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Raising Orphan Kittens
When the mother of a kitten has died or has abandoned him, the kitten may need hand raising. In feral cats, the reason for them being taken away is maybe for taming. Kittens should only be taken from their mother after 6 weeks of age if possible. For taming wild kittens, around 4 weeks because taming becomes harder as they grow older. Young kittens need their mommy’s milk for antibodies and nutrition so it is best that the mother feed her kittens as long as possible. Passive immunity normally lasts until about the kittens are 6-14 weeks. Orphans are most vulnerable to diseases since they do not have that protection.
Find a foster mother cat
Orphans need a foster feline mother to have a good chance of survival. Cats usually feed kittens other than their own so try finding one by calling vets, animal shelters, breeders or the cat people you know.
You must devote considerable amount of energy and time in taking care of a kitten if you decide to feed him yourself before weaning age. But still, that does not guarantee survival since the younger the kitten is, the more fragile he is. He may not survive no matter how good the care is without a feline mother to feed him.
Warmth and First Aid
When you find an abandoned kitten, the first thing you must do is to protect him from chill. Place him under blankets or next to your skin for warmth. Young kitten’s energy is necessary for growth and yelling for more food which is why there is not much left for heat generation. At first, the mother and siblings would give the kitten a good amount of warmth. On their first week, they should be kept at 88-92 degrees F. The following week, around 80 degrees or so would be fine. Once they reach 5 weeks and above, a lower room temperature is tolerable.
Take the kitten to a vet if possible, his general condition needs to be checked out. Without a mother, a kitten may become dehydrated very quickly and may need fluids under his skin. A sign of dehydration in a kitten is when he has very little energy and appetite. This is probably due to lack of fluids or diarrhea. Stools must also be tested for parasites or worms. The vet can have plenty of advice on hand raising kittens and the needed supplies so you better not skip this step.
Upon reaching home, provide warmth for the kitten by placing him in an isolated, draft free, warm place. You can feed him by using an eyedropper or nursing bottle which is available at the vet. Be very careful not to force feed the kitten when using an eyedropper. Let him suck the fluid at his own pace so as not to fill his lungs with milk and cause pneumonia. The bottle method is best once he is old enough to suckle. A company named Catac even designed a kitten nurser which keep air bubbles out of the baby’s tummy.
Don’t forget to sterilize all utensils before feeding the kitten. To feed the little one, place his tummy down on a towel or textured surface to which he could cling to. With the tip of your finger, carefully open his mouth, then slip the nipple in between his jaws. Keep a light pull every now and then to encourage him vigorous sucking. If the kitten suddenly aspirates milk into his lungs, immediately hold him upside down until the choking stops. Seek veterinary assistance if the kitten is not strong enough to suckle.
Baby kittens must be fed every 3 to 4 hours and the milk should be warmed to body temperature. For recommended feeding amounts and feedings per day, check the package. The number of daily feedings he should receive is determined by the kitten’s age.
Signs to look up when the baby kitten had enough formula are, his tummy will be rounded and bubbles will form around his mouth. Burp him by holding him upright against your shoulder, patting him lightly on the back. Just like humans, baby kittens must burp after each meal. Never overfeed kittens for it can result to diarrhea or other problems.
Kittens with anemia or those lacking appetite may need vitamins and minerals supplement such as Pet-Tinic, which is available at the vet and pet food stores. This will rebuild his systems and stimulate his appetite. Just follow the directions indicated on the bottle and give it through a dropper or by adding it to his food.
To ensure your kitten is growing properly, weigh him frequently. If he is growing at an incredible rate, it’s a sign he is thriving!
The kitten’s biological mother takes care of her kitten in many ways than we know. She stimulates her baby kitten’s bladder and bowels by licking his abdomen. The surrogate mother cat must carefully rub the baby kitten’s tummy with a moistened cotton ball with warm water. Do not overdo it, rub only enough to stimulate the kitten to discharge waste. Watch out for chafing which is an indicator that you are rubbing too hard.
