Kitten Care Basics
EMERGENCY KITTEN CARE
I am taking care of 2 orphaned kittens that my husband JUST found in an old car at his auto repair shop. They are just opening their eyes, so we think they are probably around 2-weeks-old. The feeding process is going fine. My main concern right now is grooming. I have been trying to clean them regularly with a warm, wet cloth to remove any urine or feces from their bottom and on their tummies, but it does not seem to be working very well. What is the best way to take care of this problem? Mousey
The best way to groom little kittens is to mimic the cleaning of mom cats. Use a barely damp washcloth and clean them all over their bodies with short strokes
. In addition to keeping the little ones clean, it teaches the kittens how to groom themselves. Do this after each feeding, as this also stimulates bowel movements
and is very important to their good health. Simba
Keep Newborn Kittens Warm and Healthy
My 5-week-old kitty does not want to eat. He eats about 1/2 ounces
every 4-6 hours. It is active at times and other times sleeps a
lot. How can you tell if a kitten has a fever, seems like it
shivers and chills at times. I do warm the formula?
Young kittens rely on their mother's warmth until 5 weeks or
so. Prior to that age, they need to be kept at 80 degrees
Be sure you are covering the kitten with a blanket and allowing
him to get cozy. Heating pads, if used carefully can help out.
Check out the feeding schedule and other information in the
make sure that the formula
is not not too hot when you feed him
(try to serve at room temperature). If you see or have seen any
signs like lethargy
or odd colored stools
take your kitty to see a vet. Simba
Our outside cat just had 5 kittens and 3 were born dead. The
other 2 are now 36 hours old. They are inside and are in a big
box with towels. Their mother sometimes leaves them and I worry
that they get too cold. Can I use a heating pad or a warm
towel/blanket? Also, one of the kittens has bloody mucus around
its mouth (he does not seem to be injured). I do not understand
what it might be. Please help! Carol
Yes, use a heating pad or a warm towel/blanket. Very young
kittens (less than 1-week-old) should be kept between 88-92
- Please keep the little guys in a room with no
- Feed them with an eye-dropper or nursing bottle )follow the feeding
- Place them on their tummies
- Open the mouths with your fingertips
- Place the eyedropper/ nipple at a 45 degree angle between the
jaws (the angle keeps air out)
- Keep a light pull to promote sucking.
If one of the kittens gets air in its lungs, hold it upside down
until any coughing or choking goes away.
The kittens are very fragile and need a lot of care. As for the
bloody mucus, these can be anything from a viral to a bacterial
infection. Please read through notes on sneezing / watery eyes
for more information. Best thing to do to keep them alive is to take them to a vet to be checked out. Also, do not forget to have momma cat spayed.
Many local animal organizations
have free spay & neuter programs for stray cats. Your Pal,
Simba - I would like to share a tip for keeping kittens warm with your
I use a warm/hot water bottle for my new kitten of 5 weeks. I
fill it up with warm, not hot, tap water and place it under a
blanket in her sleeping place. She cuddles right up to it and
sleeps "like a baby." Also to help her sleep, I have
put in a small clock that ticks to give her comfort of possibly a
mother's heart beat. Both seem to do the trick, she sleeps
all night long. The water bottles are safe and inexpensive.
Thanks for the tip. Readers, be sure to keep the seal tight on
the bottle. Simba
Another reader writes: I use a 1-liter soda bottle filled with
hot water wrapped in a towel. Moet loves it and snuggles right
Kitten With Fever Breathing Fast
How do I tell if my kitten has fever?
His tummy feels really warm, and do not know if this is normal.
The kitten is 4-months-old and was neutered 3 weeks ago, when he
was also de-clawed. The vet checked him out and said everything
was normal. How do I take his temperature? V
You can take your kitten's temperature by using a digital
and lubricating the end of it. You then
gently insert the tip of it in the kitten's anus and wait for
the thermometer to beep indicating it has taken the temperature.
Your kitten's body temperature should range between 99-102
degrees Fahrenheit. Check out the General Health
section of Simba's
Letters if you find that kitty has a fever. Keep me posted.
Given that kitty has been de-clawed watch out for infections in
the paws and make sure he remains an indoor
My family and I recently purchased an 8-week-old kitten. He
breathes very very very fast. His stomach moves up and down
pretty rapidly when he sleeps. Is this normal for young kittens,
and what is the usual speed of breathing? A caring owner
(Ozzie'sMum!- I am 14)
Dear Ozzie's Mum,
First, congratulations on getting a kitten! I hope you enjoy him.
