Caring for orphaned kittens
My folks live on an acreage about a mile outside of town. Unfortunately, their place has been chosen by people who dump their animals and leave. Sometimes it’s young kittens.
Cornell University Veterinarian Paul Maza says the ideal way to care for orphaned kitties is to find a foster mother cat – one that is currently nursing kittens – and put them with her. If that's not possible, provide them with a warm, dry place, and hand-feed every few hours with milk replacer and a bottle designed for kittens.
"When we feed kittens, we don't want them to swallow too much air so make sure the bottle is inverted, and when the kittens are suckling on the bottle's nipple, we don't want to squeeze the bottle because we don't want to shoot the milk replacer down into their throat because they could aspirate it," says Maza. "Kittens will nurse as much as they need to become full. So once we see that their bellies are just slightly distended, that's probably enough."
A mama cat licks newborns to stimulate urination and defecation. For kittens under 3 weeks old, Maza recommends gently rubbing their backsides with a moistened cotton ball after each meal until they're able to eliminate on their own.
When the kittens about a-month-old, they can be gradually weaned from milk to cat food.
"Kind of a gruel-type of solution," he says. "Milk replacer, plus a little bit of food starting at four-weeks, and becoming gradually more food and less milk replacer, so less liquidy between 4-7 weeks."
Kittens at 6-8 weeks can eat regular food, and are usually ready for adoption. Maza says this is also the time to take them to the veterinarian to test for disease and receive vaccinations. They can be spayed or neutered as young as eight-weeks-old.
Learn more about caring for orphaned kittens
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