If you happen upon a newborn kitten, you might have a ton of questions in your mind all at once – such as “how long do kittens nurse?” or “how to feed a kitten”, or “what should I feed a kitten?” Afterall, that tiny life is literally now in your hands!
Here is a list of the things you should, and absolutely shouldn’t do when feeding a newborn kitten.
What to Do If You Find a Baby Kitten?
The very first thing you should always do is simply wait and watch to see if the mother cat is nearby. Having their own mother is absolutely a kitten’s best chance for survival. That is unless the kitten is alone in a cold, frigid environment. In that case it might be better to move the kittens if the mother doesn’t return within a reasonable amount of time.
If the mother cat does return, consider helping feed the mother cat until the kittens are at least six weeks of age. That is when they’re more likely to survive after being separated from their mother. It is also important to try helping the mother out if at all possible, otherwise she may keep having more litters – and cat populations can explode pretty quickly.
How to Feed a Kitten?
If no mother is to be found and there are no local rescues with staff on hand to handle a nursing kitten, you may need to do this on your own. You will need the following supplies:
- Small bottle – preferably bottles designed for kittens. You can find these at your local pet store.
- Milk Replacement Formula – look for a powdered variety, such as KMR® Powder for Kittens and Cats.
- A towel or blanket – so that you can hold the kitten and help stimulate them (will explain below)
You might wonder why we aren’t recommending cow’s milk. This is because cow’s milk can cause kittens to have diarrhea, which can be fatal. The usual powder to water measurement for powdered formulas is 2 parts water to 1 part formula, but pay attention to the packaging’s directions to be safe.
Before feeding the kitten, make sure that the kitten isn’t cold. Feeding a cold kitten can have some pretty serious consequences, so it is best to make sure the kitten is snug and warm. If you aren’t able to warm up the kitten, you should contact a veterinarian immediately.
When feeding a kitten, make sure you don’t hold them like you would a human baby – you should never feed a kitten while it is laying on it’s back. The kitten should be on it’s stomach, or you can gently support it in a slightly upright position.
Gently hold the bottle in front of the kitten and allow one drop to come out before placing into the kitten’s mouth. Your goal is to have the kitten start suckling on its own. You can try rubbing the nipple back and forth a bit against their mouth to see if that helps stimulate them if they seem reluctant. It is ok to wait a few minutes before trying again.
You can also try stroking the kitten’s forehead or back, as it might make it think of it’s mother cleaning them. If you cannot get the kitten to eat on its own, please contact a veterinarian for more assistance.