Is caring for orphaned kittens difficult?

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Answered by: Yvonne, An Expert in the Caring for Cats Category
Caring for a kitten is difficult enough when it is ready to leave it's mother, but what about a kitten that has been separated from it's mother for one reason or another before it is ready? Caring for orphaned kittens is not as difficult as you may think. You just need to know what to do and when. I had nine little 3 week-old kittens that lost their mother, so I had my work cut out for me. First thing you will need to do is figure out what food to give the poor creature. Mother's milk substitute is available at any pet store specifically for this purpose, but can become cost prohibitive. There are recipes online, but I used simple evaporated milk with some Karo Syrup added to it; about 2 Tbs per can looked about right.

Next, you will need a small litter box. A flat from the liquor store works well if you line it with a litter box liner. Put only about 1/2 inch of dirt on the bottom. That's right, I said 'dirt', not litter. A kitten that young is still quite sensitive and he may not be able to handle the dust from the litter, not to mention he could ingest a piece of it and become very sick. You will also need a warm, wet washrag. I'll explain later where this comes into play.

Now, he needs a place to sleep, which he will do quite a bit of for awhile, especially if his little eyes are not open yet. I used a low-cut cardboard box with a hot water bottle wrapped in soft towels. Some people use a stuffed toy cat as a type of surrogate mom. Whatever appears to make the little guy more comfortable, but keep him warm at all times.

To feed the kitten, hold him close to your chest in a small, dry, warm hand towel making sure you support it's back legs. Cats feel more secure when their back legs are supported. Make sure the milk is warm, not hot, just as you would for a human baby. Test the temperature on your wrist first. Fill a clean eye dropper with milk and put the tip up to the kittens mouth. It will start to lick and try to nurse from the eye dropper. Watch for when his little tummy gets fat. They will usually stop drinking when they are full, but keep an eye on it anyway. If you are caring for more than one kitten, have two boxes; one for the ones that have been fed and the others who are still waiting. Kittens below 2 weeks of age should be fed every 3-4 hours. Kittens 2-4 weeks old can be fed every 6-8 hours. It is not necessary to feed them water at this point.

When the kitten is fed, set him in the litter box and rub his little butt with the warm, wet washcloth using gentle upward strokes. The mother will lick their babies genitals after they nurse in order to stimulate them to go potty. He should go potty for you after just a few strokes. You should see him start to scratch the dirt just before he goes. If not, keep going. He needs to eliminate his waste.

When the kitten is about 4- 5 weeks, it can probably start learning to drink and eat from a dish. For one kitten, I recommend a toy pie tin. If you have several kittens, a muffin tin works great. Each place hold just enough food or milk and everyone gets their own dish. You may have to put his little nose in the milk to give him the idea to drink from the dish, but he will learn quickly.

Caring for orphaned kittens doesn't have to be difficult or stressful. It just takes a little time and patience.

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