Unfortunately, every year the same story: litters of cats abandoned everywhere, volunteers with houses full of abandoned kittens that are busy saving them and growing them, newborn kittens abandoned because the cats are not sterilized.
The situation is this, so I decided to create a video and an article with Dr. Enrica Rigolon where we explain what to do if we find an orphaned kitten or if we want to become volunteers and maybe take care of a litter. I hope to be of help and to avoid that orphaned kittens die from mistakes that could have been avoided.
Abandoned cats what to do
First of all it is important that you know that orphaned kittens are at a very high risk of death due to hypothermia, hypoglycemia or dehydration, so my advice is: as soon as you find one, the first thing to do would be to run to a veterinarian, to see how he is and if he is already dehydrated he starts giving him a little fluid therapy, warming him up and correcting hypoglycemia.
Establish the age of the kitten
The vet will be able to help you determine the age of the kitten more, but how to determine the age of the abandoned kitten?
Until the three days of life it still has the umbilical cord attached, dried up but attached, so if it still has the cordon it is really very small.
If you no longer have the umbilical cord, you can look like the eyes are, because it opens the eyes around the eighth day of life: eight to ten days of life open the eyes, so if the eyes are closed, the abandoned kitten probably has less than eight days of life.
Around the second week of life the baby teeth start to come out, so even that can be a measure of age.
If you have about two weeks or three weeks you see that he also tries to make small movements, he starts walking in an uncoordinated way, this can also be useful to understand if he only needs to be fed with milk or if you can start to foresee a start of weaning, with baby food placed for kittens.
Abandoned kittens: providing heat immediately
Up to four weeks of age the kittens are not able to thermoregulate, so if you decide to keep it and adopt it it is important to know that even in the height of summer you must give it a source of heat. They always suffer from the cold: it is important to always supply a bag of hot water, a thermal cover, or if you are super organized, an infrared lamp, but you have to heat them, it is very important.
Orphaned and lactating kittens
Orphaned kittens are usually abandoned babies, so they need you in every way. You have to run immediately to get some milk for kittens in pet stores, as well as baby bottles, and read below how to prepare milk, how to supply it, how often to feed the orphan cat and how much milk to give it.
Powdered milk for kittens
You have to buy powdered milk for kittens immediately: I advise you to take the one exclusively for cats because they pass off some milk for dog puppies suitable even for cat puppies, do not use it, because the composition of bitch’s milk is different from that of cat milk, better try to give him the milk that is right for him.
powdered milk for orphaned kittens
There are lots of milk for kittens, the important thing is that it is a specific milk for kittens.
For the preparation of powdered milk for kittens follow the instructions on the package, usually one tablespoon or 3 tablespoons of water should be diluted with a tablespoon of powder. Then you have to heat the milk: I find it good to heat them in a bain-marie, but since we are always all in a hurry, the microwave is fine even a few seconds, but then you have to be careful to shake it so as not to burn the baby.
You can use the old methods in the mother to test the temperature of the milk, pouring the drop of milk on your wrist to check that even for you the temperature of the milk goes well, because you have to give it to him at 36-38 degrees, what is the body temperature of the orphaned kitten.
The bottle for kittens
Another important thing to buy is the bottle for kittens, there are so many models of bottles, we found ourselves well with those who have really small and soft teats, so the kitten can suck really easy, as if was the mother cat’s nipple.
Pay attention to the softness of the teat: there are certain baby bottles that have teats with a hard silicone that there is not even a puppy of a dog that could probably suck.
This is a baby bottle recommended by the most experienced cats:
- The Mini MIRACLE NIPPLE is best suited for newborn squirrels, bunnies, kittens, Persian kitten breeds, toy puppies, and puppies with a shorter snout
- Using the MIRACLE NIPPLE is most like the babies suckling from their natural mother
- Kneading pad incorporated into the base for small paws to knead as they would the mother
It could happen that the kitten absolutely does not want to suck the milk, because he is used to the mother cat’s nipple: you have to insist, you have to convince him, possibly the first day you can help yourself with an insulin syringe, obviously without the needle, which holds little milk.
Make a slight pressure on the plunger to avoid the risk of shooting too much milk in the throat and therefore risk letting it go sideways. But use these alternative systems for a short time, otherwise he gets used to the syringe, while I advise you to make him suck the milk, because the more they suck the more they are satisfied, the more they sleep well between a breastfeed and the other one.
