For some unknown reason, I have always been the mother that neighborhood children brought injured or abandoned animals to. The first animal was a pigeon way before I was married, and I remember that guy forever. A great bird who sat on a chair rung and cooed all night long. He initiated my attending wildlife and rescue classes.
You can never know it all. The list of animals that have found their way into my home is far too long to even begin to remember. I swear there is a sign outside my home that says "Animal lover lives here" but I have not yet found it. Besides, it's in either dog, cat, bird or bunnie language.
I hope this page helps some one as I was helped when I first started.
I am NOT a professional or a vet, by any means and know very little compared
to a professinal.
If you are experiencing anything questionably life threatening, please, take the kittens to a vet immediately.
I have held a dying kitten who did not make it too many times to ever make this mistake again, despite the cost.
If any other kitten "Mama" finds an error or misinformation, PLEASE let me know, email me at Anne @ packrat-pro.com
Finding an 'abandoned kitten'
First, make darn sure it is truly abandoned
Plump, clean, healthy looking kittens are usually not abandoned unless something dire happened to Mom. Do not take the kitten until you have waited at least a few hours and even twenty four hours (out of sight) to see if Mama returns from a hunting trip, moving the babies to a safer location, etc. Wait, or come back. Peek in and try not to touch anything. Mother cats will care for their kittens after they have been touched by a human, unlike birds, but it's simply safer not to interfere. Take the kitten ONLY if you are positive, absolutely positive it has been abandoned or if its health or life is in danger. You could be increasing the risk of the kitten's life because the survival rate of a kitten without its mother drops tremendously.
Mothers who recognize they do not have enough milk to support the babies
or can't care for them usually leave within the first 24 hours of birth.
A kitten who has been kicked out of the den have been disgarded because the mother is wiser than we are and knows the kitten will not live.
Can You Do This?
Do you have the time? Four weeks of 24/7
Little kittens, especially sick ones need carefully watching, careful tending. You have just volunteered to be Mama cat for 24 hours a day until the cat is at least six weeks old. You will have to take over all the many tasks normally performed by a Mama cat.
Do you know what to do?
Please, please do not be offended. It's so easy to make one little mistake because you did not know it was an important item and lose the kitten. I still don't know it all, and will never know it all. I can't tell you the times some one has volunteered to help feed a kitten and the first thing they do is put it on their back or force feed it. No, no, no!
If you have never taken care of an abandoned kitten, find someone who has successfully rescued kittens and give the kitten to them. Stick around and learn, learn, learn for next time. There is ALWAYS a next time.
Be prepared for a vet bill if the kitten gets sick. If you don't have the funds, don't take the kitten. Find someone who does. Try a local SPCA or wildlife chapter.
Can you live with it, if the kitten doesn't?
The mortality rate of abandoned or sick kittens is terribly high. My heart tears me up at every loss, but, I still keep doing it. Sometimes, it is simply in God's hands, not ours. Kittens are most likely to die at birth, within the first week or during weaning.
What You Will Need
* A "den" - this can be a box (at least 18" high) that can be covered with
a cloth. Some people use covered cat carriers. It must be enclosed and draft
free, and large enough for the ktten to move away from the heat source.
* Blankets, washclothes and towels by the basket load - Thrift stores are great for these.
* A den buddy if you only have one kitten - small fuzzy stuffed toy or stuffed sock
* Heat - MILD heating pad or heat lamp for under 4 or 5 weeks old
* Kitten formula - Powder is best if you only have one kitten. Emergency formulas are provided below.
* Pedialyte, plain flavored
* Karo syrup
* Kitten vitamins, "Baby Dophilus" for example
* Kitten bottle is by far the best, syringe or eye dropper will work, baby doll bottles work, too
* Alarm clock - with a gentle sound
* Darkness for newborns
* A kitty carrier if needed, fabric one for your chest. I am looking into these and will be making them asap.
* Anti-bacterial hospital grade scrub, and use it!
* Rectal thermometer and vaseline
* Humidifer (sick kittens)
* The right mind set - you are now Mama Kitty - think and act like her
* Lots and lots of patience
Bringing Them Home
Select a separate area for the den, away from family traffic or other pets. Always keep a new pet in quarentine for two weeks in case the new animal is ill or diseased.
