Few things in life are sweeter than bottle-feeding a newborn kitten. Tiny and fragile, kittens depend on the warmth and nourishment their mother provides. When she can't nurse her litter, the kittens' lives are at risk. Bottle-feeding is not only sweet, it can potentially save an orphaned kitten's life.
Set up a soft, warm blanket in a cat bed or cardboard box. Include a veterinary heating pad (one that will not get too hot or cause burns) or a warm water bottle. Also include a soft toy that the kittens can snuggle up to for comfort. In nature, a kitten sleeps next to his mama, who keeps him warm. This heat is essential if his tiny body is to grow and thrive during his first few weeks. An orphaned kitten needs to be stimulated by warmth because he doesn't possess the ability to shiver and regulate his own body temperature. This cozy place to sleep will be where the kittens rest between feedings.
Mix queen's milk replacement or kitten formula, available from some pet stores or from your vet, in the tiny feeding bottles according to the directions on the label. The directions are usually for a day's worth of milk. Divide this number by 10 and make it 10 times a day. Take extra caution not to overheat the milk. Test it on the back of your wrist before feeding to the kittens. Ensure that the bottles being used are made especially for kittens. Otherwise, the hole from the nipple of the bottle may be too large, which could harm or drown a kitten. Keep in mind the tiny size of the kittens at all times.
Feed the kittens every two hours from birth to week two. Let each kitten rest on his tummy, just as he would while nursing from his mother. Gently offer him the bottle. Newborn kittens are much like newborn babies—they need to be with you at all times and require feedings up to 10 times a day. When a kitten is hungry, he will search for milk. If it can't be found, he will become tired and go right back to sleep. Although this may sound cute, it is not good for him, as he needs his nourishment.
Stimulate the ano-genital region (under the tail) of each kitten before and after feeding time. Do this gently with a fragrance-free wet wipe or soft tissue. Use gentle motions and don't press too hard. Do this until the kitten has reached week four. Part of Mama Cat's role in her litter's life up to week two is to help them with passing waste. Her sandpaper-like tongue will work to stimulate them. It's normal to hear a small cry from a kitten before she passes waste; she will stop crying once it's over with. It's tough being a kitten! Since Mama Cat isn't around, the kittens depend on the caregiver to aid in the stimulation required for passing waste.
Adjust feeding schedules as the tiny cuties grow and develop. While the kittens are newborns, during week one, they require feedings every two hours. During week two, they will require feedings every three hours. After the two-week mark and until week four, they should be fed every six to eight hours. Keep in mind that hygiene is very important, so keep those hands clean and keep bottles hygienic.
Wean the kittens starting at around four weeks after birth. All good things must come to an end, my friend. Bottle-feeding precious kittens is sure to make your heart melt, but they will begin their journey onto solid food! They're growing fast and ready to move on up in the world. Offer the kittens a milk replacement diluted with water in equal parts. At this time, also offer them dry or canned growth food moistened with a bit of the milk-and-water solution. Gently hold the kitten while offering her a bit of the food mixture on a small spoon. Gradually offer her this by lowering the spoon to a shallow dish placed on the floor. This will take time, so practice patience.
- If you're raising a single kitten, try to ensure that she has some socialization and playtime with other kittens or cats. Kittens raised in isolation, away from other cats, may not develop properly, or may become fearful around other animals and people.
- It may be helpful to record bottle-feeding times in a notepad or journal.
- Always check the temperature of the formula before feeding the kitten. Avoid using a dropper or spoon to feed kittens. An amount too large could cause drowning.
Pamela Miller has been writing for health, beauty and animal health/welfare publications for seven years. Miller holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Communication from MTSU.