Proper breastfeeding of orphaned kittens
Pay attention to the position in which you put the kitten for the feed because you have to simulate the position in which it would put itself to suck from mother cat and therefore you have to try to keep it in horizontal, and make it suck with the bottle almost in horizontal, perhaps with the beautiful filled teat of milk so that you do not suck too much air.
This position should be used because otherwise you risk the milk going through them, you risk going into the lungs and the kitten dies of ab ingestis pneumonia, to be avoided absolutely. At the beginning it is a little bit more difficult, but then as soon as the kitten has learned, in a few minutes it will suck up all the milk it needs and there are no more problems.
The teat should be used full of milk so that the kitten does not suck air, so as not to create colic problems, because they too can have them, then they have a stomach ache and do not eat, like a baby.
How much milk do you give to an orphan kitten?
To adjust the amount of milk to be given to an orphan kitten, it is important to weigh it regularly. At birth a kitten weighs between 90 and 100-110 grams, a kitten of 100 grams has a gastric capacity of about 5 milliliters, no more, so when it weighs 200 grams it will have a gastric capacity of 10 milliliters.
You have to weigh the kitten on a kitchen scale and based on how much weight you have to adjust to how much milk you give: if it is just born weighing a pound and a half, give it no more than 5 milliliters of milk per meal, because otherwise you risk to stretch his stomach too far, to make him feel excruciating pains. 5 milliliters of milk are good for every 100 grams of kitten, no more.
How often does an abandoned kitten feed?
For the first four days of life an abandoned kitten should be nursed every 2-3 hours, so it means that you have to get up even at night. After the first four days of life you can switch to milk every four hours, up to two weeks and then begin to dilute the meals.
It’s challenging, so I advise you, if you find an abandoned kitten, to look for a wet nurse, possibly even if she has puppies that don’t exactly have the age of your kitty you found, that’s okay, because breastfeeding a small orphan cat is a big commitment.
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Homemade kitten milk
The powdered milk that you find in pet stores is absolutely complete and balanced, I checked the formulas of lots of powdered milk for kittens and actually very much reflect the formula of a cat’s milk, but we have not yet discovered why, but often we have seen micetti have seizures although they were not in hypothermia, they were not in hypoglycemia, they were not dehydrated.
Other times they went in a kind of coma form even for 12-16 hours, during which they could not wake up kittens and therefore they could not feed it. Total panic because if you don’t eat you risk hypoglycemia, so we have solved it with DIY kitten milk.
Here is the recipe for homemade kitten milk:
- whole milk without lactose
- one egg yolk for every 100 ml of milk
- a tablespoon of cream without lactose
- Prepare the whole milk without lactose, then on 100 ml of milk, we put an egg yolk, to which I advise you to remove the outer skin so you are able to homogenize better, and a teaspoon of cream always without lactose.
Homogenize it all, bring it to 36-38 degrees (in this case I recommend heating it in a bain-marie, because in the microwave you risk cooking the egg)
Kittens appreciate even if in reality the human smell smells terribly. With this homemade milk we have never had convulsion or coma problems, and kittens grow, they have good weight gains, as if we gave them powdered milk.
Weigh the orphaned kitten
An important thing to monitor in the abandoned kitten is weight gain. The kitten should be weighed regularly with the kitchen scale, and you should make sure that it grows regularly.
A kitten suckled by a mother cat, if it is born 90-100 grams after three weeks it weighs about 300. We do not have the same weight gains in an orphan cat nursed by us humans, but at least at three weeks should weigh 200-250 grams.
You have to be careful about these things, because if they don’t have good increments there is something wrong and the abandoned kitten risks his life, he also risks dying then around the fourth-sixth week.
Stimulate the kitten to make pee-pee and poo
Kittens are not only unable to regulate their body temperature until four weeks as I said before, but they are not even able to pee and I did them spontaneously, so you have to provide for yourself by stimulating the perineal reflex and helping it to go body.
In this case you have to put the kitten on your stomach, which for him is also a position of submission, often wiggle and don’t want to, but they must stay there, take cotton or
of toilet paper, and massage the tummy, starting from the umbilical area and going down towards the perineal area, where there are anus and external genital organs.
You have to massage the kitten, insisting a little on the genitals, until the piss comes out.
Why use cotton or paper? Because when pee comes out, it is absorbed immediately and the kitten does not get wet.
