How to save a newborn premature kitten without a mother cat

Written by erin ringwald
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How to save a newborn premature kitten without a mother cat
Premature kittens require extra care. (kitten image by Natalia Kosyanenko from

If a mother delivers her kittens prior to the normal nine week gestation, the kittens are considered premature. They are also considered premature if they have unusually low weight at birth. Just like a premature human baby requires a lot of extra care to ensure survival, so does a premature kitten. Although it can be difficult to save a premature kitten, especially when the mother is no longer around, it is possible by taking certain steps to ensure the kitten prospers.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Nesting box
  • Heating pad
  • Towel
  • Syringe
  • Kitten formula
  • Bottle

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  1. 1

    Prepare a nesting box for your kitten. The box should be large enough so the kitten can move around but not too large. The box should be kept in a space away from bright lights, loud noises and drafts.

  2. 2

    Place a heating pad underneath a towel. Place the towel and heating pad underneath the nesting box and set it on low. This will help regulate your new kitten's body temperature. Ideally the nesting box should be kept between 29.4 to 32.2 degrees C. Make sure the heating pad does not cover the entire bottom of the box. Although heat is important to keep a chill off of the kitten, too much heat can hurt the kitten. Leaving an unheated space gives the kitten somewhere to go to get away from it.

  3. 3

    Feed your kitten every one to two hours for the first week using a syringe without a needle. Use a kitten formula from your local pet store or vet. Mix the formula as the package suggests. Then add some water that has been boiled and cooled to the mixture. The amount of water should equal about a fourth of the total formula measurement. This dilutes the formula and makes it digestible by the kitten. Give the kitten one to two ml of the formula mixture. Once your kitten reaches a week and a half old, you can begin to decrease the water added to the formula until it is straight formula by the age of two weeks. As the kitten begins to gain strength you can switch from a syringe to a bottle.

  4. 4

    Burp your kitten. Just as newborn human babies can develop gas from eating, so can your kittens. Lightly tap your kittens back after feedings to help relieve the gas build up.

  5. 5

    Help you kitten eliminate. The easiest and safest way to do this is to run water from the faucet in a thin stream. The water should be warm, not hot. Place the kitten's bottom under the stream and gently stimulate its bottom with your index finger. Your kitten should eliminate once every two days. If it does not, contact the vet.

  6. 6

    Provide your kitten with contact periodically. Since the mother is no longer present, you are the only maternal influence it knows. Gently stroke the kitten and speak softly to it to reassure it.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep your vet apprised of the kitten's health throughout the process. Your vet will be able to address specific concerns you encounter.
  • If your kitten is too weak to eat or is not able to swallow yet, contact your vet for the possibility of a feeding tube.

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