Check the kitten over completely, ears, teeth, nails, eyes, skin, fur, privates, look for sores, missing fur, fleas and parasites.
Most kittens, especially found in the wilds or outdoors will be covered with fleas. I have heard there are sprays made for infant kittens but I have never found one. I wash the kitten and hand pick off the fleas. Get rid of the fleas if you can. Dry the kitten (with a towel) quickly and out of any breeze.
Baths have to be warm and quick, thoroughly dry the kitten immediately. Do not wash a sick kitten or an extremely young kitten.
If, by any chance, you know of a litter, see if the mother will accept the baby. Even if the first greeting includes snarls, the mother might take the kitten after several encounters. Do not force the situation.
Basic but Mandatory Requirements
Warmth, Pottying, Feeding, Burping, Weaning, Stimulation, Affection, Bathing
During their first week, kittens should be kept between 88 and 92 degrees F
For the next 2 weeks they still need temperatures of 80 degrees or so
When they reach 5 weeks or so they can tolerate a lower room temperature
Do not rely solely on wrapping the kitten in a towel or blanket for warmth. Their bodies need all their energy for living and do not have enough strength to keep themselves warm. A den would normally contain warmth from their siblings and their mother
Warm a chilled kitten SLOWLY. Place the ktten next to your skin under your clothes and/or additional cloths
A kitten that is so frantic to eat they can't get the nipple calms down when warmed up
Hyperthemia results in deydration very quickly
An overwarm kitten must be coold immediately but slowly. If needed, run room temp water on the kitten, administer room temp water.
Kittens cannot have a bowel movement or pass urine independently until they are about four weeks old.
By licking the kitten's abdomen, the mom stimulates the bowels and bladder.
Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to stimulate the discharge of
waste and keeps babies clean
"Pottying" should be done before and after each meal
With the kitten on a towel in your lap, or over the sink, lightly rub the
kitten's behind with a warmed wet cloth squeezed out completely or a tissue
The kitten may roll over and offer its bottom as it does for its mother
Gently stroke the kitten's behind, and/or exteme lower tummy keeping the cloth in contact
The kitten will likely release an amazing amount of urine, make sure you are out of the way!
Simply rotate the cloth until kitten stops urinating, then clean him up and dry his bottom.
If this doesn't work the first time, keep trying
Always be extremely gentle
Keep the area clean and watch for chafing which might indicate that you are rubbing too hard or not cleaning well enough
The kitten may be in excruciating pain or going toxic from having to retain its body waste
You should help the kitten empty its bladder before warming or feeding or a trip to the veterinarian
Bowels should pass once a day, they should be of toothpaste consistency and mustard colour
Urine should pass after every feeding, the colour should be very light, almost clear
See Bad Signs for other attributes. If there is ANY doubt, take the kitten to a vet immediately.
How old and how much the kitten weighs determines the amount of formula to feed the kitten. See the Feeding Chart
See Milestones to determine the kitten's age.
2 - 3
3 - 4
4 - 5
5 - 6
16 (1 lb)
6 - 7
Kittens should gain about 4 ounces of weight a week.
The absolute minimum should be 1/2 ounce of formula for every ounce of body weight
Feeding might be the most difficult chore.
Use a bottle nurser if at all possible. They are avialable for under $5 in most areas at pet or feed supply stores and well worth the purchase! The bottle is easier for you and easier for the kitten. It's hard to overfeed a kitten with a bottle and overfeeding is one of the most common problems. The kitten can take a while to adjust to a new method of eating, and a 6 cc syringe has to be refilled in one feeding for larger kittens, breaking the kitten's concentration that might have taken all your patience to accomplish.
The bottle's nipple has to be cut. Instead of several pin holes, I take itsy bitsy sharp sewing scissors and make one clip through the entire layer. The formula should not drip out if held upside down, but squirt out with ease when firmly squeezed.
