There are lots of things you'll need to know when caring for a newborn kitten, especially if they do not have a mother. In this post, our Powder Springs vets discuss how you can take care of a baby kitten that doesn't have a mother and what can go wrong. We also offer some advice on when to take them to the vet for the first time.
How to Care for a Kitten
While kittens are adorable furballs that can provide endless hours of fun and affection, they have very specific needs you'll need to look after in their first few months. These needs differ at every stage of their life, and if something missed or goes wrong it can negatively affect their overall health and longevity. See below for tips on how you can care for your new furry friend during their kitten years.
Caring for a Newborn Kitten
A kitten is considered a newborn when it's between 0 and 4 weeks old. They are still learning how to walk, meow and even regulate their body temperature. If they have a mother, their mother will be able to do most work including feeding. All you would need to do is ensure the mother remains in good health and that both mother and kitten are in a safe, warm environment.
Cover the floor of their area or crate with a blanket and give them a warm bed to lay on. That said, if the kitten does not have a mother, we recommend bringing them into our Powder Springs vets for an exam. The vet will check the health of the kitten and tell you about their care requirements.
Keep Your Newborn Kitten Warm
Kittens that don't have mothers will need to be kept warm. You might consider putting a heating disk in the crate or setting a heating pad on low heat underneath a blanket in their cage. You can also make s mall nest out of blankets for your kitten to lay in and stay comfortable.
It's also important to make sure the heating pad doesn't get too hot by checking it with your hands and providing a cozy place in your kitten's crate or cage that does not have a heating source that your kitten to go to to cool off.
Kittens will need a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old, because they will catch hypothermia if they get too cold. This is why the temperature of their area should be kept at 85°F or 29°C.
Feeding Your Newborn Kitten
Proper nutrition is one of the most essential elements of a newborn kitten's health. If your kitten does not have a mother, you'll need to bottle feed with a special kitten formula every 2 to 4 hours. Every kitten is different, your veterinarian will be able to tell you which formula to use, how much to feed them and how often you should feed your kitten. For kittens to grow as they should, they'll need to gain about half an 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. Plus, for your kitty to properly digest food they will need to stay warm.
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. And because their motor skills will be improving at this stage they 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 wellness 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.