Powernubby.com: How to Raising Orphaned Kittens. Feral cats are wild cats, cats that have been abandoned by their humans, cats that have lost their way or cats that have been born in the wild and do not know any other life. Feral cat colonies usually get their start with one pregnant cat that has a litter and the litter grows and it has its own litters and it grows and grows. There is much to be said about feral cat colonies but we are discussing at this time taming and raising a feral kitten or kittens.
A pregnant feral cat will have its kittens in a fairly remote and hopefully safe place. Unless a human accidentally stumbles across the spot where the kittens are hiding it will be a while before anyone will see them and sometimes it will too late to try and catch them in an effort to rehabilitate them.
The best age to try and catch feral kittens is when they are about 4 to 6 weeks old. At this age they are not extremely active and mom has not taught them everything they need to know about living in the wild. They have had their mother’s milk, which is the best nutrition a kitten can have and have ingested the important antibodies that only a mother cat can give.
Trying to catch the older feral kittens will require a pet carrier or a humane trap. We have had good luck using several of our carriers in our attempts to catch older kittens by bribing them with food inside the carriers.
This only works if you are nearby and can pounce on the carrier the moment the kitten or kittens get in side and you can shut the door. The older the kittens the harder they are to handle and we suggest thick gloves and long sleeves. Kitten bites can be very painful and should be treated right away. Medical attention is suggested and the biting cat kept away from the others.
Not having any human contact a feral kitten will hiss and spit at you, as they are scared. The wildest one is probably the most scared. Our purpose in catching the feral kittens we knew about was to take them to a shelter where they would be fostered out, hand raised and socialized with the intent of finding good homes for them. The same method of using the carriers with a food bribe can be used to catch the older feral cats in order to have them spayed or neutered and returned to the colony.
How to Raising Orphaned Kittens
If you have found the orphaned kittens, caught them and intend to raise them yourself the next intelligent thing to do is cart the kittens off to the vet and have them checked over. However, this might be like playing Russian roulette as you have very scared kittens that are seemingly fighting for their lives. Sometimes it is best to wait before taking them, as long as the kittens are isolated from any other pets and they show no visible signs of illness.
Undoubtedly you were aware of where the kittens were and had been planning to capture them as soon as they were older. In the event that you do not want to subject yourself and the kittens to the trauma of a vet visit right after you have captured them here are some suggestions.
* The kittens need peace and quiet for a few days with literally no handling. If you have not taken them to the vet for a check up and you have other animals in the house, you need to protect them from any diseases or infections the kittens may have. The new kittens need to be isolated from all of your household pets until the vet says they are healthy and you have tamed them.
* Always wash your hands after handling any of the food or water containers and any thing else you may have handled in the room where the kittens are being kept. It’s a good idea to keep an old shirt that you can slip on over your clothes when you are in the room with the kittens.
* For the first few days the kittens should be kept in a large crate or even a cardboard box with a small litter pan and their food. We found that using the bathtub in our guest bathroom was a great place to keep kittens and/or puppies. Layer the tub with an old blanket or towels to keep the little ones warm and put the litter box at one end and their food and water at the other.
* During the first few days visit the kittens often, talk softly, but do not handle them. To feed the kittens dilute cow’s milk with water (50/50) and mix a small amount of canned kitten food (not cat food) into the milk and place in a saucer or other flat dish.
Your vet can also tell you what to feed the kittens if you call the clinic. Iams makes a kitten food and packages it in a can. Since the new thing now is foil packages the only place we can find the canned version is at Pets Mart. We would not try to feed the new kittens dry kitten food unless it is soaked very well in milk and is really soggy. Even though we said not to handle the kittens for a few days after capture; you may have to put their noses in the food dish so they know what it is.
If you find that you may have to hand feed one or two of the kittens wrap them in a towel with their tummy lying in the palm of your hand. I found that feeding with an eyedropper was the easiest for me. Always feed to the side of their mouth and not directly in the front as you would normally think to do. By feeding from the side you are less likely to choke the kitten with too much milk. If you have to hand feed a kitten we suggest feeding only milk until the kitten gets the hang of eating out of the dish. It is always a good idea to check with your vet for his/her recommendations on feeding your litter.
After two days it is a good idea to start the handling process. Go slowly at first, some soft pets and a low voice. Don’t be surprised if you get a few hisses or spitting from one or all of them. Start with the calmest one first and work your way through the litter. If one of the kittens seems very high-strung single that one out for extra pets and loves. If the kittens are fighting you when you try to pick them up wrap each kitten one at a time loosely in a small towel while you are holding them.
Feral kittens and cats are really not good around children. Children are loud, they run and jump and in general are rambunctious. Loud noises and sudden movements will scare most feral cats and kittens. Fleas are more than likely a serious problem and it is important to remove as many as possible at once. A flea comb is a great way to remove the fleas. You can softly comb the kitten during the handling process.
