Baby kitties, less than 4 weeks old, need to drink their mom's milk to get the nutrition they need or be hand fed with kitten milk replacement formula if she's not available. After they start solid foods, they'll need plenty of water to stay hydrated as well.
If mom isn't around, you'll need to feed your young kitten with kitten milk replacement formula. For nursing kittens, they need to be fed every two to four hours, depending on their age. Younger kitties need more frequent feedings than older ones. The average little guy needs about 8 cc or approximately a quarter-ounce of formula for every ounce of body weight each day, recommends the Feral Cat Coalition. For example, a newborn kitty that weighs 4 ounces will need 32 cc, or about 1 ounce of formula per day. The little guy shouldn't get this all at once, but rather this amount needs to be divided into between eight and twelve feedings each day. While being bottle fed, your furry friend should only be drinking formula, not plain water, because he needs the nutrients and calories in the formula to thrive.
When your little kitty reaches 4 weeks of age, it's time to start transitioning him onto solid foods from formula or from his mother's milk. During this transition, you'll still be bottle feeding him part of the time and mixing formula into his canned or dry food to soften it up. As he is drinking less formula, you'll need to start leaving out a shallow dish of fresh water for him at all times. While still being partially bottle fed, your furry buddy may not drink much water, because he's getting most of his daily requirements for liquid intake from his formula. As you decrease his bottle feedings and slowly replace them with solid foods, you should notice your kitty drinking more water.
Kitties evolved from desert dwellers, so they don't usually drink lots of water daily. The average kitten who is eating solid foods needs between 2 and 4 ounces of water each day in addition to the water that is already contained in his diet, according to Catster. Because canned foods contain between 70 and 80 percent water, kitties that eat a diet primarily made up of this food will drink less water than those who eat dry cat food, which only contains around 10 percent water. It's important you provide fresh water for your little buddy each day because he'll be less likely to drink yucky old stagnant water that's been sitting around. After he's weaned, at around 8 weeks of age, he'll get most of his hydration from drinking fresh water and from his food.
Dehydration in kittens is a potentially life-threatening situation. If his urine isn't clear and you lift the skin between your little one's shoulder blades and it doesn't bounce back, he may be dehydrated. This might be due to ingesting too little formula or water, depending on his age. He may also have diarrhea. To rehydrate a nursing baby, he may need subcutaneous fluids or even tube feeding, something you'll need to consult with your vet about. On the other side of the spectrum, don't overfeed your little one with formula because this can cause diarrhea and dehydration, too. Follow the manufacturer's directions when feeding kitten formula to your little one, based on his weight. Provide him with fresh water, either in a bowl or from a pet fountain, to properly hydrate him, but make sure it's a shallow dish because little kittens can easily drown in a deep bowl.
- A Safe Haven for Cats: Caring for Newborns
- Catster: How Much Water Should My Cat Drink Every Day?
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Dehydration
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Newborn Kitten Care
- VetInfo: Common Kitten Nutrition Questions
- Hartz: Bottle Feeding the Newborn Kitten
- Feral Cat Coalition: Raising Orphan Kittens
- Home at Last Animal Rescue: Kitten Care
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.