DON'T overfeed. Over feeding leads to diarrhea and other problems
Feed on demand, and worry only if the kitten shows signs that indicate problems. See Bad Signs
DO NOT feed a chilled kitten. His internal organs are slower or shut down and you will kill it. Warm the kitten first, see Warmth
All utensils should be sterilized inbetween each use
Keep all formula in the frig, heat only the next meal's worth at a time.
Formula should be slightly warm if a drop is placed on your wrist. Heat the bottle in hot water and SHAKE it before testing.
Feed the kitten only when it is warmed and indicates it is hungry.
If the kitten is not strong enough to suckle, seek veterinary assistance ASAP
Never feed a kitten on its back with a syringe or dropper which allows formula into the lungs and causes pnemonia
Let the baby suck the fluid at its own pace
If formula bubbles out the nostrils, pull back immediately - you are drowning the kitten.
If a suckling kitten aspirates formula into its lungs, immediately hold it upside down until the choking subsides.
If the ears start to bob, the kitten is getting just the right amount of formula.
When a kitten has had enough formula, bubbles will form around its mouth, and its tummy will be rounded.
After each meal, try to burp the kitten by holding it upright against you shoulder and patting it lightly on the back.
A series of small meals is better than one large one
To feed your kitten, place it stomach down on a towel or other textured surface
to which it can cling.
I try and provide the same situation Mom would, a place to knead.
Placing them on their tummies allows them to burp by themselves
DO NOT place the kitten on its back. Remember, you are simulating mom.
Open its mouth gently with the tip of your finger, then slip the nipple between its jaws
To prevent air from entering the kitten's stomach, hold the bottle so that only formula enters the nipple
Keep tugging gently with a light pull on the bottle to encourage continual and enthusiastic sucking
Let the kitten tell you when it is finished eating
I will 'clean' (opposed to pet) the kitten's head or back while it is eating like Mom would, it also keeps them awake during feeding.
Weigh the kitten daily if you can. Most pet or feed supply stores have scales you can use.
After four weeks, try to start introducing the kitten to solid food and water. See Weaning.
Kittens who feed off their mothers don't need to be burped, but kittens who
might have absorbed air feeding from a bottle do.
Try putting the kitten over your shoulder just like a baby, or putting the kitten in your lap and gently rubbing its tummy with upward movements.
You have to replace all the daily chores that the Mama cat would nomally do, including bathing.
When you feed and clean the kittens, wash their fur all over with a barely
damp warmed towelette using short stokes as the mother would use.
This cleans their fur, teaches them to clean their fur, and gives them a feeling of attention and well-being.
If the kittens have diarrhea and become caked with stool, it is easier on their skin to wash them in warm water.
The kitten's instinctive need to suckle (frustrated by the lack of the mother's breast) may cause the kitten to suckle its litter mate's ears, tail or genitals, causing irritations to develop. Try to satisfy this oral need by caressing each kitten's mouth with your finger or a soft cloth.
Do not allow babies to suckle each other, sucking on genitals leads to other problems.
When a kitten is four weeks old, they will start to play, If you have a lone kitten, you will have to be the kitten's playmate, teaching them to tussle and bite gently.
The absense of a mother and siblings means a complete lack of normal daily
and hourly affection, from grooming and cleaning to cuddling and kissing.
Kittens who have not opened their eyes need at least three hours of cuddling a day.
Young newborns can literally die without affection.
Pet the kitten as often as you can, snuggling it to your body.
Hold them near your heart so they can hear your heart beat.
I nose the kittens continually, letting them grab my face with their arms and snuggle me back.
This is not a child that you can spoil, but a kitten who can not be loved too much.
When you are preparing the kitten to go back to sleep, let the kitten fall
to sleep in your arms and place them back into the den when they are completely
Don't simply feed and wash the kitten and plop her back in her bed.
If you need to carry the kitten around with you during the day:
Snuggle the kitten next to your body at breast level between the fronts of a wrap around belted type robe.
Tighten the belt securely around your waist
Investigate a kitten carrier made out of cloth, similar to a child carrier. I will be making these asap.
DO NOT be tempted to fall asleep with the kitten in your bed, a fall can kill a kitten.
