Young kittens, those under 4 or 5 weeks old, need to nurse from their mom to get nutrients and hydration. If she's not available or able to feed them, you can feed orphaned kittens kitten milk-replacement formula by a bottle. Older, already-weaned kittens just need water to stay hydrated.
Kitten Milk Replacement
Kittens orphaned prior to 4 weeks old need to drink a kitten milk replacement formula. You can find these formulas in pet supply stores along with the other items necessary to feed your little one, such as nursing bottles and nipples. These formulas come in either canned liquid or powdered form. If his mother's milk isn't available to your furry friend, these are the next best thing because they are specifically formulated to contain the necessary nutrients, fats and proteins your kitty needs for proper growth. Before feeding, heat the formula in the bottle by placing it in a bowl of warm water until it feels comfortable when applied to the inside of your wrist -- about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
During the weaning process and once your kitten has been weaned, he'll need access to a bowl of fresh water. Make sure that the bowl you use is shallow so your little buddy can't fall in and accidentally drown -- remember, kittens are small and not yet graceful on their feet. Change the water twice daily so it's fresh and clean, especially since your kitty may play in the water as he discovers what it is. If your fur buddy doesn't take to drinking water right away, you can add a teaspoon or 2 of tuna juice or low-sodium chicken broth to make it more enticing. After all, good hydration is very important for your kitten's health.
When a kitten becomes dehydrated, usually from diarrhea or vomiting, or because he hasn't been drinking formula, he'll need something easier on his tummy to drink. An unflavored infant electrolyte replacement solution should do the trick to raise his blood sugar and re-hydrate him. You can also mix this with an equal part milk replacement formula when first bottle-feeding your kitten to help ease his system into accepting the new liquid nourishment. This type of solution is perfect for feeding to a kitten that has recently been chilled and is now warm to the touch, because it's easier on his digestive system. Always warm this to a comfortable temperature, similar to heating formula, before serving it to your kitten.
Don't give your kitten cow's milk, as it can cause him to have an upset tummy and diarrhea. Cow's milk doesn't contain your kitten's necessary nutrients, has too little protein and is hard for him to digest because of its high lactose content, according to PetPlace.com. Other types of milk, like goat's milk, aren't substitutes for formula either, for similar reasons. If your kitty seems ill and is unwilling to nurse, he can become dehydrated very quickly. A dehydrated kitten needs immediate veterinary care and possibly intravenous fluids. Little kitties that aren't yet weaned should get only formula to drink, not water, which can fill them up and has no nutritional value.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Newborn Kitten Care
- Partnership for Animal Welfare: How to Care for Your Kitten
- Purina: How Might a Veterinarian Know That a Pet is Dehydrated?
- VetInfo: Can You Give a Newborn Kitten Water Instead of Milk?
- PetPlace.com: Orphaned Kitten
- A Safe Haven for Cats: Caring for Newborns
- NYC Feral Cat Initiative: Bottle-Feeding & Care of Orphaned Kittens
- PetPlace.com: What Kind of Milk Replacement Should I Give My Orphaned Kitten?
- Manhattan Cat Specialists: Care of Orphaned Kittens
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.