Feeding Of Orphaned Kittens
Kittens cannot regulate their temperature until they start walking and generate heat by muscular activity. Hence they should be provided with an optimum environmental temperature for initial few weeks of their life. The optimum temperature should be around 85°F for first two weeks of life and about 80°F for next two weeks. Warm temperature can be provided using:
- Circulating hot water blankets
- Hot water bottles wrapped in towels
- Heating pads (with due precaution not to damage the skin)
- Heat lamps
If kittens are not moving from warmer to cooler areas then such kittens should be examined for their viability and any other problems.
Kittens should consume mother’s first milk (colostrums) in the first 24 hours of their life as it provides passive immunity to fight infections in early life. In case of orphans, your vet may opt for giving other mothers serum as injections to give initial immunity.
- Donor cats should be negative for feline leukaemia virus and feline immunodeﬁciency virus and should have the same blood type as the kitten.
- One should go for early vaccination in kittens which have not received enough colostrum.
A milk-based diet should be offered for the ﬁrst 3 to 4 weeks. Commercial milk replacers are a better choice over homemade diets as they are:
- of high nutrient density
- low in ﬁber,
- contain protein of high biological value.
Kitten milk replacers should have a source of Taurine for optimal growth to occur.
How to prepare a milk replacer for kittens at home?
The ideal homemade milk replacer for kittens under emergency conditions should contain:
- ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
- 1 egg yolk
- A drop of multivitamins
How much should you feed the orphaned kitten?
Kittens should receive 220 to 380 kcal/kg daily which should be divided into 4 to 6 feedings. Once the orphan kitten reaches 2 weeks of age frequency of feeding can be reduced to 3 times.
The feeding formula should be warmed to 95 to 100 °F before feeding the kittens below 2 weeks of age.
How should I feed my kittens?
One can use following equipment for feeding kittens:
Use of bottles and tubes is better advised over spoons and droppers to avoid aspirations. Advantages of bottle feeding are:
- Low risk of entering the windpipe
- Satisfies the need of neonates to suckle
One should depend on either bottle marketed for kitten use or those intended for human babies. Tube-feeding is faster but caution must be taken to ensure proper placement of the tube into the digestive tract (vet’s help required) and to prevent overﬂowing and regurgitation. It is advised to follow the instructions given by your vet to use the feeding tubes in kittens.
When should you introduce solid food to orphan kittens?
Solid foods can be introduced by 3 to 4 weeks of age in kittens. Canned or moistened dry foods are better preferred over human foods. Solid food should be given in the form of gruels initially. Provision should be made for fresh water to be available always. This should continue for about 6 to 8 weeks of age by which time kittens should attain 6 to 10 times the birth weight.
One must always try to find a foster mother for kittens before attempting to go for homemade or a commercial diet. Advantages of feeding through the foster mother are,
- Presence of good nutrients
- Presence of antibodies
- Presence of enzymes
- Helps in behavioural development
If feeding induces diarrhoea, the formula can be diluted 1:2 with electrolyte solution until the neonate can tolerate it.
A healthy pet is a happy pet
Dr. Chandrashekhar Salimath