There has been a few stray kittens we have seen recently at our Tampa veterinary office that have been found and needed good homes. Luckily, we have been able to get these little ones placed (with help from our wonderful clients of course). What would you do if you found a small kitten separated from their mother? First and foremost, get them in to see the veterinarian so we can make sure there are no major health issues that need to be addressed. Then from there on, you take on the motherly role and provide proper nutrition and shelter. Based on their age, this could mean bottle feeding. It may sound like a daunting task but with proper guidance, you can become an expert is a short amount of time. Our veterinary staff is always happy to offer advice and guidance, so don’t hesitate to call if questions arrive.
Below is some more specific information about raising orphaned kittens:
Care of Orphaned Puppies and Kittens
Sometimes dog and cat moms can’t or won’t take care of their babies. In those situations it’s up to the owners to take care of the little ones. Here are some basics that will cover both species.
Until puppies and kittens are 3 to 4 weeks old they are unable to thermo-regulate. What that means is that they cannot maintain their own body temperature. They depend on an outside source of warmth, usually Mom. If their mother is unavailable an external source of heat must be provided. Hot water bottles work well and are probably the safest option. You can also use a heating pad set on low with a towel over it to prevent burns. If a heating pad is used you must check it periodically to make sure it is not too hot and also to make sure it is still on. Most modern heating pads have automatic shut-offs and will leave your babies cold after two hours or so. Needless to say, the puppies and kittens should be kept in a small, enclosed space that can be easily kept warm and that they can’t fall out of. The most common cause of death in newborns is hypothermia (low body temperature).
Puppies and kittens also need to be stimulated to urinate and defecate. This can be accomplished by gently rubbing their bottoms with a soft facial tissue or cotton balls. Do this every few hours before feeding.
There are commercial formulas available for both puppies and kittens. Esbilac is for puppies and KMR is for kittens. Both are available at any pet store where you can also pick up bottles. The nipple of the bottle will have to be pierced with a hot needle. For newborns, the hole should be such that when the bottle is squeezed the milk comes out in a steady drip, drip, drip. As they get older you will likely need to expand the size of the holes to allow for a more steady flow.
At about 10 to 14 days the kittens’ and puppies’ eyes will open. A small amount of clear discharge is normal in the days immediately before and after this event. Once their eyes are open they may want to explore a bit more. A larger box can be provided but remember that they still require a source of heat.
The babies can be introduced to solid food at about four weeks of age. Initially they will mostly walk through it but eventually they will get the idea. Pouring a bit of their formula over the food will stimulate interest.
The babies will need to see the veterinarian at about five or six weeks of age. Since they are not receiving mother’s milk the doctor may want to start them on their vaccinations a bit earlier than usual.
These are the very basics of hand-raising puppies and kittens. As always, we are available and happy to answer any questions you might have.