It is not recommended, but we have on several occasions bathed the kittens in warm water the moment we got them home in order to get a head start on removing fleas. It is important to keep the kittens warm and to dry them as quickly as possible (do not use a hair dryer).
Do not look directly into the eyes of a kitten or a feral cat, the direct look or stare is considered an act of aggression by the kitten or cat. I have read that you should avert your eyes often and frequently lower your head in an effort to appear submissive.
Within 4 or 5 days the kittens should be ready to start playing with you. A piece of cloth tied to a string and dragged along the floor is a good cat and mouse exercise along with small lightweight catnip toys. By now you should be seeing that the kittens are making progress and are socializing a little better with you. This might be a good time to move them out of the bathroom or whatever you confined them and let them loose in a spare room. Remove any cords and other dangerous hazards.
Once the hissing and biting has stopped and the kittens are calm this is the time to bring other people in (one at a time) to handle the kittens also. This will get them used to other people. Do not let any small or young children in to handle the kittens.
By the time they are 7 to 8 weeks old and if you haven’t already taken them to your vet now would be a good time to do so. Between 8 to 10 weeks if the kittens are now socialized they can be adopted out. However, we STRONGLY advise you not to send the kittens to a home where there are young children. Cats in general are not happy around confusion and loud noise and feral kittens no matter how well socialized have an inbred fear of such things and will not handle it well.
Feral cats and kittens need a quiet household with as little confusion as possible. If possible, place two kittens together especially if the new parent works all day. Please do all that you can to make certain that the new parent or parents will see that the kittens are either spayed or neutered as quickly as possible. This can be done as early as eight weeks of age.
Raising Orphaned Kittens
When the mother of a kitten has died or has abandoned him, the kitten may need hand raising. In feral cats, the reason for them being taken away is maybe for taming. Kittens should only be taken from their mother after 6 weeks of age if possible. For taming wild kittens, around 4 weeks because taming becomes harder as they grow older. Young kittens need their mommy’s milk for antibodies and nutrition so it is best that the mother feed her kittens as long as possible. Passive immunity normally lasts until about the kittens are 6-14 weeks. Orphans are most vulnerable to diseases since they do not have that protection.
Find a Foster Mother Cat
Orphans need a foster feline mother to have a good chance of survival. Cats usually feed kittens other than their own so try finding one by calling vets, animal shelters, breeders or the cat people you know.
You must devote considerable amount of energy and time in taking care of a kitten if you decide to feed him yourself before weaning age. But still, that does not guarantee survival since the younger the kitten is, the more fragile he is. He may not survive no matter how good the care is without a feline mother to feed him.
Warmth and First Aid
When you find an abandoned kitten, the first thing you must do is to protect him from chill. Place him under blankets or next to your skin for warmth. Young kitten’s energy is necessary for growth and yelling for more food which is why there is not much left for heat generation. At first, the mother and siblings would give the kitten a good amount of warmth. On their first week, they should be kept at 88-92 degrees F. The following week, around 80 degrees or so would be fine. Once they reach 5 weeks and above, a lower room temperature is tolerable.
Keep Your Kitten Warm
Take the kitten to a vet if possible, his general condition needs to be checked out. Without a mother, a kitten may become dehydrated very quickly and may need fluids under his skin. A sign of dehydration in a kitten is when he has very little energy and appetite. This is probably due to lack of fluids or diarrhea. Stools must also be tested for parasites or worms. The vet can have plenty of advice on hand raising kittens and the needed supplies so you better not skip this step.
Upon reaching home, provide warmth for the kitten by placing him in an isolated, draft free, warm place. You can feed him by using an eyedropper or nursing bottle which is available at the vet. Be very careful not to force feed the kitten when using an eyedropper. Let him suck the fluid at his own pace so as not to fill his lungs with milk and cause pneumonia. The bottle method is best once he is old enough to suckle. A company named Catac even designed a kitten nurser which keep air bubbles out of the baby’s tummy.
Don’t forget to sterilize all utensils before feeding the kitten. To feed the little one, place his tummy down on a towel or textured surface to which he could cling to. With the tip of your finger, carefully open his mouth, then slip the nipple in between his jaws. Keep a light pull every now and then to encourage him vigorous sucking. If the kitten suddenly aspirates milk into his lungs, immediately hold him upside down until the choking stops. Seek veterinary assistance if the kitten is not strong enough to suckle.
Baby kittens must be fed every 3 to 4 hours and the milk should be warmed to body temperature. For recommended feeding amounts and feedings per day, check the package. The number of daily feedings he should receive is determined by the kitten’s age.
Signs to look up when the baby kitten had enough formula are, his tummy will be rounded and bubbles will form around his mouth. Burp him by holding him upright against your shoulder, patting him lightly on the back. Just like humans, baby kittens must burp after each meal. Never overfeed kittens for it can result to diarrhea or other problems.
