Caring for newborn kittens that have been orphaned or abandoned can be an extremely rewarding experience. However, if you have never cared for them before, it may feel overwhelming trying to get your bearings. A major component of newborn kitten care is managing their nutrition with bottle feedings. The following guide will detail the supplies, steps, and stages associated with bottle-feeding kittens so that you can feel confident caring for your feline friends as well as how much and how often to bottle-feed a kitten.
What You Need to Bottle Feed a Kitten
Before starting to bottle feed you will need to gather appropriate supplies, including the following:
The 5 Steps to Bottle Feed a Kitten
1. Warm the bottle formula
This may be accomplished by placing the bottle in a bowl of hot water for several minutes until warm. Test the temperature of the formula before feeding, to ensure that it is not too hot.
2. Position the kitten for feeding
Kittens should be flat on their stomach or leaning forward slightly while taking a bottle. Sometimes it is helpful to gently wrap a kitten in a towel or blanket. Kittens should never be placed on their backs for feedings as this may cause them to aspirate, and can potentially lead to pneumonia.
3. Introduce the bottle
The bottle should be held at a 45-degree angle to help minimize ingestion of air during feedings. The nipple can be introduced by gently opening the kitten’s mouth with a finger. If a kitten is reluctant to suckle, gentle but vigorous stroking of their head and back may stimulate a nursing response by mimicking care that would be provided by a mother cat. If a kitten seems weak, cold, or is uninterested in feedings, veterinary care should be sought right away.
4. Attempt stimulation
Young kittens require regular grooming by their mother to go to the bathroom. Therefore, stimulating orphaned kittens to urinate and defecate is essential, and should occur both before and after feedings. To accomplish this a warm, damp, cotton swab may be used to gently rub the lower abdomen, genital, and rectal areas of a kitten. Urination should occur with each stimulation, and defecation should be noted at least once per day. Stimulation to eliminate should continue until approximately 3–4 weeks of age.
5. Clean kittens
A warm, slightly damp washcloth should be used to gently clean the face and body of kittens after feeding and elimination. After ensuring that the kitten is clean and dry, they can be placed back in their warm cage or crate.
Amount and Frequency of Feedings
Once you have your supplies and have successfully initiated a feeding, the next step will be to determine how much and how often to bottle feed your kittens. In general, kittens should eat 2 tablespoons or 30 ml of formula per 4 ounces of body weight every 24 hours. While some variation may exist, the following guidelines for feeding frequency are recommended:
Weaning from bottle feedings may begin around 3–4 weeks of age. Bottle feeding should continue while kittens are learning to eat solid food, however, the amount and frequency may decrease as weaning progresses. Once a kitten is eating dry food successfully, bottle feedings may be discontinued.
How to Wean From Bottle Feedings
A kitten is ready to start weaning when its deciduous teeth have started to erupt, and they are consistently attempting to bite the nipple during feedings. This is a gradual process and some variation may occur from kitten to kitten. The following steps detail how to successfully transition a kitten to solid food:
Weaning kittens is an exciting, albeit messy time! Kittens learning to eat solid food often end up covered in gruel or slurry and can become cold quickly. Ensuring that kittens are staying clean and dry is an important part of the weaning process. It will also be important to continue weighing your kittens daily, to ensure appropriate weight gain during this time.
Conclusion: How to Bottle Feed a Kitten
From round-the-clock bottle feedings to their first bites of solid food, providing appropriate nutrition for kittens can seem like a full-time job. Once fully weaned, your efforts will be rewarded in the form of healthy, thriving kittens, ready to take on the world!
Featured Image Credit: Anca Popa, Shutterstock