Our dogs are quite large but always welcome a kitten, sometimes washing them and allowing them to snuggle.
Some experts believe that hand-raised kittens show higher intelligence, greater loyalty and deeper affection for their owners.
Cat trainers also recommend lots of handling for kittens and swear that this makes them easier to train.
The need to completely bathe the kitten may arise because of flea sores or messy bowels
Wash the kitten in a draft free area. Use a cat soap approved for kittens or a little bit of Johnson's Baby Shampoo.
I simply hold them under the kitchen faucet with pleasantly warm water while holding them securely and cooing to them.
Start wetting and shampoo at the neck to keep fleas from covering their head
Wash the kitten's head and face with a wet washcloth
Rinse the kitten thoroughly and move it immediately to a warm towel.
Completely towel dry the kitten including under the neck and arm/leg pit areas.
Use a hair dryer on low if needed, but avoid using it in their face.
Make sure the kitten is completely dry before putting it to bed.
A citrus shampoo is recommended by some as it evidentally slows down the fleas.
A metal lice or flea comb works well. Place the kitten on a light coloured towel and keep an eye open for fleas that jump to the towel, then easy to kill.
I like to bathe, then cuddle a kitten in my arms to sleep with a bottle like I did with my own children.
When the kitten is over four weeks old start introducing solid foods.
Start out by placing the formula in a bowl, dip your finger in the formula and place it on the kitten's mouth, leading the kitten to the bowl.
Be prepared for a BIG mess and do not expect over night success.
Advance to Gerber Baby plain rice cereal (boxed) combined with warm formula in a shallow dish, the consistency of thick milk.
Try placing a finger tip of cereal on the babies mouth to get the kitten to taste it, then try to lead the kitten to the bowl.
Reduce formula feedings as solid feedings improve.
Move to good quality solid kitten food soaked with formula and finally solid kitten food.
Let the kitten judge the speed of the changes.
Introduce water to the kitten during this time.
I trained guard dogs before I had children. Later, with my children, I remembered my dog lessons and realized they are incredibly applicable to kids, and kittens. Stay one step ahead of the kittens in order to train them to do something, set them up to learn easily. Outsmart the kitten!
If a kitten is hard to wean, make the solid food more desirable than the
bottle. They want to remain kittens, feeding in Mama's warm arms, but they
all want to become big kitties too. Just like kids.
Decrease the cuddling that accompanies the bottle.
Make the solid food much more interesting than the bottled food.
Above all, take slow steps to reduce diarrhea caused by diet changes which can be fatal. This is a crucial time when kittens can die easily.
A kitten who refuses to be weaned may take up to eight weeks, and may just needs individual attention.
Litter Box Training
Litter box training can start as early as four weeks old.
Use a litter box with sides 2" high or less
Place the kitten in the clean litter box a few minutes after eating.
Most kittens have the instinct to scratch at the litter but you might take the kitten's paw and scratch at the litter to show her what to do.
Place the kitten in the litterbox before and after feeding, after waking.
Do not use a clumpless litter with kittens under 4 or 5 weeks old.
Beware the kitten does not try to eat the litter.
Remember these are guidelines only. Like human children, each one is different.
|Birth||Should weighs 2 - 4 ounces||4 weeks||Should weigh about 14 ounces|
|1 - 3 days||Umbilical cord falls off||Runs in short bursts|
|7 days||Should weighs 4 to 8 ounces||Ready to try solid food (moistened)|
|7 - 10 days||Eyes open||Heska vaccine if no mother's milk had first three days|
|2 weeks||Tries to crawl||Learning to play|
|Teeth are starting to form. See teeth||Develops teeth|
|2 1/2 weeks||Learns to crawl||Eliminates without help|
|Tries to stand||4 - 5 weeks||Drinks water|
|3 weeks||Weighs about 10 ounces||Can purr|
|Tries to walk||5 weeks||Should weigh about a pound|
|Ears are erect||6 weeks||First distemper shot, followed by two more, 3 week intervals|
|3 1/2 weeks||Can walk carefully||8 weeks||Ready to be adopted|
|Can follow sound with eyes||3 months||True eye colour established|
|2 - 3 weeks||Center 4 Incisors (front teeth between the canines)|
|3 - 4 weeks||Outer Incisors (still between the canines)|
|3 - 4 weeks||Canines|
|4 - 5 weeks||Lower molars (called a premolar)|
|8 weeks||Upper molars (called a premolar)|
|3-1/2 to 4 months||Adult center 4 Incisors (front teeth between the canines)|
|4 to 4-1/2 months||Adult outer Incisors (still beaten the canines)|
|5 months||Adult canines|
|4-1/2 to 6 months||Adult upper molars|
|4 - 5 months||Adult upper molar in back|
|5 - 6 months||Adult lower molars|
Bad Signs TAKE THE KITTEN TO A PROFESSIONAL IMMEDIATELY.
