Caring for a kitten, especially one without a mother, can be stressful. Today our Grass Valley vets share ways to take care of a kitten that is without their mother and what situations may require veterinary care.
Taking Care of a Kitten
While kittens are a good addition to many homes, they require specialized care, especially if they no longer have their mother. These needs are different for every stage of their life, and if something goes wrong or is missed it can impact their overall health and longevity. Here we talk about how you can care for your new furry friend during their kitten years.
How To Take Care of a Newborn Kitten
When a kitten is 0 - 4 weeks old they are considered a newborn, they are still learning how to meow, walk, and even regulate their body temperature. At this stage, the mother would care for the kitten entirely including feeding them. All you would have to do is make sure the mother is in good health and that they are in a warm and safe environment. Make sure the floor of their crate/area is covered with a blanket, and they have a warm bed to lay on. However, if the kitten does not have a mother the first thing you should do is take them to see a vet. Your vet will inform you of the health of the kitten as well as how you can help care for them.
Provide Consistent Warmth For Your New Kitten
If the kitten doesn't have a mother you will have to do more to help keep them warm by using something such as putting a heating disk in the crate or putting a heating pad on low heat underneath a blanket in their cage. You should also make a little nest out of blankets for the kitten to lay in for comfort. It's important that you make sure that the heating pad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands and providing a comfortable place in your kitten's cage/crate that does not have a heating item so they can go there if they get too warm.
You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old because if kittens get too cold they will catch hypothermia, for this reason, their area should be kept at 85oF or 29oC.
Recommended Diet For Your New Kitten
When a kitten doesn't have a mother then you will have to provide them with the sustenance they need. You will have to bottle feed your kitten a special kitten formula every 2 - 4 hours. Every kitten is different, your veterinarian will be able to inform you of the best formula to use, how much to feed them and how frequently you should be feeding your kitten. In order for kittens to grow healthily, they will need to gain approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your cat cow milk and always make sure you are feeding them the same formula. And, in order for your kitty to digest food properly they will have to be kept warm.
Once Your Kitten Has Grown
When the kitten you are caring for is around 5 to 10 weeks old they should gradually stop being bottle fed or fed by their mothers and start feeding them high protein meals about 3 to 4 times a day. You can start this by pouring the formula into a food bowl and possibly adding a bit of softened hard food or canned soft food to help ease them in the process. And because their motor skills will be improving at this stage they will start becoming adventurous and you will have to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't get themselves into trouble. When your kitten is between 2 and 4 months old they will require lots of attention and you will need to keep an eye on them to keep them out of trouble.
Once your kitten is 4 to 6 months old they will be considered an adolescent. This is when they are generally very troublesome and might require some behavioral modification, this is also when you should start considering having them spayed or neutered before they reach the 6 - 8 month mark.
Preventive Care To Help Protect Your Kitten
Regardless of their age, you should bring your kitten for their first veterinary visit as soon as you are caring for them. Your veterinarian will evaluate the health of your kitten as well as inform you of their dietary needs. This also provides you with the opportunity to ask any questions you may have in regard to the care of your new family member.
Preventive care that includes wellness exams, routine vaccinations, and parasite prevention will be crucial for the lifelong health of your new kitten.
Regular wellness exams give your vet the opportunity to assess the overall health and well-being of your kitten including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.
You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of its vaccinations and parasite prevention on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.
When To Seek Veterinary Care
When caring for a kitten there are many things you need to keep an eye out for in every stage of your kitten's life, which could indicate a problem or even a veterinary emergency. If your kitten begins to display any of the signs below then you should contact your vet immediately.
Here is what you need to keep an eye out for in a newborn kitten:
- Delays or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
- Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
Once your kitten is 4 weeks old, you will also need to begin watching for these other signs:
- Litter box usage/ not using the litter box
- Signs of play biting or aggression
- Fears and other concerning behaviors that should be managed when they are still young