What to do if you find a newborn kitten
What to do if you find kittens
Finding newborn kittens can be exciting, but there are many things that you will need to know about trapping and caring for new found babies. When you first see baby kittens in your backyard, alley or other places take a step back and make sure the mom cat is not still around and just hiding from you. They are usually very close or are just off to get food.
If you see the Mom cat nearby, DO NOT DISTURB THE KITTENS and let Mom take care of them herself. It is especially crucial for newborn kittens to receive the nutrition from Mom’s milk during the first couple of days of their lives. The mommy cat may also be hunting for food or in the process of moving her kittens to a new nest! The bigger the kittens, the longer the mom cat can be gone.
Many kittens will not survive if separated from Mom during the first week of their life. If you see the mother cat put some food and water out for her so she can devote herself to her babies. If the mom cat does not come back in 4 or more hours – she may be in trouble or dead. Please look around for her if you can! If she is not found you can take the kittens and get them help. BUT ONLY IF YOU ARE WILLING TO SAVE THE KITTENS.
If you are unable to get the kittens into a rescue or unwilling to do the work necessary to raise newborn kittens, please do the right thing and take them to a vet or shelter to be fostered by an experienced person or let them be humanely euthanized. Do NOT leave the kittens outside alone to die.
- Many Cat Rescues Groups hold adoptions in your local pet stores on the weekends. Call the pet stores such as Petco and PetSmart to see what time they are there and bring the kittens to the rescue group. Usually a kind foster worker will take the kittens from you. If they do not have room they will advise taking the kittens to the Shelter.
- PLEASE OFFER A DONATION TO THE RESCUE GROUP WHO TAKES THE KITTENS! They do not get paid for their services!
HOW TO TELL APPROXIMATE KITTEN AGE:
- Umbilical cord still attached – newborn kitten only 1-3 days old
- Eyes closed, ears folded over – kitten is 1 – 10 days old (about 3 – 4 inches)
- Eyes are open, kitten moves around but is wobbly – 10 days – 2 weeks old ( the size of a 6 inch hand)
- Eyes are open, ears up, can walk around pretty good- 3 – 4 weeks old
- Running around and is difficult to catch – 5 – 7 weeks
- At least (1 foot) long, very fast and impossible to catch by hand – 8 weeks or older
IF THE MOM DOES NOT COME BACK FOR HER BABIES AND YOU RESCUE THE KITTENS HERE ARE SOME BASIC RULES TO FOLLOW – read this full page for detailed instructions:
1) Immediately place kitten(s) in a towel, shirt or blanket in a box to keep them warm. Remove any dirt or bugs/fleas that are on them. If there eyes are goopy, wipe them off gently. If they are VERY COLD, put them under your shirt next to your skin or rub them in your hands. Kittens die from cold and hypothermia before starvation.
2) DO NOT REMOVE THE UMBILICAL CORD IF STILL ATTACHED. Take to the emergency vet or a regular vet to have them cut it so they don’t get an infection if you feel it looks bad, otherwise it will fall off by itself in a few days. RED OR SWOLLEN CORDS may actually be a hernia of intestines coming out!
GO TO THE VET IMMEDIATELY! THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!
3) Make the kitten(s) go to the bathroom if they are younger than 4 weeks old. Baby kittens cannot go potty by themselves! Take a cloth, towel or tissue and gently rub their genitals like a mommy cat would lick them until they urinate or poop. Count to 60 to make sure they have gone completely. They should start going within a minute. If not, try again in about 10 minutes. They may be constipated. They will get very sick if they do not go potty every few hours. Kittens make take a minute or 2 to poop.
4) The kittens must be kept warm in order to eat especially if they are very young. DO NOT FEED A COLD KITTEN – IT WILL DIE! Their internal organs have shut down. They must be physically warmed up first to 97 degrees minimum. You can use a small thermometer to find the temperature. Put some vaseline on it and place the tip gently in the rectum and hold it there until it gives you a reading. It needs to be above 98-100 degrees before you feed.
5) Go to the Pet Store to get kitten formula such as KMR or Just Born and a baby feeding bottle.
Poke a hole in the bottle. I usually take a vry small nail sissor and heat up the top and poke it through the inside of the nipple. MAKE A SMALL HOLE! When you tip it upside down, it should just drop out if you gently squeeze the bottle. If it comes out to fast it can choke the kitten and get formule in their lungs.
DO NOT FEED COWS MILK!
You can use warm Goats Milk but just for a day until you find Kitten Formula.
6) When you get home immediately make a kitten box full of soft towels and place a heating pad for warmth under the box set on low. Put the heating pad in a box and cover it with towels. It is best to have only 1/2 of the box heated so the kittens can move off the heat source if they get too warm. Over heating can KILL kittens but no matter how hot it is in your room or outside, they still need a heat source that resembles the mom cat. If you do not have a heating pad, put some rice in a a few big socks or t-shirt and tie up the ends to keep it in. Then put it in the microwave until warm. You can also use the microwave heating pads that are filled with beads – the ones you use to wrap around your neck for stiff muscles.