Red and/or painful bottom: Wash only with warm water (no rubbing) and use Desitin or similar product.
Deeply colored (i.e., concentrated) urine indicates dehydration. It should
be close to clear.
Yellow urine means dehydration
Bowels should be toothpaste consistency and mustard coloured - Gray bowels
mean serious trouble, consult a vet immediately.
Always take a stool sample with you to the vets
For kittens with a lack of appetite or anemia, "Pet-Tinic" vitamin/mineral supplement (available at the vet and pet food stores) will stimulate appetite and rebuild systems.Follow the directions on the bottle for dosage and give direct by dropper or add to food, and consult a vet asap.
Dehydration - gently pull at the loose skin on the back of the kitten's neck or shoulders. If the skin springs back, the kitten is fine. If the skin reluctantly returns or does not return at all, the kitten is deydrated and needs immediate liquids under the skin. Mouth tissue will be too light a pink, dry or sticky. Consult a vet ASAP.
Diarrhea/Loose stool = over feeding, parasites, worms, serious illness,
Over feeding leads to a depletion of digestive enzymes.
Add 1/3 water to the formula. Pedialyte and water should bring bowels back to normal.
Stools that look like curdled milk mean no formula is being digested, switch to Pedialyte and water and consult a vet.
Constipated - add one drop of cooking oil or mineral oil to the formula, more if needed, beware of dehydrating the kitten
Diarrhea - I have heard a bit of pumpkin in the formula will help regulate a kitten.
Serious illnesses to learn about: panleuk (kills quickly), coccidia
Cerebellar Hypoplasia - result from contracting distemper in utero, lameness is an indication
Hypoglycemia - twitching, depression or convulsion - administer glucose, a drop of Karo syrup can save a life. Consult a vet ASAP
1 can evaporated milk (NOT Eagle Brand)
1 can water
1 egg yolk (whites can kill a kitten)
1 teaspoon Karo Syrup
1 teensy pinch of salt
Emergency Pedialyte Substitute
4 ¼ c water
2 t. sugar
½ t salt
½ t baking soda
Goat Milk Formula
8 oz goats milk (see notes below)
1/3 droper Avitron (available at pet supply stores)
1/3 dose Avimin (available at pet supply stores)
1/4 tsp acidophilus culture, must be refrigerorated (available at health food store)
1/4 tablet crushed papaya enzyme (available at health food store)
Use tinned or powdered goat's milk, either should be kept in the fridge when opened.
Powered Goat's milk: For a newborn, kitten suffering from exposure, or sick kitten substitute Pedialyte for water to reconstitute the powdered goats milk. After a week or so, substitute boiled water for the Pedialyte.
Sherri Matheny kindly sent in her recipe for kittens with diarrhea or difficulty in gaining/maintaining weight: "I mix equal parts of plain yogurt with large curd cottage cheese and then add a small amount of baby rice cereal. This can be given in addition to formula and solid food or by itself if kitten is too weak to eat. I have had great success with this diet. It seems to restore the normal bacteria in the gut and helps to get the kitten back on the road to health!" Thanks, Sherri!!
Links to Other Orphan Kitty Care Sites
http://www.marvistavet.com/html/orphan_kittens.html (diseases and signs of disease)
http://www.kittenrescue.org/handbook.htm Superb page
http://www.geocities.com/catcare2000/Parasites.htm Good parasite listing