It sounds already like you will be a caring mum for Ozzie. As for
his breathing, kittens breathe anywhere from 20 to 30 times per
minute. Because they are small, you can usually see their
chest rising up and down. If you find that Ozzie is breathing
at a rate much faster than 30 times per minute, bring it up at
your next vet visit. Otherwise, he is probably ok. Keep me
When do Kittens Open Their Eyes?
(See Kitten Eyes
page for more detailed information.)
I am fairly new to the world of cats. However I am madly in love
with the three adult cats we have in our home. I also have two 1-year-old cats that live in our garage. We now have five kittens from one of the outside cats we did not have spayed.
My kittens are 17-days-old and 3 out of the 5 have not yet opened their eyes. What should I do? Thank you and the kittens say thank you too! Barb
Congratulations on the kittens! As you know, kittens are born with their eyes closed. They usually open when the kittens are
between 8 and 14-days-old. The eyes will stay blue for 2 more weeks. If you notice any swelling or bulging under the eyelids, you should open them gently with a cotton ball dampened with warm water (DO NOT use Q-tips)
. If you see pus dripping from the eyes, it is probably an infection and the kittens should see a vet. If the eyes remain shut after 14 days, your vet should look
at them. Other things to look for:
- At 2 weeks of age, the kittens should be alert and be making attempts to stand up.
- At 3 weeks, they try to climb outside of their box or pen.
- At 4 weeks, all of the kittens should be walking, running and playing.
With the number of kittens you are taking care of, I think you might have a full house! It might be worthwhile to have your cats spayed
to prevent overpopulation since hundreds of thousands of cats end up euthanized every year. Best of luck and keep me posted. Simba
KMR Kitten Milk Replacer
(Always be Prepared)
Handling a Kitten's Umbilical Cord
We have a 2 1/2 week-old kitten which still has its umbilical
cord attached! I am starting to worry. Should this have fallen
off already? Hanging by a String
Dear Hanging by a String,
Mother cats usually remove their kitten's umbilical cords
shortly after birth, by licking off the cord along with the
afterbirth. Small pieces of the cord may remain for a little
while but usually fall off after a couple of hours.
In your case, you can do one of two things. Carefully detach the
cord by rubbing on the kitten's tummy with a warm, wet
cloth as the mother cat would have done or go to your vet and
have him/her do it for you. I do not recommend that you cut the
cord with a sharp object, given kitten's tendency to shift
about, which could cause an accident harming you or the kitten.
Keep me posted. Simba
My cat is due to give birth in 3 to 4 weeks. How long after the birth should I to wait before I can handle the kittens? I have been
told that it varies between 1 to 3 weeks! Can you help? Sam
The age at which you should handle kittens varies with the condition of the kittens and the mother. Ideally, kittens are
cared for by their mother. When momma cat is taking care of things you should not handle the kittens until they are at
and then only under the mother cat's supervision. If the kittens are orphaned, you are now the mother
and you need to care for them and feed them.
As to how to handle the kittens, hold them gently for only a 10-15 minutes at a time, and do so in the company of the mother
since her presence reassures the kittens and the mother cat too (see Mother's Behavior
more). Remember that human children or household pets should not be left alone with small kittens.
The first 4 to 8 weeks of a kitten's life are very important. Handling and petting the kittens will make them more sociable
creatures. At this age, be sure to leave them plenty of toys for them to play with (rolled tin foil and wads of paper work great). Avoid using your hands, fingers, feet or clothing when you play with them as this only encourages attack games which then leads to aggressive behavior. Keep me posted. Simba
I am concerned about these kittens I am caring for and think I
need to take them for help. Should I try to bundle all the newborns and mama up and take them to the vet? How do I transport
10-day-old kittens without hurting them? Confused Cat-Sitter
Hi Confused Cat-Sitter,
I believe it is best to err on the side of caution. So, yes take
the little ones to the vet. You can transport the little kittens
in a laundry basket or medium sized box filled with blankets and clothes (warm preferable). Be sure to keep the basket
warm and soft inside for the little ones
. Ensure that the
kittens are not covered such that they cannot breathe. In
addition, cushion the outside of the box/basket such that the
kittens are not adversely affected by any sudden braking.
: Check out Travel Safety
tips on keeping kitties safe in cars and in the air.
Kitten Cries at Night
I have just adopted a 1 1/2-month-old kitten, his name is Gingembre. First day at home yesterday, he was meowing whole
night, so much so that my husband and I decided to let him sleep with us. How long will this go on? He came from a home with 5 kittens and 3 cats. Regy
Poor little guy! Remember that you have an infant on your hands. Gingembre is probably used to sleeping in the comfort and
warmth of his siblings. I am sure that he misses the companionship and at only 6 weeks of age, he gets cold easily.
