Ideally, kittens should stay with their mother until they are around 8 to 10 weeks old. Unfortunately, the mom might reject one or more of her babies, especially if either she or they are ill. If you find some rejected baby kitties, they'll need special care and feedings from you.
Kittens born with severe deformities will likely be rejected by their mother because she senses that they won't survive, according to the Feline Advisory Bureau. These congenital birth defects include deformities of the limbs, spine and other body parts. Other causes of illness in newborn kittens include anemia and low birth weight, both of which are potentially fatal and will cause the mother to reject these kittens, according to WebMD. Consult with your vet to see if any treatment is available for these little ones.
Problems with Mom
Not only does illness in a kitten potentially cause a mother to reject him, if the mother herself is sick, she won't be able to care for her kitties and will reject them because of this. She may also have a greater chance of a having difficult birth, something that can cause birth defects in the kittens. Some new moms or high-strung kitties also are unable to care for their babies because of their inexperience or temperament and will reject the entire litter.
Mother kitties who are underweight and receive poor nutrition before and after birth won't be able to provide the milk their little ones need, leading to the rejection of the litter as well. In some cases, mom may simply give birth to such a large litter that she can't properly care for all of her babies and will thus abandon the excess kittens. Remember, moms can only nurse eight kittens at a time, so extras will usually be rejected.
At the first signs of rejection, it's important to bring the little kittens to your vet immediately, along with mom. He can diagnose and treat them for any illnesses they might be suffering from. The little ones will require you to hand feed them with kitten milk replacement formula and to keep them warm. Young kittens under 3 weeks old can't regulate their own body temperature so you'll need to place them in a heated kitty bed or use a heating pad, wrapped in a towel, to keep them warm. Ask your vet to show you how to properly nurse the babies and have him give you some recommendations for their care.
It's important that a kitten receive colostrum from his mother's milk within the first 24 hours of birth so that he gets the immunity he needs to stay healthy, according to the Manhattan Cat Specialists. If you find one or more kittens abandoned and rejected by their mom, try to find them a surrogate mother. A surrogate mom's milk contains the colostrum they need and she can provide them with warmth and care. Contact local shelters or rescue groups, which may have a mother who recently gave birth to kittens and can take care of your kitty's rejected kittens.
If you rescue a pregnant kitty, give her proper nutrition and a space she feels safe with her little ones, along with plenty of love so that she doesn't feel neglected, which can make her reject the little ones, recommends VetInfo. Sometimes showing an inexperienced mom how to nurse, by putting her on her side and directing the kitties to the nipples, can promote proper nursing and prevent rejection.
- Animal Friends: What to do When You Find "Orphaned" Kittens
- Messy Beast: Hand Rearing Kittens
- Feliine Advisory Bureau: Feline Parturition When to Wait and When to Worry...
- Manhattan Cat Specialists: Care of Orphaned Kittens
- VetInfo: Helping Mother Cats Take Care of Kittens
- WebMD: What Can Go Wrong With My Kitten?
- PetPlace: Fading Kitten Syndrome
- PetPlace: Structure and Function of the Mammary System in Cats
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.