Care and Feeding of Orphaned Kittens – A “How-To” Guide

If you’re placed in a position where you have to buy exotic shorthair kittens mom to one or more baby kitties, take heart. You can do this! With a little care and work, you can help these babies to grow up to be loving members of your (or someone else’s) family.

Kittens that are just a few hours old need the most care. Warmth is crucial. In a box, put a heating pad on low, and place a towel over the heating pad. Newborn kittens need to be kept at approximately 90 degrees. Keep the box in a warm, quiet and dark place. These babies won’t have their eyes open yet.

Newborn kittens need to be fed every 2-3 hours, round the clock. You can get kitten milk replacer at your local vet’s, or check your local pet stores. Don’t use cow milk, kittens can’t digest it. You’ll want to use a kitten bottle, these are also available at the vet or local pet store.

The best technique we’ve found to feed the babies is to hold each kitten by the scruff of her neck, with her rear paws sitting on your knee or other stable place. Place the bottle nipple in her mouth and allow her to suckle. You may have to help a little by gently squeezing her mouth with the nipple already inside, to give her the idea to suckle. At first they won’t take very much, remember a newborn kitten’s tummy is VERY small!

This is important: Newborn kittens cannot evacuate (urinate or defecate) by themselves for the first few weeks. Buy a bag of large-size cotton balls, and after feeding each kitten, gently “swish” the cotton ball across their backsides. (Mama kitty would lick the kittens’ bottoms to make them potty. This is to prevent predators from smelling any of the kittens’ waste and giving away their hiding place, since they are helpless at this age.) You may have to do this a few times. Do not rub. A gentle movement with the cotton ball is usually enough to help the kitten evacuate. Perform this cotton-ball-swishing after every feeding.

After about a week, you can can reduce the feeding times to every 4-5 hours. You’ll see the kittens’ eyes begin to open at about ten days. At two weeks, you can reduce the feeding to about every 6 hours, and at three weeks, you can begin to sleep through the night again, because their feeding can go to every 8 hours. Cuddle your kittens also (you can do this immediately). This gets them used to human contact, and will be rewarded later when your kittens become well-adjusted people lovers.

At two to three weeks, place a litter box near the kittens’ sleep box. Make sure it’s short enough for them to climb into it, or make some kind of entrance for them that is easy to enter. You may be surprised at how quickly they take to using the litter box, which means you can stop the cotton-ball-swish.

At three weeks, you’ll see the kittens begin to take an interest in their surroundings, and if there is more than one kitten, they’ll begin to play together. This is the fun time! You’ll see a kitten reach out to smack another kitten, but their motor skills are not developed yet and their movements can look like slow motion.

At three weeks, you can begin to introduce kitten chow or canned cat food. It can take the kittens some time to figure out how to chew their food. Some pick up the idea right away, and others you’ll despair of ever giving up the bottle!

Don’t give up.

At feeding time (when the kittens are hungry), take a little canned (wet) cat food and place on a baby spoon. Pick up the kitten in the same manner you’ve been feeding her (as described earlier, by the scruff of her neck) and place a little of the canned food in her mouth. If she’s ready to eat the food, she will. If she’s not ready, she’ll do a little “chew” action and spit the food out the sides of her mouth. This is normal! Just try again at a later feeding.

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