Keep the baby kitten and the area clean. Wash their fur all over as the mother would do, using short strokes with a barely damp cloth. This gives them a feeling of attention and well-being too. If the kitten has caked stool on his fur due to diarrhea, it is best to wash him in warm water. Do this quickly so as not to make the baby kitten cold. Pat him dry.
The kitten may feel frustrated by the lack of his mother’s breast and cause him to suckle his litter mate’s body parts which may result to irritations. Satisfy his oral need by caressing his mouth with a soft cloth or your finger.
As soon as abandoned kittens are found, they must be cleaned and get rid of fleas to avoid Flea anemia. Flea anemia can interfere with your attempt to save any abandoned kitten and fleas carry tape worm eggs. There are flea sprays at the vet which can be used on kittens. Adams flea spray has been found safe to use on kittens and effective in killing fleas. Once the kitten has rid of fleas, bathe him in warm water with gentle soap or surgical soap if there are flea sores present. Dry him immediately to avoid getting chill. You can also use hair dryer if the kitten is 1-3 weeks of age. Be careful not to blow in their face and keep the level of heat tolerable. Older kittens are usually scared of the noise of the hair dryer, you may opt to just towel dry them and then place them in a container in a warm place such as next to a refrigerator. You may also put the towel dried kitten inside a pet carrier and then use the hair dryer letting in some warm air to the bag.
You may begin weaning the kitten at the age of 4 weeks if necessary. You may begin by providing him formula in a bowl. Later on, gradually introduce solid foods. Some baby foods that work well are strained baby food or Hill’s brand. You can also moisten dry kitten food with water or formula because young kittens cannot chew dry kitten food. This takes time so do not expect him to be weaned right away.
Reduce the bottle feedings as he eats more often from the bowl. You can also give canned kitten food to introduce solid food to the kitten. Check the instructions on the container. Much of what is sold in supermarkets is junk food so try buying high quality food from the vet or pet food stores. Changes in foods or diet may cause diarrhea which can be life threatening to a baby kitten so it is important to keep an eye on the stools.
Litter Box Training
The perfect time to introduce the baby kitten to litter box is on his 4th week of age. Place him in the litter box after every meal. Show him how to scratch in the litter by taking his paw and start digging the sand or litter. He will surely catch on quickly.
Love and Attention
The baby kitten needs emotional closeness aside from the food and warmth that you give. Let him snuggle with you and pet him more often. Experts say that hand raised kittens show greater loyalty, deeper affection to owners, and show higher intelligence. Lots of handling for kittens make them easier to train as well.
A kitten usually weighs 2-4 ounces at birth. He should double in body weight by the end of his first week. On his 8th day, he should open his eyes for the first time. For two more weeks his eyes will remain blue. The real eye color will only appear until he is about 3 months old. The ears will begin to stand up on his second week. He will try to walk on his third week. On the fourth week, the kitten will start playing with his litter mates and develop his teeth. As to the timing of the necessary vaccinations, go check it with your vet. On 8th week, the kitten should be ready for adoption and if she/he’s in good health he can be spayed and neutered.
Adopted orphan kittens are very vulnerable to diseases. Take them to the vet immediately at the first symptom of abnormal behavior or loss of appetite. Upper respiratory infections and colds are caused by viruses which claim many kittens every year. Chlamydia is one of these organisms which cause permanent eye damage to kitten’s eyes. It could result to blindness if bacteria invade the infected eye. The eyeball can be badly scarred even by a lesser infection.
Worms, food changes, and even overfeeding could result to diarrhea. The result of this is dehydration if it is not managed properly and it could be fatal. Feline distemper is a chronic danger to baby kittens as well, especially those babies who did not have their mother’s antibodies. It is an airborne, very contagious fatal disease.
A Final Word
Raising and caring for an orphan baby kitten is a hard work, even the most conscientious foster mother may lose the baby kitty. The foster mother should not blame herself should the baby kitten die, nor should she accept the credit if the kitty thrives. A baby kitten is most likely to die at birth, in his 1st week, or while weaning. But you have a good chance of raising poor orphaned kittens with accurate information and the ability to care.
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