When caring for a newborn kitten, especially one without a mother, there are numerous factors to consider. Today, our Beacon veterinarians talk about how to care for a baby kitten without a mother, what can go wrong, and when to take them to the vet for the first time.
How to Care For a Kitten
Kittens are adorable and lovable house pets, but they have certain needs that must be met. These requirements differ depending on their age, and if something goes wrong or is overlooked, it can have a negative impact on their overall health and longevity. In this article, we'll go over how to care for your new furry friend while they're still a kitten.
Caring for a Newborn Kitten
A kitten is considered a newborn between the ages of 0 and 4 because it is still learning to meow, walk, and regulate its body temperature. If they have a mother, she can handle the majority of the work, including feeding. All you have to do is make sure the mother is healthy and in a warm and safe environment. Make sure there is a blanket on the floor and a warm bed for them to sleep in their crate/area. However, if the kitten lacks a mother, the first thing you should do is take it to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to evaluate the kitten's health and advise you on their requirements.
Keep Your Newborn Kitten Warm
If the kitten does not have a mother, you will need to do more to keep them warm, such as using a heating disk in the crate or a low-heat heating pad beneath a blanket in their cage. You should also make a cozy blanket nest for the kitten to sleep in. It is critical to check that the heating pad is not too hot by touching it with your hands and to provide a comfortable, non-heated area in your kitten's cage/crate where they can go if they become too hot.
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 85 Fahrenheit or 29 Celsius.
Feeding Your Newborn Kitten
Another thing you'll have to do for a 6-week-old newborn kitten who doesn't have a mother is feed and nourish them. Every 2-4 hours, you will need to bottle feed your kitten a special kitten formula. Because each kitten is unique, your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the best formula to use, how much to feed them, and how frequently you should feed them. Kittens must gain approximately 12 ounces (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) per week in order to grow healthily. Never give your cat cow milk, and always make sure they are fed the same formula. In addition, your cat will need to be kept warm in order to digest food properly.
As Your Kitten Grows Older
When your kitten is 5/6 to 10 weeks old, you should wean them off their mother's milk and start feeding them high-protein meals 3 to 4 times a day. Pour the formula into a food bowl and, if desired, add some softened hard food or canned soft food to help the process. Because their motor skills are improving, they will become more daring at this stage, and you must keep a close eye on them to ensure they do not get themselves into trouble. They will need a lot of supervision and hands-on bonding playtime because they are between the ages of 2 and 4.
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
Regardless of age, you should take your kitten to their first veterinary appointment during the first week they are in your care. Your veterinarian will examine your kitten's health and provide nutritional advice. This also allows you to ask any questions you may have about your new family member's care.
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 at any stage of its life, there are numerous things to look out for that could indicate a problem or even a veterinary emergency. If your kitten exhibits any of the symptoms listed below, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.
Here is what you need to keep an eye out for in a newborn kitten:
- Delays or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
- Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
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:
- Litter box usage/ not using the litter box
- Signs of play biting or aggression
- Fears and other concerning behaviors that should be managed when they are still young