJ.com

Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption from shelters and rescues.


Oregon Humane Society takes in tornado pets - KOIN.com
Oregon Humane Society takes in tornado pets  KOIN.com

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- The Oregon Humane Society welcomed dozens of animals from Alabama that were moved to make room for pets affected by deadly ...


PAWS Pet of the Week — Cobweb - fiddleheadfocus.com
PAWS Pet of the Week — Cobweb  fiddleheadfocus.com

Cobweb, a lovely calico kitten approximately 8 months old. She is the sister of both Moth (who has been adopted) and William Puck. Cobweb was trapped from a ...


CBD oil and pets: Can it relieve anxiety and pain? - WRAL.com
CBD oil and pets: Can it relieve anxiety and pain?  WRAL.com

Suddenly, it seems like CBD oil -- or Cannabidiol -- is everywhere. Now, people are even using it to help their pets.


More than half of American pets are fat, new study reveals - New York Daily News
More than half of American pets are fat, new study reveals  New York Daily News

Fat cats and plump pups are the norm. More than half of American pets are too chunky, according to a new survey out Tuesday from the Association for Pet ...


Shelter available for evacuees, pets; volunteers, items needed - Fremont Tribune
Shelter available for evacuees, pets; volunteers, items needed  Fremont Tribune

With flood waters inundating south Fremont on Friday afternoon, voluntary evacuations were issued by the City of Fremont for areas south of the railroad tracks ...


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