7) Feed kitten according to the formula chart on the can and use my info below. DO NOT OVER FEED! You will need to make the kitten go potty before and after you feed then burp them afterwards by lightly tapping on their back. Newborns will only suckle a very small amount. When they spit out the nipple they are done. Do not force them to eat more. Just let the kitten feed until it feels full. It may take a few moments for a kitten to latch on to a nipple. Don’t force the formula in their mouth. Just squeeze the bottle to allow some drops to fall out and see if they will lick the formula. Then gently try to move the bottle inside the mouth. Sometimes I pull the bottle out slowly to see if they will grab on
Supplies you will need for newborns and young kittens:
- Heating pad covered with a thick towel – do NOT place kitten directly on a hot heating pad
- Kitten formula such as Just Born or KMR(found at local pet stores and Wal Mart).The liquid formula is best to use if you are not sure what to do.
- Feeding bottles (Pet Nurser ones are best) and several nipples (found at pet stores with kitten formula).
- Eye dropper or syringe (without needle) in case the kitten will not eat from the bottle.
- Several bath towels for bedding and cleaning kittens.
- Kitchen food scale for weighing kittens (optional).
- Digital rectal thermometer (kittens that are 2 weeks old have a normal temperature is between 100 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit – newborns are about 97 degrees.)
- Have Emergency Vet or vet Clinic number handy.
HERE ARE MORE DETAILS AND FACTS:
To make a kitten box…
Put a heating pad in a box big enough to accommodate the pad and also provides an area in the box that will not covered by the heating pad. Kittens will crawl toward the heat when they are cold and away from the heat when they are warm. If they do not have an area where they can get away from the heat, they can become dehydrated and die.
Turn the heating pad on VERY LOW and cover it with a towel and place some soft blankets/towels around the kittens. Place the box in a warm and draft-free area.
Never let the kitten lie directly on the heating pad! It must be covered.
If the kitten has fleas give it a bath ONLY if the kitten’s body temperature is 97+ degrees Fahrenheit.
DO NOT BATHE A COLD KITTEN. Use a very small amount of Lemon Joy or Dawn dishwashing liquid. The citrus kills fleas and is safe for kittens. Flea shampoos and medicines for adult cats are too harsh for baby kittens and can poison them.
Use a fine tooth comb or your fingernails to pull out fleas and drown them in the water. I usually submerse the kitten in the water all the way up to their head so the fleas come to the top and I can kill them faster!
After towel drying the kitten as much as possible return the kitten to the heating pad. If you use a hair dryer, place it on the LOWEST setting as far away as you can and quickly blow back and forth only a few times to dry the fur so you do not burn the kitten! DO NOT BLOW THE DRYER IN THE KITTEN’S FACE!
This is the same white kitten covered in fleas! If you do not remove all of the fleas, the kitten can be sucked dry of it’s blood and even killed with a severe infestation! Fleas are the #1 killers of baby kittens!
Determine the age of the kitten to see if it needs to be bottle-fed or if it can start immediately on canned baby food for kittens:
- 1 – 4 weeks old – will need to be bottle-fed kitten formula or mash. Weighs only 4 -16 ounces.
- 5 weeks and older – can be offered canned food for KITTENS ONLY but they may still need to be bottle-fed. Canned food must be creamy texture with no chunky food or big pieces. Please try to find the best quality canned kitten food and not low cost brands that are full of chemicals and dyes.
You will need to buy some pre-made kitten formula such as Just Born or KMR at the pet store with a baby bottle. The liquid formulas are faster and easier to use then the cans. Canned formula can be made at each feeding to stay fresher. Follow instructions on the labels!
Do NOT poke a hole in the bottle with a needle it will be too small. You will have to use some tiny scissors to poke through the top to make the opening. The hole in the bottle should only be big enough that if you hold the bottle upside down the milk drips out slowly. DO NOT MAKE THE HOLE TOO BIG!
KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) or Just Born are the best formulas to feed a young kitten.
Do not give a kitten cow’s milk, soy or rice milk! If you cannot obtain KMR or Just Born immediately, use the following emergency recipe for up to 24 hours only. In an emergency, call a veterinarian or check an animal shelter for kitten formulas.
EMERGENCY KITTEN FORMULA
The pet store is closed, and you have hungry kittens that need formula! Never fear! As with the below formulas, please remember that any emergency formula should only be used until regular Feline Replacement Formula (such as KMR or Just Born) can be purchased at the pet store. None of these are nutritionally complete for the long term health of a kitten.
Remember: Cow’s milk is NOT nutritionally sufficient for kittens; they will slowly starve to death!
8 ounces homogenized whole milk
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salad oil
1 drop liquid pediatric vitamins (optional)
Mix well and warm before using. Keep refrigerated.
1 part boiled water to 5 parts evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon bone meal per 16 oz fluid
Mix well, refrigerate, warm before using .
