Newborn kittens, much like their tiny human counterparts, need special food in order to thrive. Whether your kittens are orphans or mama cat just needs a little help, making a baby cat eat takes patience and plenty of dedication.
Why Not Mama Cat?
Most domesticated mother cats take very good care of their kittens, nursing, cleaning and protecting them until they’re big enough to leave the nest. However, feral cats and those that are sick or injured may stop caring for their babies. Some first-time mama cats may also have difficulty nursing and need help to keep their kittens fat and happy. If your female pushes the kittens out of the box, leaves them for extended periods of time, or shows any aggression toward her babies, it’s time to break out the bottle.
A trip to your veterinarian is in order before you bottle-feed the kittens. He will give each little one a thorough exam to make sure she is healthy and not suffering from dehydration. He will also show you how to feed the kittens to prevent a potentially deadly aspiration problem. Mix up a batch of kitten milk replacer according to the package directions, and pour it into a small nursing bottle. Screw on the top, and check for proper flow; if the milk doesn’t drip slowly from the nipple, poke a couple more holes to allow enough milk to flow as the kitten drinks. Set the baby cat on your lap, with her belly resting across your legs. Hold the nipple near the kitten’s nose and let her latch on. The proper amount of food varies from kitten to kitten, so ask your vet how much to feed your babies. Kittens are messy eaters, so clean her face with a damp cloth after each meal. In the absence of a mother cat, rub each kitten’s genitals with a warm, damp rag after feeding to stimulate her to go potty.
When your little balls of fluff hit 4 weeks of age, they will be ready to test their new teeth on solid food. Add a handful of kitten kibble to a shallow pan, and pour enough warm milk replacer over the food to form a thick mush. Lay an old sheet on the floor and place the soaked mush in the middle of the sheet. Bring out the hungry beasts and let them explore the pan. Most kittens dive in face first, gobbling up the mush and spreading it all over themselves. Wipe each kitten clean after she eats, and rinse out the pan. Feed this mush to your little brood three times a day. Add less milk to the kibble as the kittens grow, until they are fully weaned onto solid food by the time they are 8 weeks old and ready for their new homes.
Bottle-feeding baby cats is a strenuous process. They need to eat every couple of hours for the first few weeks of life, and must be kept warm to ward off the chills. If any of the kittens feels cool to the touch, isn’t eating or having bowel movements, take her to the vet immediately. Once the kittens begin eating solid food, provide them with a shallow bowl of water. They will get some liquid as they eat the mush, but fresh water is the best way to ward off dehydration.
Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.