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In today's article I wanted to share with you a little bit of my experience with rescuing and taking care of neonatal kittens.
This is a topic that I am very passionate about. Even though I am still no expert in the field, I always try my best to provide them with the best care possible. So let me share my tips and experiences with you!
If you find a kitten (or a few of them) out in the open, chances are that the mom is near—probably looking for food and water to get herself going before continuing to feed her babies.
Kittens thrive when they are raised by their mothers, so I highly recommend rescuing the whole crew—kittens and mother as well. It can be hard, especially if you're dealing with a feral cat, but there are tons of videos that can give you a few tips on how to get it done.
Remember that if you rescue a kitten without rescuing the mom, she will continue to breed until she gets rescued or dies—which isn't a solution to the problem.
Cats can birth as many as five litters a year, which:
a) Means that for every stray female cat that isn't spayed there are approximately 25 kittens born on the streets, every year.
b) Considering that stray cats in general are malnourished and sick, it results in an overpopulation of sickly kittens with physical disabilities/neurological problems, which makes it even harder to find them a home.
Caring for Neonatal Kittens
Neonatal kittens are the cutest yet trickiest to work with, especially if they are orphans. It is a requirement to feed them every two hours, even during the night—which is the tricky part, especially if the person who is fostering the kitten is busy during the day or is not willing to make the sacrifice of waking up every two hours every night.
They should be fed with a syringe, as their mouths are yet too tiny to feed from a regular bottle. Formula (kitten formula, which can be bought at any pet supply store, not cow's milk!) should be slowly introduced, one drop at a time, or as slow as humanly possible, as they can choke easily. They should eat 2-6 ml, every time, though formula shouldn't be forced into their mouth, ever.
Getting kittens to eat from a syringe/bottle can be difficult at first, which is why I recommend watching instructional videos such as those from Kitten Lady on YouTube (almost everything I know I've learned from her).
Make sure that you are placing the kitten in a natural, belly-down position (don't feed the kitten as if it were a human baby, with its belly towards the sky). And make sure that it is able to swallow properly—place a drop on its mouth and one of your fingers over its throat to feel if the kitten is swallowing easily. If not, then it is recommended to go to a vet, as tube feeding may be necessary.
As kittens get older, the amount that they need to eat and the frequency of the feeding changes, so make sure to update your routines as necessary.
Now after every feeding, they should be stimulated to go to the bathroom - you should lightly rub their genitals with a gentle cloth to get the urine and po*p out of their bodies, as they can't do it for themselves. You should also use a wipe to get them clean down there, or else their skin will become irritated. (Follow instructional videos until you get the hang of it! It can be difficult at first.)
Kittens can begin using the litter box at around three weeks—which is a whole different topic!
I don't recommend bathing tiny kittens, as they can't regulate their body temperature yet. You should always keep them warm and in a safe space, and if they're orphans, keeping a clean stuffed animal with them is recommended so that they feel secure. Some stuffed animals come with a heating pad inside of them to keep the kittens warm when they cuddle with the toy. Though you should be careful—make sure that they toy is not big or tall enough to asphyxiate the kitten if it falls on top of him/her.
A Few Extra Tips:
- Make sure to sanitize everything frequently (though make sure to use products that don't have a heavy chemically smell, which can be harmful for the kitten's tiny lungs).
- Keep the kitten in a safe and warm space—clear plastic containers with a few blankets should do the trick, or a clean box with blankets in it. Make sure that the box/container is big enough for the kitten to roll around as the days and weeks pass by, since the kitten will begin developing and moving sooner than you may think.
- If you'll be using a heating pad, make sure that it is properly covered by a blanket so that the kitten doesn't burn itself (always check the temperature with your bare hand before placing a kitten near a heating pad).
- Always make sure that the kitten isn't too cold or too hot before feeding, as an irregular body temperature can affect their digestion.
That was it for this article!
Know that I am no expert. I am just sharing my tips based on what has worked for me in the past! Always make sure to double check facts; know that when you rescue a kitten, its life is in your hands.
I totally recommend checking out Kitten Lady's channel on YouTube or her website. She has literally helped me so much, and I've been able to save many lives thanks to her tips.
Let me know if you would like to see more kitten-related articles!
Please share this story, and leave a tip if you want to!
You can check out my articles on We Heart It as well: @alanissophia