1 can Evaporated Milk
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons Karo syrup
All three mixed well and keep in tightly sealed jar in refrigerator. At feeding time mix 1/2 of the estimated feeding amount with: Equal amount of boiling water. (once a day mix 1 drop of human infant liquid vitamins in each kitties formula)
If constipation occurs: add 1 drop of vegetable oil to each kitties formula no more than once daily till problem is eased. Test temperature before feeding (the combination of boiling water and chilled formula should be just about right)
HIGH-CALORIE MILKSHAKE FOR SICK OR NON-EATING OLDER CATS AND KITTENS
This is ideal if you have to force-feed a cat/kitten with a syringe.
Blend together the following ingredients:
- 1 cup powdered kitten formula and 1 cup water
- or 8 oz can of liquid kitten formula
- 7 heaping teaspoons of KMR or Just Born “weaning” formula
- 2 cans of wet kitten food (Nutro Max Kitten or Science Diet A/D is best)
Mix until you have a milkshake consistency. To thicken, add more weaning powder; to thin, add more milk replacer or a little water. Lightly heat in a microwave for 5 – 10 seconds only and use a bottle or syringe to force-feed; if cat is eating on its own, pour over regular canned food. Keep in the refrigerator.
FEEDING THE KITTEN:
Warm the formula in a nursing bottle or medicine dropper by placing the bottle or dropper into a cup or bowl of hot water. Test the formula on the underside of your wrist to check the temperature. If it feels too warm or too cold on your wrist, it will feel the same for the kitten. If the formula is too hot, wait until the formula cools down. If the formula is too cold, continue soaking the bottle or dropper in hot water. Always be sure to test the formula again before giving it to the kitten.
Place the kitten on her stomach at a 45-degree angle (just as a kitten would nurse from the mother) and let her nurse until she turns her head. You can also hold the kitten in your hand with its stomach on your palm for support.
Do not hold the kitten’s head back or hold them on upside down on their back as you would a human baby,. The kitten could aspirate by getting formula into her lungs. Avoid allowing air into the kitten’s tummy and hold the bottle at an angle to keep liquid toward the nipple. Pulling back slightly on the bottle will help trigger the kitten’s sucking reflex. Never squeeze the bottle to force milk to come out.
You can hold the kitten with your other hand to keep her steady. See the top menu photo on this website page of baby Hanna.
Do not panic if the kitten does not eat right away. She may be more accustomed to her mothers milk, which is quite rich, and can sustain her for a longer time than replacement formulas. (If she is still not eating after 6 hours, seek veterinary assistance immediately. She may need to be force fed through a tube. Never attempt tube feeding yourself if you are unfamiliar with this procedure. If done improperly, esophageal or stomach damage and even death can result.)
VERY IMPORTANT: After the kitten’s stomach is full, it is necessary to stimulate their private parts to help them eliminate. A kitten does not have the ability to do this until they are 4 weeks old. Stimulate by taking a warm washcloth, kleenex or paper towel and gently massage the anal region in a small circular or back-and-forth motion. You may want to hold kitten over a towel or sink while stimulating her. COUNT TO 60 to make sure the kittens goes. They will always pee before and after feedings and should poop 1 – 2 times a day.
ALSO, you need to BURP the kitten after feeding. This may take as long as 5- 10 minutes of gentle tapping on their back. If you do not burp the kitten they will end up with too much air in their stomach and they will get sick!
This is a general guideline. A kitten will eat more often or less often, depending on the kitten. The label on the container of kitten formula you purchased should indicate the recommended amount to feed a kitten according to body weight. If a kitten cries, she is either cold or hungry. A contented kitten sleeps quietly.
Age in Weeks/Feedings per day: YOU CANNOT MISS A FEEDING IN NEWBORN KITTENS!
- newborns up to 1 week old – feed every 2 hours day and night (YES, you need to wake up at night!)
- 1 – 2 weeks old – feed every 3 to 4 hours day and night
- 3 weeks old – feed every 4 to 5 hours day and night
- 4 weeks old – feed every 5 to 6 hours day and night
Never overfeed a kitten. If you do not feed a baby kitten on schedule it can go into hypoglycemic shock and die. You MUST feed the kitten on time and all through out the night.
Some kittens will eat and eat as long as food is offered to them. Follow the instructions and guidelines on the container of kitten formula.
When the kitten is about four weeks old, you can begin weaning the kitten with baby food (GERBER Chicken, Turkey or Lamb) or a high quality canned – kitten food mixed with KMR or Just Born Formula. Please make sure there is NO ONION in the Gerber baby food. It can kill a kitten.
Begin by adding just 1/2 teaspoon into the formula and warm it up. You will need another baby bottle for this and it is important to make a BIGGER hole in the bottle for the thicker formula to come out. Remember, it must be able to flow slowly out of the bottle if held upside down. Sometimes the formula gets stuck in the nipple so make sure to stir the formula well before putting in the bottle and shake the bottle often.
After about 5 weeks the kitten(s) should be weaned and they can be fed a high quality canned food in a very flat or shallow dish.
Make sure they have clean water to drink at all times. They should also be able to use the litter box by this time. Use clay litter only or preferable – Corn Litter. Do not use clumpable or scoopable litter for baby kittens. It will get in their paws and they will get sick if they lick it off.
Once the kittens are 8 – 9 weeks they can be ready for adoption after you have done ALL of their medical work and they are spayed/neutered.