There are many things you need to know about when taking care of a newborn kitten, especially if there is no mother. In this blog, our Stuart vets discuss ways you can care for a newborn kitten without a mother including what can go wrong and when you should bring them for their first veterinary appointment.
How to Care For a Kitten
Kittens are cute and adorable household pets, but, they have very specific needs that must be addressed. These requirements are different during each stage of their life, and if something goes wrong or is missed it could affect their overall health and longevity. Today we talk about how you can care for your new companion during their kitten years.
Taking Care of a Newborn Kitten
A kitten is considered a newborn when they are 0 - 4 weeks old. At this time they are still learning how to walk, meow, and regulate their body temperature. If they have a mother, their mother will be able to do most of the work including feeding. All you would have to do is make sure the mother is in good health and that they are in a warm and safe environment. Ensure the floor of their 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 take them to see a vet. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the health of your kitten and tell you what they will require.
Keeping Your New Kitten Warm
If the kitten doesn't have a mother you will have more responsibilities to help keep them warm. You could do this by putting a heating disk in the crate or putting a heating pad on low heat underneath a blanket in their cage. You should also make a little nest out of blankets for the kitten to lay in for comfort. It's important to make sure 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 doesn't have a heating item so that they can go inside if they become too warm.
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 could catch hypothermia. For this reason, their environment should be kept at 85oF or 29oC.
Feeding a Newborn Kitten
Another thing you will have to do for a newborn kitten without a mother is to feed them and provide them with proper nutrition. You will have to bottle feed your kitten with a special kitten formula every 2-4 hours. Every kitten is different. Knowing this, our veterinarian will be able to tell you which formula is the best to use, how much you should feed them, and how frequently you need to feed your kitten. In order for kittens to grow healthily, they will have to gain approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your cat cow milk and always make sure you are feeding them the same formula. Lastly, in order for your kitty to digest food properly, they will have to be kept warm.
As Your Kitten Becomes Older
When the kitten you are caring for is around 5/6 to 10 weeks old, they should gradually stop being bottle fed or fed by their mothers and start eating high protein meals about 3 to 4 times a day. You can start this by pouring the formula into a food bowl, or you may also add a bit of softened hard food or canned soft food to help ease them in the process. Since their motor skills will be improving at this stage, they will start to become adventurous and you will need to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't get themselves into trouble. They will require a lot of supervision and hands-on bonding playtime as they are between 2 - 4 months old.
Your kitten will start entering their adolescent days when they are 4 - 6 months old. This is when they are generally very troublesome and might require some behavioral modification, this is also when you should start considering having them spayed or neutered before they reach the 6 - 8 month mark.
Preventive Care For Your Kitten
It doesn't matter how old your kitten is, you should still bring them for their first veterinary appointment during the first week they are in your care. Your veterinarian will assess the health of your kitten and inform you of their dietary requirements. This is an opportunity for you to ask any questions you might have about caring for your new companion.
It's essential to make sure your kitten receives routine preventive care including wellness exams, routine vaccinations, and parasite prevention.
Regular wellness exams give your vet the chance to evaluate the overall health and well-being of your kitten including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to find any emerging diseases early when they are easier and more affordable to treat before they become more severe.
You also have to ensure your kitten gets all of its vaccinations and parasite prevention on time. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 - 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 Could Go Wrong?
When taking care of a kitten there are many signs you need to watch for in every stage of your kitten's life, that could indicate a problem or possibly even a veterinary emergency. If you notice your kitten exhibiting any of the following signs, call your veterinarian immediately to book an appointment.
Below are some signs you need to watch for in newborn kittens:
- Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
- Delay's or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
When your kitten is 4 weeks old or older you still need to look for the signs listed above as well as the following behavioral signs:
- Signs of play biting or aggression
- Litter box usage/ not using the litter box
- Fears and other concerning behaviors that should be managed when they are still young