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How to take care of new born kittens

Ginger new born kitten

Caring for a new born kitten will make it happy and healthy

© Shutterstock

There's nothing cuter than a crate full of kitties.  But despite their obscene levels of cuteness, taking care of newborn kittens is a full-time job.

By Ashley Murphy

Updated on the 22/03/2021, 11:13

Long before you look at things like spaying and neutering the kittens, you'll need to learn how to feed them, hold them, and keep them warm. But don't worry, we've got you covered with a complete guide to kitten care.

So, here's everything you new cat dads and kitty mums need to know about raising those adorable furballs.

How do you take care of a newborn kitten without a mother?

Caring for orphaned kittens is a 24 hour/ 7 days a week job. For the first few weeks, you'll need to bottle feed the kittens every few hours using a kitten milk replacer. This comes in liquid or powder form and is an absolute essential. Never use cow’s milk bought from the supermarket - it does not contain the right nutrients. Plus, most cats and kittens are lactose intolerant.

How long can newborn kittens go without eating?

Newborn kittens should never go longer than two hours without a meal. When a bit older and transitioning to solids at around five weeks of age, you should still feed the kittens three or four times a day. This can be continued until six months of age. At 12 months old, most cats will only need two meals a day.

How long can 2-week old kittens go without nursing?

Two-week-old kittens need constant nursing from their mothers. Otherwise, they won't survive for more than a few days. If the kittens are orphaned, then they need bottle feeding once every four hours. Kittens stop nursing at around five weeks of age and transition onto solid food.

What to feed baby kittens 6 weeks old?

By six weeks old, kittens should be transitioned onto solid food. However, solid food doesn’t necessarily mean hard food. Baby kittens will initially fair better on soft food, such as lightly soaked pellets. This commercial food should be formulated for kittens, as it will have a higher protein content than adult food, which is required for healthy growth.

Can you touch a newborn kitten?

Although it's hard to resist, you should avoid picking up newborn kittens during the first few days. Doing so can put their health at risk and can upset the mother cat, who may start displaying aggressive behaviour. But you should hold the kittens before they're two weeks old. This helps the kittens get used to being around people.

How do you keep newborn kittens warm?

Kittens need two things - milk and warmth. If you put blankets in their bedding area, be sure they are not too thick, otherwise newborn kittens can easily become smothered. If you’re worried about your newborn kittens becoming cold, you can create a gentle warmth with an incubator or heat pad. But be sure not to heat up the kittens too much and cause burns.

How warm should you keep newborn kittens?

You should keep the ambient temperature at around 29°C during the first week. Then reduce it by a few degrees each week, getting it down to 21°C by the time the cats are five weeks old.

Should newborn kittens be kept in the dark?

Kittens are born blind and don't open their eyes until somewhere between 7-14 days. They won't need to stay in a dark room, but it's best to keep them away from bright lights. Cats eyes are around six times more sensitive than humans, and bright lights may startle young kittens.

How often do newborn kittens poop?

As you care for the kittens, you'll need to keep a close eye on their toilet habits. And although they're only small, kittens are big poopers! In fact, it's not unusual for them to poop as many times as they eat. But don't worry, they slow down after the first two months!

If you are bottle feeding newborn orphan kittens, you will need to stimulate them to poop as their mum would have. Do this by wiping their bottom with a warm cotton wool after their meal.

Do newborn kittens poop everyday?

Don't worry if your kitten goes a day without pooping - just be thankful that you've got a day off from cleaning the litter tray. However, if they don't pass a stool after two days, they're probably suffering from constipation. This can be a sign of an underlying health problem, including dehydration, an intestinal blockage, or parasites.

What to do if the kitten is not pooping?

If the kitten is constipated, but otherwise in good health, there are a few things you can do before turning to veterinary care. Firstly, increase their water intake. Try warm water as it breaks down food faster, encouraging more bowel movements. You can also gently massage their stomach to help faeces move through the intestines.

If none of this works, or your cat suddenly appears unwell, seek medical help ASAP.

How long can kittens hold their pee?

Kittens should urinate after each feeding. Mum will usually stimulate them after dinner time by licking around their genital area. Struggling to urinate can be an early symptom of a urinary tract infection.

So now it's time to get on with caring for the new fur babies. And although they'll be a few sleepless nights and more than a bit of poop to clean up, raising those little rascals into healthy adult cats will be one of the most reward things you'll ever do!

Reviewed by Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS