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Suggested Guidelines when Caring for Bottle Babies|
View our updated Bottle Babies Fostering Guidelines here|
It is most convenient to keep bottle babies in a cat carrier or
box in a safe, warm, secure place. Make a nest for them
using soft, warm blankets. Kittens cannot control their body
temperature for the first four weeks of life, so orphans must be kept
in a warm environment. Place a heating pad on LOW covered by a towel
and then a blanket in the bottom of the carrier. Be certain there is
a portion of the carrier where baby can move off the heating pad if it
becomes too warm.
Change bedding often to keep environment clean. Be sure to remove wet and/or soiled bedding as soon as possible.
If you are fostering a single baby, place a stuffed animal in the carrier so it has something to snuggle up against.
The temperature in the nest should be as follows:
1 week old, 85 degrees
It is not a bad idea to buy a thermometer and place it inside the nest to monitor the temperature.
2 - 3 weeks old, 80 degrees
4 - 5 weeks old, 75 degrees
Avoid sudden changes in temperature and keep disturbances to a minimum. Although kittens will need to
be socialized, they also need lots of sleep, especially for the first three weeks.
Feeding and warmth are the two most important things these babies need to stay alive. Make sure your ³nest² is warm!
One-week-old kittens will need to be fed approximately every two to three hours (throughout the night).
Feed only a kitten milk replacer, (KMR, Nurturall) found at veterinarian offices or pet stores. Never
feed cows milk. The powdered form is less expensive and easier to store. Follow mixing instructions on the
container. The formula is given at body temperature, (never cold) through a nursing bottle, also available
where you buy formula. Make up only enough formula to last 24 hours. Refrigerate unused portions and warm
For weeks two, three, and four, the kittens may be fed every 4-6 hours during the day, slowly increasing
the time between feedings at night.
The formula should be warmed to body temperature before feeding. This may be done by placing the
nursing bottle in a mug of hot water. Be sure to test the temperature by dispensing a few drops
on your wrist. If warming in a microwave, be sure to shake/mix the formula thoroughly as microwaves
tend to heat unevenly. One portion may become too hot and cause burns. NEVER feed cold formula.
Always refrigerate unused formula, including the dry powder.
The nipple of the bottle may need to be enlarged. Use a small pair of scissors to snip a small
portion off at the end of the nipple. Milk should ooze from the nipple. Never squeeze the
bottle while it is in the kitten's mouth. It can go down into their lungs and cause pneumonia.
Squeeze out a drop just before placing it in the kitten's mouth. To feed, do not hold the kitten
as you would a human baby. It is best to feed with the kitten on his tummy as opposed to on his
back with his head elevated. The kitten should naturally suckle. After feeding, the abdomen
should be enlarged, but not over-distended. It is better to under feed the first few days.
It is very easy to over feed kittens, but this often produces diarrhea. It is far better to err
on the side of underfeeding rather than overfeeding. Follow this chart for appropriate amounts:
|| No. of Feedings
|| Amount to Feed
||32 cc of KMR per day
||56 cc of KMR per day
|| 10 ounces
||80 cc of KMR per day
|| 13 ounces
||104 cc of KMR per day
For the first three days of formula feeding, give the kittens less than the required
amount indicated above. Slowly increase the amount until by the end of the third day
the kittens are receiving the calculated amount. All feeding equipment must be kept
If kittens develop diarrhea, dilute the formula in half with Pedialyte (one part formula to
one part Pedialyte). Gradually increase the amount of formula as the feces improve. Normal
stool is yellow-brown and pasty. Please call your veterinarian for assistance at the first
sign of diarrhea. KITTENS WITH DIARRHEA CAN DIE.
If you have a scale available, keep a daily log of kitten's weight.
Remember, nothing is written in stone. Your kitten may have a voracious appetite or a very
small one. When fed adequately, a kitten's stomach will feel full, not tense or distended.
A steady weight gain of 10 grams or 1/3 ounce per day and a normal stool are indications you
are feeding the correct amount. Unchecked overfeeding leads to a depletion of digestive
enzymes. Eventually, when there is no digestion of the formula, you will see a stool that
looks like curdled milk. At this point stop all formula and give only Pedialyte until the
kitten has a normal stool.
Kittens that are taken from Mom, for whatever reason, at the age of about 1 or 2 weeks may have
a little bit of trouble adjusting to the bottle. This is simply a matter of persistence. You
must keep offering the bottle and they will learn that this is where food comes from.
Feeding and warmth are the two most important things these babies need. If you must err in
feeding, let it be on the side of underfeeding. If you have fed the kitten and helped it to
eliminate and it is still crying, he either has colic (from over feeding) or it is cold.
The kitten's natural mother takes care of both ends of her baby. By licking the kitten's
abdomen, she stimulates the bowels and bladder and tidies up the resulting waste. A
surrogate cat mom should gently rub the kitten's abdomen and bottom with a cotton ball or
washcloth moistened with warm water. This stimulates the discharge of waste and keeps
babies clean. Continue until they stop. They cannot eliminate without help until they
are three to four weeks old.
Without mother's tongue to wash them down, daily cleaning from you is essential. With a
warm washcloth, wipe them down after every feeding. Use short strokes as the mother
would use with her tongue. This cleans their fur, teaches them to clean their fur, and
gives them a feeling of attention and well being.
After the umbilical cord falls off, watch the area carefully. It doesn't hurt to give
it a few wipes with Hydrogen Peroxide.
When raising more than one baby, you will find that at about 2 to 3 weeks of age, they will
start rooting around in their nest looking for something to nurse on. Invariably they find each
other and start sucking on that which most resembles a nipple.their sibling's genitals.
Besides being a nasty habit, they can get sick from ingesting urine. After stimulating them,
spray their little bottoms with Bitter Apple. This is a foul
tasting, but harmless spray which can be purchased at any pet store. If this doesn't do the trick,
separate them. Do NOT allow them to nurse on one another.
Kitten stools are a great source of information. Watch carefully for any changes as kittens
often do not "act sick" until they are extremely ill. Loose or watery stools give you clues
to illness. Prompt medical treatment may prevent serious illness.
Get to know each individual kitten so you will know when something may be wrong.
At about four weeks of age kittens will start chewing on the nipple and showing a need
for more substantial food. Continue to bottle feed, but offer less than their full amount.
Make up a mixture of softened Purina Kitten Chow and formula as their first solid meal.
Make the Purina dry kibble ³soft² by adding hot or warm water to it and allow it to sit
for 10 minutes to absorb the moisture. Then using a fork, mix it up adding a sprinkling
of kitten milk replacer to create a soupy mixture or gruel. The food should be the
consistency of chunky soup. Place kitties in front of the food bowl. If they don't
lick on their own, place a bit of food on the tip of your finger and offer it to them.
If they still don't lick, open their mouth and place the food from your finger on
the roof of their mouth. This will give them a taste of the food. Now offer them
food from your finger again and eventually lead them with your finger closer and
closer to the bowl. Some kittens take to it right away. Some take longer and
enjoy the coddling. When they're ready, they'll lap it up. Keep trying until
they get it down. Over several days decrease the amount of formula added until
they are eating the softened food straight. During this time add a dish of dry
food and water and have it available at all times.
Kittens five to six weeks old need four small meals a day with the last meal just before
bedtime. Kittens six to eight weeks old need four meals a day (about one -two tablespoons
of softened food per kitten for each meal) plus free choice dry kibble.
Observe kittens when they are eating to be sure each kitten gets enough food.
At about four weeks, it is time to introduce them to a litter box. For small kittens,
a regular litter box is too tall - they can't get in or out. Instead, use a flat container
with small lip around edge. Plastic Frisbees or dishes for under potted plants work well.
Use a container that is large enough for the number of kittens you have. Once they are
old enough, you may change to a regular litter box.
Use regular, clay litter, NOT clumping litter. Clumping litter is hazardous to kittens as
it will cause intestinal blockages if swallowed. It will also get in their eyes and plug up
their nose! (See Kitten Hazards information)
Simply place them in the box after eating and let them go for it. They are naturally inclined
to use this and once they start, that is one less thing you have to do for them.
Be sure to clean all litter boxes and containers before using them. Use a mild bleach mixture
(about 10% bleach, 90% water) to sterilize.
It is very important to clean the litter box daily or more often if required. Cats and kittens
are reluctant to use dirty litter boxes.
