There are many things you'll need to know when caring for a newborn kitten, especially if they don't have a mother. Our Gilbert vets share some tips on how to take care of a kitten that doesn't have a mother and what can go wrong. Plus: when you should take them to the vet for the first time.
How to Care for a Kitten
While kittens are fuzzy, lovable and adorable household pets, their needs are very specific and they need close attention from their humans. these needs are different for each stage of life, and if something is missed or goes wrong it can impact their general health and longevity. Here, we discuss how you can care for your kitty during their early years.
How to Take Care of a Baby Kitten
A kitten is considered a newborn when they are 0 to 4 weeks old. At this age, they'll still learning how to walk, meow and regulate their body temperature. If they have a mother, she'll be able to do most of the work, including feeding.
All you'd have to do is ensure the mother is healthy and that they are in a safe, warm environment. Cover the floor of their crate area with a blanket and give mother and baby a warm bed to lay on.
However, if the mother is not around, the first thing you should do is take your kitten to a veterinarian. The vet will be able to check your kitten's health and explain their requirements.
Keep Your Newborn Kitten Warm
If your kitten does have a mother, you'll need to take a few more measures to help them stay warm. You might consider using a heating disk in their crate or turning a heating pad on low heat underneath a blanket in their cage. Make sure the heating bad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands.
Use blankets to create a small nest for the kitten to lay in for comfort. Your kitten should also have a place in their crate or cage that does not have a heating item so they can find refuge there if they get too warm.
Your kitten should have a heating source until they are about six weeks old, since they can catch hypothermia if they get too cold. This is why their area should be kept at 85°F or 29°C.
Feeding Your Newborn Kitten
Newborn kittens without mothers also require close attention to proper nutrition and feeding. You'll need to bottle feed your kitten with a special kitten formula every 2 to 4 hours.
Each kitten is unique, and your veterinarian will be able to tell you which formula to use, how much to feed them and how frequently to feed your kitten. In order for kittens to grow healthily, they will need to gain approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week.
Never give your cat cow milk and always make sure you are feeding them the same formula. And, in order for your kitty to digest food properly they will have to be kept warm. Your Gilbert veterinarian can offer more tips on how to take care of a newborn kitten without a mother.
As Your Kitten Grows Older
When the kitten you are caring for is around 5/6 to 10 weeks old they should gradually stop being bottle fed or fed by their mothers and start feeding them high protein meals about 3 to 4 times a day.
You can start this by pouring the formula in a food bowl and possibly adding a bit of softened hard food or canned soft food to help ease them in the process.
Looking for guidance on how to care for a 6-week-old kitten without a mother? Your veterinarian is your best bet to answer any questions and address health concerns. At this age, they should be weaning onto wet kitten food but will still need a bottle feeding from time to time.
They should also be gaining weight and practicing litter box training. Because their motor skills will be improving at this stage, kittens will start becoming adventurous and you will have to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't get themselves into trouble.
They will require a lot of supervision and hands-on bonding playtime as they are between 2 -4 months old.
Your kitten will start entering their adolescent days when they are 4 - 6 months old. This is when they are generally very troublesome and might require some behavioral modification, this is also when you should start considering having them spayed or neutered before they reach the 6 - 8 month mark.
Preventive Care For Your Kitten
No matter how old your kitten is you should take them for their first veterinary appointment during the first week they are in your care. Your veterinarian will evaluate the health of your kitten as well as inform you of their dietary needs. This also provides you with the opportunity to ask any questions you may have in regards to the care of your new family member.
Making sure your kitten gets routine preventive care is essential, including wellness exams, routine vaccinations, and parasite prevention.
Regular routine exams give your vet the opportunity to assess the overall health and well-being of your kitten including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.
You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of its vaccinations and parasite prevention on schedule.
Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.
What Can Go Wrong?
When caring for a kitten there are many things you need to keep an eye out for in every stage of your kitten's life, which could indicate a problem or even a veterinary emergency.
If you see your kitten displaying any of the following signs call your vet immediately to schedule an appointment.
Here is what you need to keep an eye out in a newborn kitten:
- Delays or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
- Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
When your kitten is 4 weeks old or older you still need to keep an eye out for the signs above in addition to these behavioral signs:
- Litter box usage/ not using the litter box
- Signs of play biting or aggression
- Fears and other concerning behaviors that should be managed when they are still young
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.