A newborn kitten has a better chance of surviving when its mother is caring for it. The mother knows what to do to provide and care for newborn kittens. Unfortunately, some kittens become lost or abandoned, particularly during the lockdown, and are easily overlooked by humans.
If you suddenly find yourself as a surrogate parent to a newborn kitten, then you are up for a challenging and fulfilling experience.
By knowing how to take care of a newborn kitten without a mother, you are providing it with a greater chance of survival than if it were left on its own.
Newborn kittens are like babies
Newborn kittens require round-the-clock care. It's almost the same as having a newborn baby where you have to get up several times during the night to feed it.
First and foremost, these are the basic requirements for any newborn kitten's care:
During the first seven days of a kitten's life, it needs to be bottle-fed every two to three hours. After that, you can feed them every four hours.
Feeding newborn kittens requires a bottle and nipple. You can get these in almost all pet supply stores. When you prepare the bottle, check for an adequate milk flow. Ensure that the hole you make in the nipple is not too big to prevent drowning or asphyxiation. On the other hand, a hole that is too small will give your newborn kitten a hard time and discourage it from sucking.
Feed your newborn kitten slowly with their stomach lying next to you. Regardless of how slow the feeding happens, let the kitten take the lead and suck at its own pace.
If the newborn doesn’t eat right away, stimulate it by stroking its forehead. This action is similar to a mother cat licking and cleaning them as they nurse.
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The newborn kitten milk you need to use is the kitten milk replacer (KMR) or any other brands that is available. This can be either in powder or liquid form which can be found in any pet stores or vet clinics. Milk for humans can't be used for newborn kittens. It can be fatal to them because cow's milk can cause them to become sick as they are lactose intolerant.
Make sure they have access to warm bedding. Kittens are born blind, and they will only open their eyes anywhere between 7-14 days after being born. You must keep them safe and warm during that time to simulate the feeling of being with their mom and siblings. Create a temporary bed with a box and some soft towels. Set the bed in a warm and quiet area where they won't be bothered by children or other pets.
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Train your kitten to go. For kittens below 3 weeks old, you will need to stimulate the kitten's bowel or urine movement by using a cotton ball or soft tissue dipped in warm water and gently wiping the kitten's genital area until it pees or poops. Kittens are fast learners. Soon, they can apply this training and find discreet ways to relieve themselves.
Buy the Right Litter Box
Research and prepare early. Don’t just get the first litter box you encounter and avoid the last minute rush. The right litter box can do wonders and save you from a lot of unnecessary cleaning.
For kittens, the recommended standard size is 38 x 28 cm. Get one with lower sides so that your kittens can easily get in.
Use a Safe Cat Litter
Cat litter is designed to be deodorizing and absorbent, a boon for households with indoor cats. As you shop, you may see products labeled as “clumping” or “non-clumping.” Clumping litter is easier to scoop and clean which we highly recommend for first time cat parent.
Begin them young with a non-toxic cat litter alternative to sand bentonite litter, which can be toxic and difficult to clean. Choose alternative cat litter made from non-toxic and biodegradable materials like:
● Plant-based cat litter (Tofu based)
● Pine wood litter
● Paper litter (hard to clean)
First Vet Trip
When the kittens are three weeks old, you can take them to the vet for their first vaccination. In addition, any kitten exhibiting signs of distress, such as prolonged chilling, watery eyes, a runny nose, lethargy, or failure to eat, should be evaluated immediately. Stray kittens are susceptible to fleas and other parasites and lack the natural immunity of vaccinated mother cats.
Fostering and taking care of a newborn kitten is hard work but rewarding. Remember that by taking them in and meeting their basic needs, you are giving them a better chance of survival and may save a life or even better, gain a new family.
Great job! 👍