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How to Take Care of a Baby Kitten

When you are caring for a newborn kitten there are lots of things you will need to know, especially if they don't have a mother. Today, our Staten Island vets share with you how you can take care of a newborn kitten without a mother, what can go wrong as well as when you should take them to the vet for the first time.

How to Care For a Kitten

Although they make wonderful family pets, kittens have some very specific requirements that must be met. Every stage of their life has different needs, and if something is neglected or done incorrectly, it can affect their general health and longevity. Here, we discuss how to take care of your new pet while they are still a kitten.

Caring for a Newborn Kitten

When a kitten is 0 - 4 weeks old they are considered a newborn. They are still learning how to meow, walk, and even regulate their body temperature. If they have a mother, their mother will be able to do most of the work including feeding. All you would have to do is make sure the mother is in good health and that they are in a warm and safe environment. Make sure the floor of their crate/area is covered with a blanket, and they have a warm bed to lie on. However, if the kitten does not have a mother the first thing you should do is take them to see a vet. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the health of the kitten and inform you of their requirements. 

Keep Your Newborn Kitten Warm

You'll need to take extra precautions to keep the kitten warm if it doesn't have a mother, such as placing a heating disc in the crate or a heating pad underneath a blanket in the cage. Also, create a cozy little nest out of blankets for the kitten to sleep in. Make sure the heating pad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands, and make sure your kitten has a cozy spot in their cage or crate where they can retreat if it gets too warm that doesn't have a heating device.

You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old. If kittens get too cold they will catch hypothermia. Thus, their area should be kept at 85°F or 29°C. 

Feeding Your Newborn Kitten

Another thing you will have to do for a newborn kitten without a mother is to feed them and provide them with proper nutrition. You will have to bottle feed your kitten a special kitten formula every 2-4 hours. Every kitten is different, your veterinarian will be able to inform you of the best formula to use, how much to feed them, and how frequently you should be feeding your kitten. In order for kittens to grow healthily, they will need to gain approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your cat cow milk and always make sure you are feeding them the same formula. And, in order for your kitty to digest food properly it will have to be kept warm.

As Your Kitten Grows Older

When the kitten you are caring for is around 5/6 to 10 weeks old they should gradually stop being bottle fed or fed by their mothers and start feeding them high protein meals about 3 to 4 times a day. You can start this by pouring the formula into a food bowl and possibly adding a bit of softened hard food or canned soft food to help ease them in the process. And because their motor skills will be improving at this stage they will start becoming adventurous and you will have to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't get themselves into trouble. They will require a lot of supervision and hands-on bonding playtime as they are between 2 -4 months old.  

At 4 to 6 months old, your kitten will begin to experience their adolescent years. Before they reach the 6 to 8-month mark, you should start thinking about having them spayed or neutered because at this point they are typically very troublesome and may need some behavioral modification.

Preventive Care For Your Kitten

No matter how old your kitten is, you should take them to the vet during the first week they are in your care. Your veterinarian will examine your kitten and advise you on their dietary requirements. This also gives you the opportunity 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, there are numerous things to keep an eye out for at all stages of your kitten's life that could indicate a problem or even a veterinary emergency. If you notice your kitten exhibiting any of the following symptoms, contact your veterinarian right away to schedule an appointment.

Here is what you need to keep an eye out for in a newborn kitten:

  • Delays or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
  • Lethargy
  • Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting

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

If you have any more questions or concerns about caring for a kitten or notice your kitty displaying any of the signs above, contact our Staten Island vets today. We will be happy to help.

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Aadobe Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Staten Island companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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