Young kittens may need to be hand-raised. This could be for many reasons including being orphaned or abandoned, the mother having a medical condition or acting aggressively towards the kittens or the mother having a large litter or an inadequate milk supply. Hand raising kittens is not an easy job if there is no mother, but with dedication and support it can be done.
Bottle Feeding and Weaning
The bottle and teat designed especially for hand raising kittens along with specialised kitten formula can most likely be bought from your nearest vet.
Follow the instructions on the formula box to measure the correct dilution.
The correct way to hand feed a kitten is by placing them on all fours and angling the bottle at about 65°. Once the kitten is attached to the teat they will suck the formula out. There is no need to squeeze the bottle. Please see the below photo for correct positioning during bottle feeding.
Feeding must be in small, regular amounts. Initially, every 2 hours (including night feeding. Please see the below table for more information.
Kittens should be weighed daily and at the same time each day. Their weights should be recorded. Any weight loss after the first 48hours of birth is not normal and should be looked at straight away either by seeking veterinary attention or by increasing the formula consumption. Healthy kittens can go downhill very fast.
Weaning should begin from about 4 weeks of age. Each kitten is different and the amount of time it can take to wean one kitten can be different to the other. A specialised weaning food should be bought from your local pet store. This food contains higher calories than supermarket bought food and is essential in providing the correct nutrients to the kitten.
Begin weaning by placing small amounts of food in the kittens mouth so they understand the taste of the food. Continue bottle feeding whist offering ample amounts of wet food.
Before and after every feed for kittens under 4 weeks old the genital area needs to be stimulated using a warm moist cotton wool or tissue using a wiping motion. Wiping in a downward motion from the genitals to the anus prevents a urinary tract infection. At four weeks old the kitten can now go to the toilet by itself so a small shallow littler should be introduced.
A small area should be created if nursing kittens under four weeks of age. This area could be made in a small box containing a few blankets and a heat pad or hot water bottle. Heat is very important to kittens under four weeks of age as they cannot regulate their body temperature for themselves. When creating this area leave a space where the kittens can crawl away from the heat if required as they cannot regulate their body temperature they can also over heat easily.
Please keep the environment in which the kittens are living in as clean and tidy as possible. Wash and change bedding daily.
At four weeks old the kitten’s environment should be changed to a larger enclosed area containing a litter tray, wet food and blankets.
Kittens should be wormed for intestinal worms at 4 weeks of age. They should be flea treated as required. They can also be microchipped and vaccinated at 8 weeks old and desexed from 12 weeks of age.
If you would like further information about hand raising kittens please feel free to contact us for advice or support.