During the first four weeks of life, a newborn kitten is entirely dependent on its mother for food, warmth and protection. If a newborn kitten has been separated from or rejected by its mother, it is up to humans to care for the new kitten by giving it food, keeping it warm, helping it eliminate waste and teaching it important socialisation skills.
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Things you need
- Milk replacement formula
- Kitten food
- Heating pad or hot water bottle
Contact a local animal shelter or veterinarian to see if you can locate a foster mother for the infant kitten if it is under three weeks old. Sometimes a nursing mother with a small litter will adopt a kitten as its own by providing it with nourishment and warmth. If a foster mother can't be found, the newborn kitten will need to be carefully bottle fed with a milk replacement formula. Generally, a one- to two-week-old kitten will need to eat once every two hours. Never feed a kitten cow milk, as it can cause intestinal pain and diarrhoea.
Wipe the anal and urinary area of the kitten with a piece of moistened gauze after each meal to stimulate the kitten's ability to excrete urine and faeces. This mimics the mother cat's action of licking her kittens' anal regions---a necessary step in ensuring that her kittens are able to eliminate waste. At 4 weeks old, you can begin training the kitten to use a litter box by placing it inside of the box after each meal. Make sure that the litter box is shallow enough for the kitten to get in and out easily.
Keep the kitten warm by wrapping a hot water bottle or a heating pad in a towel and placing it in its sleeping area so that the kitten can curl up next to the heat source for warmth. It is important that you monitor the amount of heat generated by the heating pad, so that it doesn't get too hot. It should also be placed in such a way that the kitten can move away from the heat if it gets too warm.
Begin feeding the kitten milk replacement formula in a shallow bowl, along with small amounts of wet kitten food four to six times a day when it is between four and six weeks old. When the kitten is between seven and 12 weeks old, it should be eating mainly moistened kitten food four times a day, with small amounts of milk replacement formula. By the time the kitten is 12 weeks old, it should be entirely weaned off the formula and eating only kitten food.
Handle the kitten gently and give it plenty of love so that it learns to accept and trust humans. If small children are present, make sure that they only handle the kitten when supervised so that they don't unintentionally harm it.
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