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Whether your cat has given birth or you rescued a kitten, many questions come into your mind on how to take care of a newborn kitten. Here are some essential tips to guarantee that your newborn kitten grows up to become healthy and happy.
Taking care of pregnant cats is an extraordinary experience not only for your feline companion but also for their pet parents.
Either you witness your pet cat giving birth, or rescuing kittens found on the streets, it will be a journey of pure adorableness, joy, and comfort.
Having newborn kittens in your household will inevitably boost your maternal instincts and will test your skills in taking care of delicate animals. In return, these kittens will surely become your lifelong companion.
Newborn kitten care requires lots of tender loving care and special attention from their cat mother; while for rescued kittens you will act as their pet parent.
When taking care of a newborn kitten, you should keep in mind that the first few weeks of their life will be the foundation of your chemistry with them.
Either you are taking care of your young furbaby alone or working with their mother, it is vital to keep in mind the necessities of a newborn kitten to maximize their potentials and become healthy as they grow into a full-grown cat.
Don’t worry because we got your back. Follow this step-by-step guide to get you geared up on how to take care of a baby kitten.
A Kitten’s Developmental Stage
First, we have to determine the developmental stages of our furbaby. This way, we will have the knowledge of what a kitten can already do.
From the instant they were born until they reach their first birthday, a cat is recognized as a kitten. They will also learn some fundamental skills such as feeding on their mother or a bottle and learning how to use a litter box.
Kittens are born without a sense of hearing and sight. Their eyes are still closed while the ears are still folded inside. After five days the moment they were born, a kitten will finally have the ability to open their eyes but cannot see yet. The ears will also unfold on their own but have difficulties in hearing.
You may notice that your kitten may twitch at times because their nervous system is not yet fully developed. Take note that this is perfectly normal and suggests the development of muscles.
During this period, they will be very reliant on their mother. In cases of rescued kittens, you should be prepared by giving them extensive care round the clock. This includes feeding them every two hours and ensuring that their bedding is cozy and warm.
During this stage, your feline baby should be able to crawl around and will have the urge to stand on its own. You will be able to see their teeth growing from their gums. The cat’s sense of smell will also get developed and even give a physical reaction whenever they smell something strong.
By the third week, your kitten will be able to eliminate waste on their own. But take note that they will still need some assistance either from their mother or from you. Their mother will be able to stimulate their digestive system by licking around their abdomen area. You can also simulate this sensation by rubbing their tummy using a warm, damp piece of cloth.
During this final week of being a newborn, a kitten should be able to walk straight and become more energetic. They will actively interact with their siblings and their mother. At this stage, you can now feed them with wet cat food for ease of digestion.
Your kitten’s eyes should now be fully developed and can now focus on specific objects. They will start walking at shorter distances. They will have more time as well to interact with their littermate or their mother. For rescued kittens, you can introduce them to small cat toys for interaction.
Your kitten’s teeth will now be fully developed. You can now give them canned kitten food for consumption. Kittens at this age are recommended to receive dewormings and vaccinations.
Kittens at this age can also be adopted into pet shelters if you are not able to commit to taking care of them.
During this age, your kittens will develop their personality. They will begin showing curiosity, boldness, and intuitiveness. They will also have the ability to retract their claws, so a regular trimming of toenails is a necessity.
The Ultimate Guide for Newborn Kitten Care
Now that you have the knowledge of your furbaby’s stages in growing up as an official full-grown kitten, let’s get to know how we will be able to give the best experience of growing up to our kittens.
As we discussed before, newborn kittens still cannot open their eyes freely, making them “blind.” They should always be kept safe and warm at all times by being near to their cat mommy. It is important to note that kittens could still roll around so secured, comfy bedding should be in place.
The usual bed of your cat will not be enough space for your cat and kittens, and it will be uncomfortable to them, especially during breastfeeding.
It is advisable to provide a special bed made up of a box layered with materials like blankets. This particular bed is to be placed in a cozy, quiet place where they will not be disturbed by household noise.
Newborn kittens’ delicate jaws are not capable of eating cat food yet, either dry food or wet food. They are fully sustained thru breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
Additionally, remember that they still cannot eliminate solid and liquid waste on their own yet, thus requiring assistance from their mom or from you.
In cases where their cat mommy is not around to breastfeed them, you can bottle feed them, but of course, you should be very mindful and know the how-tos in bottle feeding a kitten. We’re here to help you with that by following these tips and guides.
How To Bottle Feed A Kitten?
- Newborn kittens should be fed on regular intervals. From the first week they were born, they need to be fed in intervals of two to three hours. On average, you need to feed your cat for up to eight times daily. During the second week onwards, it can be extended out to every four hours.
- When bottle-feeding your precious kittens, DO NOT use cow’s milk because this will not provide them with the proper nutrition they require. Additionally, this will irritate their stomach that may cause diarrhea, and that can be life-threatening to these delicate kittens.
- Kittens should be bottle-fed with kitten milk replacers or KMRs. KMRs are usually premade in liquid form or bought using powder form. It is similar to milk formulas that would be used to feed a baby. These formulas, including the bottles and nipples, are readily available over the counter in pet supply stores.
- Follow the instructions diligently on how to make the KMRs. You may also ask your local veterinarian for additional information. Once opened, KMRs can be stored in your refrigerator as this will also spoil, similar to our milk.
- It is important to note that when feeding a KMR to your kitten, it should always be room temperature. When using a KMR from the fridge, you can place it in a bowl of hot water and let it rest for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can microwave the formula in a microwave-safe container for up to 10 seconds. Make sure to check if the temperature is tolerable by placing a few drops of the formula on your wrist.
- It is essential to wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap and warm water before and after handling the kittens. Most importantly, the bottles should always be thoroughly cleaned after each use.
- When feeding your kitten, it should be lying on its stomach. You can position them by holding the kitten in an upright posture with the help of warmed towels. Alternatively, you can lay a towel on your lap and let your kitty lay there flat on its stomach.
- Feed the kitten by holding the bottle at a 45-degree angle allowing them to suckle at the nipples. This way, air from the bottle will not be ingested by your kitten. Swallowing too much air can cause discomfort to a kitten’s belly.
- Let your kitten suckle the nipples at their own pace. In case they refuse to suckle, gently massage the kitten’s back or forehead; this simulates their mother in licking them.
- Just like human babies, kittens also need to be burped. Simply lay your kitten on his stomach on your lap, and pat his back very gently. You will hear a little burp after the patting.
Here’s a short video you can watch on how to safely bottle feed your kitten:
Waste Elimination and Litter Box Training
We have tackled earlier that two to three-week-old kittens cannot voluntarily eliminate solid and liquid waste. It is their mother’s responsibility to assist them with this. A mother cat will instinctively lick the stomach part of the kitten to help them ease up in eliminating.
You can also help them by simulating what a mother cat will do. You can get a warm, dampened towel and carefully rub it to the kitten’s stomach, genital area, and anal area. This should be done after feeding them.
By the time they reach the fourth week, you can initially start potty training your kitten using a litter box. After feeding, place your kitten in his litter box and proceed with the simulation technique.
Once they have adjusted themselves in the litter box, they will have the idea that it is the place to do their business.
To maintain a healthy coat, your kitten’s coat should regularly be brushed, at least twice a day. Regular brushing will aid in keeping the coat shiny and clean, as well as eliminating excess hair that could cause hairballs that can be hazardous to kittens when swallowed.
A kitten’s ears should also always be clean. When cleaning a dirty ear, use cotton buds that are dampened by warm water. Never use ear cleaning solutions because it can be dangerous to your kitten’s delicate ears. Like the way we clean our ears, never push the cotton buds inside the kitten’s ear. Only clean the area that is visible.
There will be times that discharge will be formed in and around the kitten’s eyes. To clean this area, use a warm, dampened cloth and gently wipe the discharge. If the discharge does not stop from forming, contact your veterinarian to check the discharge.
In general, it is advisable that during the first four weeks of your kitten’s life, you are already in touch with your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian can help you in monitoring their progress and guide you with any challenge that you might encounter. Usually, you will only need to see your veterinarian once, but they could request frequent check-ups if the need arises.
Newborn kittens are more prone to illnesses such as intestinal parasites, respiratory infections, and heartworms.
Reach out to your veterinarian to set a regular deworming program that will resolve all the issues when it comes to intestinal parasites. Furthermore, we want to be assured that your cat will have a healthy digestive tract to avoid further illnesses.
Vaccinations are vital as well and should be administered through your veterinarian. Once your feline buddy is six weeks old, it is recommended to have them vaccinated.
This vaccination will prevent rabies and feline leukemia. These diseases are life-threatening and can only be prevented with the help of vaccinating your kittens.
Spaying or Neutering Your Kitten
Neutering is a surgical operation with a primary goal to remove a cat’s sexual organs. Spaying female cats will remove their ovaries and uterus. It will help in preventing breast tumors and uterine infections amongst cats. These tumors are malignant or cancerous in 90 percent of cats.
Meanwhile, castration is the removal of testicles for male cats. Neutering your male kitten will prevent testicular cancer and diseases on the prostate.
Most kittens are spayed neutered when they reach six months of age, but there are cases wherein a veterinarian may proceed with the operation at an earlier or later age. So always take the advice of your vet before doing the operation
Socializing With Your Furbaby
The more lively and active your kitten becomes, the more social interaction it will need. Socialization is a huge part of development for your kittens, as this will mold their behavior.
If you have other animals at home, such as a dog, it is crucial to set an expectation to your dog that the kitten is a part of the family.
It is crucial to a developing kitten that there is constant physical and emotional contact. You can initiate this kind of interaction by early cuddling and gently petting your kittens to promote a great bond with humans, giving them the reassurance and comfort that they are safe and secured with their pet parent.
You can also allow them to play with cat toys that can stimulate their mind and further develop their motor skills and physical coordination.
Developing the skills of your kitten will be filled with fun, exciting times but will require you to be actively involved in the process and be more hands-on in taking care of them. It is a necessity that you give time commitment to do your role as their pet parent and ensure proper development.
It may be a difficult journey, but keep in mind that these kittens will become a massive part of your life. These delicate furbabies will depend upon you, their pet parent, and in return, they will become a loving and sweet lifelong companion.
We hope that this has helped you understand how to take care of a newborn kitten. Are there any extra tips you wanted to share with our pet parent community? Share them below!