Socializing a kitten is a very important part of fostering. Well-socialized kittens make much better companions.
Newborn to four week old kittens should be handled daily by the foster parent, but only
for a short period of time. Kittens this age tire very easily and need their rest. From
five weeks of age and on, it is better to have multiple people handle the kittens. Old,
young, male, female, expose them to everything!
Never use your hands as play toys and discourage kittens from biting and scratching. If
they become rough, stop playing immediately and ignore them for a few minutes. If they are
playing inappropriately, redirect their play to toys. NEVER hit or spank a kitten. This
just teaches them to fear human hands. ALWAYS supervise closely when kittens are handled by children.
Play with your kittens. Use kitty teasers and dangle toys. Also, keep toys in the cage
or room so kittens will be able to play when you are busy. It is a good idea to offer
them a scratching post at this early age as well.
Give your kittens as much attention as possible. Kittens who are caged too long or not handled
regularly can develop psychological problems. Severe loneliness can develop if you do not have
consistent quality time with your fosters. However, with love, affection and a keen eye, you
should be able to avoid this problem.
Symptoms of Illness
We hope your foster kittens do not become sick, but if they
do, IMMEDIATELY call your veterinarian.
Symptoms of a sick kitten include:
Kidney function in newborns is 25% of what it will be later. Because immature kidneys are
unable to concentrate the urine, kittens must excrete large amounts of dilute urine. When
kittens stop nursing, they dehydrate quickly, therefore, please consider this very valid
point if your kitten loses weight, becomes chilled or otherwise fails to thrive. You can
look in the kitten's mouth for a lack of moisture, a very pink tongue or mucus membranes.
You can pick up the skin at the back of it's neck. If it doesn't bounce
right back, this is a sign of dehydration. Watch the urine. If it is not clear, but a distinct
yellow, this too is a sign of dehydration.
- refusing to eat
- continuous vomiting
- bleeding of any kind (nose, urine, stool, etc.)
- changes in eating or drinking behavior
- difficulty breathing
- rectal temperature below 99.5 or above 102
- eye or nasal discharge
- hairless or crusty patches of skin that normally have hair
Dehydration from diarrhea can kill kittens. It is important to hydrate them immediately.
If kittens become sick, be sure to clean bowls, litter box, toys and bedding with a mild bleach
solution (10% bleach to 90% water) to kill any bacteria that are lurking.
FLEAS are tiny insects that love to feed on kittens. Although each flea only consumes a small
drop of blood, fleas commonly attack in large numbers and an infestation can literally drain
blood from a kitten's body producing anemia and death.
It is essential to remove fleas from kittens and bedding. Change bedding frequently and flea comb
kittens daily. Bottle babies can NOT have flea shampoo. They are way too young. Older kittens
may have Advantage flea prevention applied. Contact your veterinarian if your kittens are covered with fleas.
Newborn kittens are completely dependent on their mother. Their eyes and ears are closed
so they can neither see nor hear. Their eyes open by 10 12 days, but their vision is not
normal until they are three to four weeks old. The ears open sometime between day 6 and 17,
at which time they can hear.
Kittens begin crawling by 7 to 14 days and start to play with one another when they are two
weeks old. At three weeks, kittens are much more mobile and begin stalking each other. Teething
begins at this age. Kittens now should be handled 40 minutes every day to help socialize them.
At four weeks of age, kittens start eating solid food and can be trained to use a litter box. They
start wrestling with one another at this age.
At five weeks of age, kittens are learning how to hunt by pouncing on toys and each other. At five
to six weeks, adult eye color begins to appear. When kittens weigh two pounds, they can be spayed or neutered.
Kittens do die. For no reason sometimes other than it is their time and there is nothing
we can do about it. Once they start to fade, they can go very quickly. As soon as you see
anything that is amiss, call your veterinarian immediately. We are fighting the odds when we
take these babies in. They can be born with congenital defects, may have had inadequate nutrition
during pregnancy, from infectious diseases or may have been exposed too long to the elements.
Many things can happen. This is an upsetting experience for everyone involved, especially when
we have worked so hard to save their lives. Know that without your help they would never have
even had a chance.
FINALLY, if you need help, please pick up the telephone!
Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County
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