Perhaps you've found a poor little kitten waif abandoned in your neighborhood or near your place of business. He might appear emaciated, but you should be able to get him healthy and strong with the right diet. Take him to the vet for a checkup and nutritional advice.
If you find neonates, or just-born kittens, you've got a demanding job on your hands. Ask your vet if she knows of any nursing cats who might take a baby in. Mother's milk is the best food for a kitten, but if you can't find a kitty substitute, then kitten milk replacer is your best bet. Available at pet stores and from your vet, kitten milk replacer has all the nutrients babies need. Mix the formula according to the directions on the label, throwing out any unused portions after 24 hours.
If you find an older kitten suffering from malnutrition, he should also be checked out by the vet. She might recommend a prescription diet or a particular food created specifically for kitten health. These special diets are available in dry and canned versions. These foods contain lean proteins to help kittens develop properly, along with essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, complications arising in kittens with malnutrition include diarrhea, dehydration, hypothermia and hypoglycemia. It advises that if diarrhea develops when feeding a kitten milk replacer, dilute the milk replacer formula on a 1 to 1 basis with water or a mixture of 5 percent of a dextrose/water solution and Ringer's solution, preparations you can obtain from your vet. Once the kitten's feces become more solid, start mixing the milk replacer as recommended on the label. Don't feed kittens experiencing hypothermia, or extreme cold. Use a heating pad or other vet-recommended warming device to bring the kitten's body temperature back to normal before feeding.
Malnourished kittens often suffer from internal and external parasites, such as various types of worms and fleas. While you don't want their worms consuming the good food you're feeding the kitten, you also don't want to overwhelm their little bodies with dewormers too soon. Your vet can give you a good deworming protocol for your particular kitten. Even if you think you're doing the right thing, don't use an over-the-counter dewormer or flea product on a kitten suffering from malnutrition without consulting your vet. With a weak animal, it could do more harm than good.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.