If you are caring for a young kitten with no mother, there's a lot you should know. Today, our New Iberia vets offer tips and advice on how to take care of a newborn kitten without a mother, what to watch for, and when to take them to the vet.
How to Take Care of a Kitten
Kittens are adorable and lovable household pets (just ask the Internet!) However, young kittens especially have very specific needs for every stage of their life, and if something goes wrong or is missed it can affect their overall health and longevity. Here we talk about how you can care for your new furry friend during their kitten years.
Caring for a Newborn Kitten
Between 0 - 4 weeks of age, your tiny feline friend is considered to be a newborn. At this stage, they are still learning basics: how to vocalize (meow), walk, and even regulate their body temperature. If their mother is present, she should be able to clean, feed, and help newborn kittens stay warm; your role is to ensure the mother is in good health and that they are in a warm and safe environment.
Make sure the floor of the kitten's crate/area is covered with a blanket, and they have a warm bed to lay on. However, if the kitten does not have a mother, the first thing you should do is keep them warm and safe on your way to see a vet. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the overall condition of the kitten and inform you of their requirements.
Warmth is Vital
If your young kitten doesn't have a mother, you will have to help keep them warm by using something such as a heating disk or heating bad on low heat are placed underneath a blanket in their cage. You should also make a little nest out of soft blankets for the kitten to lay in for comfort. It's important that you make sure that the heating pad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands and providing a comfortable place in your kitten's cage/crate that does not have a heating item so they can go there if they get too warm. Remember, your kitten still needs help with body temperature regulation.
You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old because if kittens get too cold they can catch hypothermia. With this in mind, their area should be kept at 85°F or 29°C.
Feeding Your Newborn Kitten
When caring for a newborn kitten without a mother, it is imperative that feed them and provide them with proper nutrition. You'll have to bottle feed your kitten a special kitten formula every 2-4 hours. As with adult cats, every kitten is different and your veterinarian will be able to inform you of the best formula to use, how much to feed them and how often you should be feeding them. A healthy growth weight for kittens is approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your kitten or cat cow's milk, and always make sure you are feeding them the same formula and keeping them warm so that they can digest food properly.
Caring for an older Kitten
If the kitten you are caring for is around 6 - 10 weeks old, they should gradually stop bottle feeding and begin eating high protein meals about 3 - 4 times a day. You can start this by pouring the kitten formula in a food bowl and possibly adding a little bit of softened kitten kibble or canned kitten wet food to help ease them into the process.
Around this time, their motor skills will begin improving and they will start becoming more adventurous. This means lots of fun and play – and you'll need to start keeping a closer eye on them so that they don't get themselves in trouble. Kittens require a lot of supervision and hands-on bonding playtime between the ages of 2 -4 months.
Once your kitten is about 4 - 6 months old they will start entering their adolescence. This is when they are generally very mischievous and might require some behavioral training, this is the ideal time to speak to your vet about having your kitten spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering before 6 - 8 months of age can help to avoid some undesirable behaviors related to mating from becoming habitual.
Preventive Care For Your Kitten
No matter how old your kitten is, take them for their first veterinary appointment during the first week they are in your care. Your veterinarian will assess the health of your kitten, tell you about their dietary needs, and answer 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 several things to keep an eye out for in every stage of your kitten's life. These signs could indicate a problem or even a veterinary emergency, so if you see your kitten displaying any of the following signs call your vet immediately to schedule an appointment:
- Delays or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
- Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
When your kitten is 4 weeks 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
- Concerns about behavior that should be addressed while the animal is young
With proper vet care and your patient, loving care at home, your new kitten will grow to provide years of companionship and affection.
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.