After that the poop must also come out, so insist with the massages along the tummy, because it must defecate every time.
It is important to insist, because we lost some kittens because the volunteers were seized by “tenderness”, I don’t know how to define it, so the kittens were writhing, they didn’t want to stay on their backs and they surrendered before they pee and poop, for which unfortunately some orphaned kittens happened, who arrived there with huge bellies after days and days that did not poop, and died.
With some we were able to solve to the sound of enemas, to the sound of drugs to absorb intestinal gas, with lactic ferments, I had to resort to laxatives in milk, to peristalsis stimulants, but others we lost them, so I recommend , always stimulate the emission of urine and feces, they have to poop at least once or twice a day. There is no way they can skip a day without pooping.
Move with delicate movements and delicate materials, because I have seen tummies destroyed either because they were left damp or because maybe they rubbed in a slightly too vigorous manner.
If you realize that you are a bit inflaming your tummy, use oil
almonds, some basic aloe cream, zinc based pasta just like newborns, but had to be dabbed, because they are very delicate, they are every day at risk of death from any stupidity.
Orphaned kittens that suck their little brothers
Usually abandoned kittens, at least for the first week, sleep all the time, and start crawling around 2-3 weeks and endanger themselves.
If you notice that they are going to suck the little brothers, it means that you don’t satisfy their need for suckling enough, I recommend they have to suck, the fact that they go to
sucking the little brothers is not a good thing, it means that they are not really well.
Begin weaning the abandoned cat
You have managed to reach your third or fourth week of life with your orphan kitten: you can start to offer them jelly, because mother cat would start weaning them.
At this point you have to buy ready-to-eat baby food, don’t take kitten, but there are some companies that make their own baby food for the weaning of kittens starting from the third week: they are small boxes with a very fluid homogenized inside, so they they begin to lick it, they stick their noses in it, they all get stuck, but then wiping it with their tongue they start pulling it in and discovering these new flavors.
There is also a jelly in croquettes, they tell you that it can be dissolved in milk, start to get used to it by putting it inside the bottle, but I have seen that compared to 10 ì-15 years ago this thing actually worked, now they don’t melt anymore , it is a tragedy, I have eliminated it and I prefer perhaps to put in the baby bottle the homogenized moist food and to get them used to it.
Weaning can be another very difficult phase for orphaned kittens: someone goes on the saucer, someone else absolutely does not want to give up the bottle.
One of the last orphaned cats that I and my colleague raised by hand gave us a lot of trouble, not giving up, it would have taken us a month to wean it off completely, because with the saucer, give me to eat with the syringe, with the bottle, but I don’t eat you from the saucer. Try them all because they have you as a reference, they don’t have a mother cat, they don’t have the example of mother cat that goes on the bowl.
For example, with that abandoned kitten we put her in our arms, lying on us, the saucer on us, and so very slowly she started eating and then took months to decide to eat even some croquette.
So even that phase can be very demanding, but you have to resist, otherwise make your previous work in vain.
Diarrhea in the orphaned kitten
Another thing not to be underestimated is if they start having diarrhea: even that should be managed. It could be trivially due to the fact that you are supercharging them, but an intestinal infection could also have started or it could be that the milk you are using cannot digest it or it could be that they also start to have some intestinal parasites.
If diarrhea occurs when you have three or four weeks, it should always be managed. We generally put in the milk bottle of lactic ferments, you can easily dissolve them, or you can put, again at the suggestion of the veterinarian, powders that act as absorbent and help them retain liquids, because if it was maybe even just an episode in which have not digested milk well.
I would avoid antibiotics, try to dab with other methods, because they do not have a formed intestinal flora, they are still forming it, so if you try to manage dysentery with antibiotics you do worse.
Check the eyes of the abandoned cat
Another important thing for the survival of your orphaned kitten is to always keep his eyes even checked, because if he was hypothetically abandoned he was born of a stray mother or a mother who had not been well treated, he has
also suffered the trauma of abandonment and may develop chlamydial or herpes virus infections.
It is important to always keep your eyes well and thoroughly clean and if you see them starting to ignite or swell or find them in the morning with the correct closed eyes, ask the vet for help.
And have you ever had to look after abandoned cats? If you have more advice to give to our readers, write them in the comments, so you can be useful in case you read someone who has found abandoned newborn kittens and doesn’t know what to do.