When caring for a newborn kitten, there are many things you'll need to know. This is especially true if they don't have their mother around. Here, our Hermitage vets share some information with you about how to take care of a baby kitten, including what can go wrong and when to bring them into the vet for the first time.
How to Care For a Kitten
Kittens are adorable and lovable household pets. That being said, they have some very specific needs that have to be addressed in order to be properly taken care of. Their needs differ at each stage of their growth. If something goes wrong or is missed, it can impact their development, health and life expectancy. Here, our Hermitage Animal Clinic team explains how to care for your furry friend during their first kitten years
Caring for a Newborn Kitten
When a kitten is younger than 4 weeks old, they are considered a newborn. They will still be learning how to walk, meow and even regulate the temperature of their body. If your kitten has a mother, they will be able to help their young child with most of this work, including feeding. All you would have to do is make sure the mother is in good health and is in a safe and warm environment. Also, ensure that the floor of their crate or rest area is comfortable with blankets or a bed.
However, if a kitten doesn't have a mother, the first thing you should do is bring the to see a vet. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the health of your kitten and inform them of their requirements.
Keep Your Newborn Kitten Warm
If a kitten doesn't have another, you will have to do more help keep them warm by using something like a heating disk or heated blanket on low heat beneath their cage. You should also make a little next for your kitten to lay in for comfort. It's critical that you ensure your kitten's heating pad or blanket isn't too hot by touching it with your hands and giving your young cat a comfortable place to rest if they get too warm.
You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old because if kittens get too cold they will catch hypothermia, for this reason, their area should be kept at 85oF or 29oC.
Feeding Your Newborn Kitten
Another thing you will have to do for a newborn kitten without a mother is to feed them and provide them with proper nutrition. You will have to bottle feed your kitten a special kitten formula every 2-4 hours. Every kitten is different, your veterinarian will be able to inform you of the best formula to use, how much to feed them and how frequently you should be feeding your kitten.
In order for kittens to grow healthily, they will need to gain approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your cat cow milk and always make sure you are feeding them the same formula. And, in order for your kitty to digest food properly they will have to be kept warm.
As Your Kitten Grows Older
By the time the kitten you are caring for is between 5 and 10 weeks old, they should gradually stop being fed by bottle or fed by their mothers and begin being fed high-protein meals 3 - 4 times per day. You can begin this by pouring formula into a food bowl and adding softened hard food or canned soft food to ease them into the process. Since their motor skills will be improving by now, your kitten will become more adventurous. You will have to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't get themselves into trouble.
Your kitten will start entering their adolescent days when they are 4 - 6 months old. This is when they are generally very troublesome and might require some behavioral modification, this is also when you should start considering having them spayed or neutered before they reach the 6 - 8 month mark.
Preventive Care For Your Kitten
No matter how old your kitten is, you should bring them in for their first veterinary appointment during the first week they are in your care. Your vet will be able to evaluate the health of your kitten and let you know of any dietary needs they may have. This also provides you with the opportunity to ask any questions you may have in regards to the care of your new family member.
Making sure your kitten gets routine preventive care is essential, including wellness exams, routine vaccinations, and parasite prevention.
Regular wellness exams give your vet the opportunity to assess the overall health and well-being of your kitten including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.
You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of its vaccinations and parasite prevention on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.
What Can Go Wrong?
When caring for a kitten, there are many things you need to keep an eye out for at each stage of their life that may indicate a health issue or veterinary emergency. If you see your kitten displaying any of the following signs, call your vet immediately to schedule an appointment.
Here is what you need to keep an eye out in a newborn kitten:
- Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
- Delay's or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
When your kitten is 4 weeks old or older you still need to keep an eye out for the signs above in addition to these behavioral signs:
- Signs of play biting or aggression
- Litter box usage/ not using the litter box
- Fears and other concerning behaviors that should be managed when they are still young