Mistakes made in feeding kittens may affect their health for the rest of their lives. That is why proper feeding of the kittens is an important element for the growth of strong and viable litter. It is important to avoid any mistakes in feeding as the baby is growing very quickly, and even a week of improper feeding may adversely affect the development of the whole organism.
The first three weeks
From the birth and during the first month of life (and sometimes much longer) the kittens are nursed by their mother. The cat-mother doesn’t leave the litter alone for a long time, licks the kittens and helps them to empty the bowel. During this period, the owner should control that all kittens ate actively, and their mother was regularly fed.
Feeding the newborn kittens becomes the responsibility of the owner if the cat for some reason refused to take care of the litter, in case it has no milk or died in labors. This is a complex task requiring a lot of time and certain skills. Up to three weeks the owner can’t leave the kittens unattended for longer than three hours! It is important to objectively evaluate this problem: if you are not able to spend that much time with the litter, you need to find someone to help as soon as possible through a veterinarian or on the Internet.
It is important to find a veterinarian who will regularly examine kittens left motherless. Even an experienced owner may have a need to consult a specialist once in a while. Orphaned kittens are usually vaccinated earlier than suckling as they don’t get antibodies to infections, which are contained in cat’s breast milk.
Today bottle feeding of orphaned kittens isn’t a problem. There are special formulas and feeding bottles sold in pet stores; it is the best thing you can give a kitten left without mother. Such formulas are balanced and their composition is close to the natural cat’s milk. Eating from the bottle, a kitten won’t choke with food particles (because getting into the lungs they often cause pneumonia, and for a newborn kitten almost always it means a death).
Feeding orphan kittens with self-prepared formulas is not desirable, but if there is no other way, there are several recipes:
- One part of the whipped egg white plus five pieces of goat/cow milk. Goat milk doesn’t differ a lot in composition from cow’s milk, but it is better digested;
- Mixed in equal proportions goat/cow milk with filtered water;
- Goat/cow milk, a drop of vegetable oil with the addition of multivitamin drops for kittens 3 times a day;
- Goat/cow milk plus a little of glucose or honey;
- Baby formula (follow instructions, but add a bit less water than it is required for a baby).
It is important to prevent diarrhea in little kittens. As far as the food temperature is concerned: the first three days it should be about 100,5 °F, then followed by a gradual decline to 89,5 °F, during the third week stick to the temperature of about 82,5 °F, and during the fourth – about 77 °F.
Feeding schedule: every two to three hours round-the-clock during the first fifteen days, then the number of nighttime feedings is gradually reduced. During the third week the kittens are fed every three hours during the day and once at night, up to the age of 6 weeks – once at night and five times a day. Kittens overeat rarely, so you can give them food as much as they want to eat.
You should feed a kitten in a natural position, so you should put the kitten on its tummy. When there is no possibility to buy a bottle, you may use a pipette or a syringe without a needle. However, it is not desirable, since kittens should suck the formula on their own – lost sucking reflex can be hardly restored. For convenience, you can put a kitten in a usual toilet tray (of course, in a new one). Put a small mattress in it and cover it with a disposable diaper. After the meal, be sure to massage the baby’s belly and anus so that the kitten could empty its bowels and bladder.
Feeding newborn kittens with milk or formulas to the age of one month. Then you should diversify the diet gradually adding new products to the menu. The main rule – no more than one kind of new food per day. If you plan to feed an adult cat with dry or canned feed, the diet you should gradually introduce canned feed for kittens, and from the age of six weeks – soaked dry feed for kittens. If the owner prefers natural feeding, complementary feeding begins with cottage cheese and milk porridge, after that you may give the kitten small pieces of beef, some chicken or low-fat rabbit. You can also use baby food (puree in jars). Add some vegetables, stewed in the water or cut in a salad. You should give your cat eggs with caution, as they are difficult to digest. It is important keep an eye on the color and consistency of stool, because any change is a signal that the new product is not very suitable for the kitten.
From two to six months
At the age of two months weaning is possible (although it is advisable to wait until the kitten is three months old). In this period the kitten eats almost all the products used for adult cat feeding. Feeding two month old kittens should include five daily meals. If you prefer feeding with natural products – you may add everything that an adult animal would eat, but the pieces should be baby-size, and the food should be slightly above room temperature. Industrial food means soaked pellets of dry or canned food. Be sure you feed the cat with the products of the line “for two month old kittens”. Again, add only one new product per day, and in case some food would cause allergy or indigestion, the owner won’t have to guess what product caused such a negative reaction. When the kitten is from four to six months, the number of feedings is gradually reduced to three per day. A half-year-old kitten should eat in usual servings two times a day or three times a day in smaller servings. Adult cats are fed once or twice a day.