Because you are his only source of warmth and companionship he will want to be with or near you and your husband at night.
Best thing to do is to set up a comfortable, warm and cozy spot for him. Place it close to your bed and move it a little further
away every couple of days. Give him the choice of where to sleep…he will begin to migrate to his bed soon enough. You
want to make him comfortable in his new home. He is scared and lonely. Keep me posted, Simba
Kitten Constipated / Not Urinating
I have a new kitten that I have been bottle-feeding since birth. She was born on September and she is my little baby. I have been
trying to show her how to clean herself and she seems to be getting the general idea but I cannot seem to get her to poop. I
have tried everything from rubbing her belly to putting her in warm water and I do not know what else to do. Please help! -
Dear Worried Mom,
Poor little guy! You are moving in the right direction. It is not
an easy job. Know that mother cats usually lick the "back side" of their kittens
in order to stimulate bowel and
bladder movement. Because the kitten’s mom is not around it is your job to take care of this. Here are some tips:
- Gently rub the kitten’s lower tummy, the genitals and
rectum with a moistened cotton ball/pad, or tissue.
- Rub only a little bit (be careful that you not over-stimulate
the area and cause irritation)
- Watch out for any chafing and lingering dirt.
Your kitten will do a litter better following this. The good thing is that you need to do this for only a few weeks. Let me
know how things to. Your Pal, Simba
: Check out the Upset Stomachs
additional information on intestinal functions.
Fleas on Just Born Kittens
(please see the Fleas
section for more on flea management)
My cat Brandy has just had kittens a week ago. Her and the dog Max both had fleas but we did not want to de-flea Brandy while she was pregnant! Yesterday I found fleas on one of the kittens. My mum thinks this is really serious for newborn kittens.
Is it? How can we get rid of the fleas so that we can give them away once they are ready? - Kelly M
Dear Kelly M,
Your mother is right in her concerns. In addition to carrying all
sorts of parasites
can cause young kittens to become anemic. This is a potentially fatal
condition in kittens.
- Try to get the little guys, the mother cat, the dog and their
environment flea-free as soon as possible.
- Use a flea comb to gently remove the dirt and fleas from the fur.
- Ask your vet for a flea spray that is safe to use on just born kittens,if you do not find a safe spray use the flea
comb(always read the warnings)
- If you used a spray, then:
- Place the kitten on a towel for ~20 minutes and discard the
towel with the dead and dying fleas that have come off.
- After using a spray, you can give the kitten a bath in gentle soap (make sure water is lukewarm).
- Towel dry the kitten towel
Keep an eye out for Ringworm and Mange.
If you see a kitten scratching excessively or with bald spots, isolate him from his litter mates and consult a vet immediately
for treatment. Also, do not forget to have momma cat spayed.
Many local animal organizations have free spay & neuter programs for stray cats.
Petalive Fcv Protect - Relieves Feline Flu Symptoms
(please see the Sneezing Kittens
section for more on cold symptoms)
We got a kitten from a local shelter, she had been caught in a
trap, and my mother could not resist. Missy was about 3 months
old and she was so scared she would not leave the back of her
cage. We took her home and about two weeks later Missy had gone
from 7 ounces to 2 pounds She was lively and playful, wanting
to play with anything that moved. About a month ago she started
sneezing, mucus everywhere, she had trouble breathing and was
always congested. She has a good appetite, and is playful, but
she is still congested. My other cat, Ariel, just had her litter
of 5 healthy kittens, and I am worried that the kittens could
catch this and could die. What should I do? Scully
It seems that Missy could be suffering from the Cat Flu.
This is brought on by either a viral or bacterial infection and is contagious. Although it can vary in
severity it is not necessarily fatal and it can be treated /
alleviated. It might be worthwhile to keep the kittens in a room
from Missy until they have
completed their calici &
This will help keep them Cat
Flu-free. Keep me posted, Simba
Kitten's Stool Composition
(please see the Upset Stomachs
section for more on kitten stool issues)
Young kittens will have stools that have a toothpaste consistency and are mustard color. These movements
will occur about once a day and may be tiny depending on the size
of the little guy or gal.
Because kittens can dehydrate quickly, feed them carefully. Do
not over-feed. Also, avoid making sudden changes to the
kitten’s diet. Be sure to worm your little guy at 6 weeks
of age. Check out the Diarrhea
section for more
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