How to care for unweaned Kittens.
What to feed: Under four weeks old. bottle feed kittens with KML(kitten milk replacer.) You get bottles for kittens at your local veterinarian.
Mix it as directed on the container. You can usually get this from your vet. The formula should always be fed warm, (about 101 degrees). Do not heat it in the microwave. A good way to warm the milk is to place the bottle in a cup or bowl of hot water and let it sit there until the it warms up. This way there is no danger of it getting too hot. Do not put the formula on direct heat and let the formula come to a boil. If you do, throw it out and start again. For convenience, make up a whole day’s supply of formula.
n a pinch, when I could not get kitten formula, my veterinarian said that he had pretty good luck with canned pet milk mixed with half water and half milk. This worked well for me with kittens that were about two weeks old. They did not develop diarrhea, but they looked pretty scraggly for a while and had some eye discharge. A bit of medicine from the vet cleared up the eyes. If you are not feeding the kittens the proper formula they may develop signs of illness. Take them to the vet as soon as possible. Try to get the right formula, especially if the kittens are new borns.
Test the bottle to make sure the hole is not too large or too small. If it is too large it will gush out and the kitten might choke or aspirate, if it is too small formula will not come out unless you squeeze it. A hole too small will cause the kitten to not get any formula at all. Hold the bottle with the nipple down and if the formula drips out slowly then it is just right. Test the warmth of the formula to make sure it is not too hot or too cold. After feeding, the kitten may need to be burped.
The important thing to remember when handeling kittens is to be very gentle. Do not attempt to force milk down their throats with an eyedropper or syringe. This can result in many problems, one of which being that they can aspirate the fluids. If your kitten does not latch on to the bottle and suckle, take it to a vet immediately. A tiny kitten can be fatally injured with a single motion, so do not keep the kitten with other adult cats, dogs, small children or babies.
Kittens under four weeks old should be fed every 3-1/2 to 4 hours during the day. Nighttime feeding may not be necessary as long as the kittens are fed at least four to five times during the day, but if they awake in the night crying, they may be hungry or cold. Just like a human baby, they will need some attention.
When kittens reach 12 ounces, or at about 3-1/2 to 4 weeks of age, feed them every six hours. It is now about time to wean the kittens off of the bottle and onto solid food. Never turn the kitten onto its back to feed. Keep both the kitten and the bottle in as upright a position as possible. Grasp the kitten gently under its front legs or ''armpits'' and insert the nipple into its mouth. Take your time because they will nurse slowly. You may want to wear gloves because sometimes they will claw quite aggressively. The kitten will let you know when it has had enough.
Keep all feeding material clean and sterilized. Only mix enough kitten milk replacer to last you 24 hours. lf there is any formula left over after 24 hours, throw it out as it is only good for this period of time. Only heat as much formula as you think the kittens will drink. Any formula that has been heated and remains in the bottle should be discarded
The kitten's mother has the job of stimulating the urethra and rectum to get the the kittens to urinate and have bowel movements. In the absense of a mother, this job falls to the care taker. Use a damp cotton ball or soft cloth and gently stroke the kitten’s urethra and rectum. Before and/or after each meal place a cotton ball, facial tissue or towel over the kitten's genitals and jiggle to stimulate. Don’t rub, as this will cause the area to become raw and sore They should urinate and possibly defecate. A healthy kitten should defecate at least once per day.
Kittens will show an interest in eating solid food at about four weeks, but they may still continue to nurse or need formula. Be sure to feed them kitten food and soften it with warm water.
Hopefully you will not have more than one litter of kittens to take care of at one time, but if you do, you should keep them separate. Use separate bottles and nipples and preferably in different rooms, or different boxes. I found a large cardboard box for my kittens, one that I had after purchasing a television. They had plenty of room to sleep and room for a small litter tray after they were about two and a half weeks old.
Keeping the kittens warm:
Chilling is a major cause of death in kittens. The mother cat keeps her kittens warm when they are young by spending a lot of time with them. You probably can’t do that, so you may need to use a heating pad on the lowest setting. Be sure to cover it with a heavy towel and make sure it is tucked in well. Keep the kittens clean and dry. Change the towel often.
My adopted kittens began sleeping with me at about 4 weeks old for warmth, but I don’t recommend that for most people. In the night when they had to eliminate, they would wander around on the bed and I would put them down on the floor. They would ran across the room to their litter pan and do their business, then come back to the bed and climb up the blankets to return to the warmth of their new mama.
Most kittens can be safely weaned by 8 weeks of age. Check with your veterinarian to be sure. If you do not plan on keeping your kitten when he or she is weaned, please do not give him/her away for free. Free to good home kittens are at high risk for abuse and neglect. Do not give your kitten to a family who appears to be looking for a play-thing for their small children. I have adopted older kittens that have been dumped in my alley after having been playthings for children. When they get to the age that they need to be spayed and neutered, they are dumped. Having and caring for a cat is a responsibility. Cats can live for 16 - 17 years. Kittens are not toys!