Kittens with anemia or those lacking appetite may need vitamins and minerals supplement such as Pet-Tinic, which is available at the vet and pet food stores. This will rebuild his systems and stimulate his appetite. Just follow the directions indicated on the bottle and give it through a dropper or by adding it to his food.
To ensure your kitten is growing properly, weigh him frequently. If he is growing at an incredible rate, it’s a sign he is thriving!
The kitten’s biological mother takes care of her kitten in many ways than we know. She stimulates her baby kitten’s bladder and bowels by licking his abdomen. The surrogate mother cat must carefully rub the baby kitten’s tummy with a moistened cotton ball with warm water. Do not overdo it, rub only enough to stimulate the kitten to discharge waste. Watch out for chafing which is an indicator that you are rubbing too hard.
Keep the baby kitten and the area clean. Wash their fur all over as the mother would do, using short strokes with a barely damp cloth. This gives them a feeling of attention and well-being too. If the kitten has caked stool on his fur due to diarrhea, it is best to wash him in warm water. Do this quickly so as not to make the baby kitten cold. Pat him dry.
The kitten may feel frustrated by the lack of his mother’s breast and cause him to suckle his litter mate’s body parts which may result to irritations. Satisfy his oral need by caressing his mouth with a soft cloth or your finger.
As soon as abandoned kittens are found, they must be cleaned and get rid of fleas to avoid Flea anemia. Flea anemia can interfere with your attempt to save any abandoned kitten and fleas carry tape worm eggs. There are flea sprays at the vet which can be used on kittens. Adams flea spray has been found safe to use on kittens and effective in killing fleas. Once the kitten has rid of fleas, bathe him in warm water with gentle soap or surgical soap if there are flea sores present. Dry him immediately to avoid getting chill. You can also use hair dryer if the kitten is 1-3 weeks of age. Be careful not to blow in their face and keep the level of heat tolerable. Older kittens are usually scared of the noise of the hair dryer, you may opt to just towel dry them and then place them in a container in a warm place such as next to a refrigerator. You may also put the towel dried kitten inside a pet carrier and then use the hair dryer letting in some warm air to the bag.
You may begin weaning the kitten at the age of 4 weeks if necessary. You may begin by providing him formula in a bowl. Later on, gradually introduce solid foods. Some baby foods that work well are strained baby food or Hill’s brand. You can also moisten dry kitten food with water or formula because young kittens cannot chew dry kitten food. This takes time so do not expect him to be weaned right away.
Reduce the bottle feedings as he eats more often from the bowl. You can also give canned kitten food to introduce solid food to the kitten. Check the instructions on the container. Much of what is sold in supermarkets is junk food so try buying high quality food from the vet or pet food stores. Changes in foods or diet may cause diarrhea which can be life threatening to a baby kitten so it is important to keep an eye on the stools.
Litter Box Training
The perfect time to introduce the baby kitten to litter box is on his 4th week of age. Place him in the litter box after every meal. Show him how to scratch in the litter by taking his paw and start digging the sand or litter. He will surely catch on quickly.
Love and Attention
The baby kitten needs emotional closeness aside from the food and warmth that you give. Let him snuggle with you and pet him more often. Experts say that hand raised kittens show greater loyalty, deeper affection to owners, and show higher intelligence. Lots of handling for kittens make them easier to train as well.
A kitten usually weighs 2-4 ounces at birth. He should double in body weight by the end of his first week. On his 8th day, he should open his eyes for the first time. For two more weeks his eyes will remain blue. The real eye color will only appear until he is about 3 months old. The ears will begin to stand up on his second week. He will try to walk on his third week. On the fourth week, the kitten will start playing with his litter mates and develop his teeth. As to the timing of the necessary vaccinations, go check it with your vet. On 8th week, the kitten should be ready for adoption and if she/he’s in good health he can be spayed and neutered.
Adopted orphan kittens are very vulnerable to diseases. Take them to the vet immediately at the first symptom of abnormal behavior or loss of appetite. Upper respiratory infections and colds are caused by viruses which claim many kittens every year. Chlamydia is one of these organisms which cause permanent eye damage to kitten’s eyes. It could result to blindness if bacteria invade the infected eye. The eyeball can be badly scarred even by a lesser infection.
Worms, food changes, and even overfeeding could result to diarrhea. The result of this is dehydration if it is not managed properly and it could be fatal. Feline distemper is a chronic danger to baby kittens as well, especially those babies who did not have their mother’s antibodies. It is an airborne, very contagious fatal disease.
A Final Word
Raising and caring for an orphaned kittens is a hard work, even the most conscientious foster mother may lose the baby kitty. The foster mother should not blame herself should the baby kitten die, nor should she accept the credit if the kitty thrives. A baby kitten is most likely to die at birth, in his 1st week, or while weaning. But you have a good chance of raising poor orphaned kittens with accurate information and the ability to care.