How to care for orphaned kittens under three weeks old

How to care for orphaned kittens under three weeks old
How to care for orphaned kittens under three weeks old

It can be very rewarding, but also quite taxing, to take care of newborn and orphaned kittens. Humans are not the best replacement for a cat, as caring for and feeding kittens is a full-time job. Unfortunately, it happens that a cat is unable to feed her young for health reasons or because she has rejected them, which therefore requires feeding them by hand. Before bottle-feeding these kittens, call an animal welfare organization or veterinarian to try and find a nursing cat. Some will agree to feed and care for orphaned kittens and this is the best thing you can do to ensure their survival. Otherwise, you will need to create a nursery and learn how to properly feed and care for kittens under three weeks old.


Part 1 of 3: create a nursery

Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 1

Step 1. Learn to handle kittens

Always try to wash your hands before and after handling kittens. They can carry disease or be susceptible to germs and bacteria that you may harbor on your own. Take care when carrying kittens. Always check that they are hot by feeling the pads of their paws to see if they are not cold. They are likely to cry if they are cold.

Make sure to keep your other pets away from orphaned kittens, if you have any, for at least two weeks. Don't let them share litter, food, or water bowls, as they can spread disease

Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 2

Step 2. Keep them warm

Newborn kittens (less than two weeks old) are unable to regulate their body temperature and usually keep warm by curling up against their mother. Since they cannot do this, you should provide them with a heating pad designed for puppies or kittens. Lay the kittens on the heating pad, making sure to avoid direct contact if it is not covered with a cloth. Wrap the pillow with a towel, if not.

  • Kittens should never be in direct contact with a heating pad, as they can burn or overheat.
  • You can also use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, but you should check several times that it stays hot (around 37 ° C).
Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 3

Step 3. Set up a cozy bed

Place a box or crate somewhere isolated from your home. The room you put it in should be warm, draft-free, and away from other pets. Pad the box with a towel to give the kittens a cozy place to rest. You should also cover this box or crate with another towel to keep it warm.

Try not to cover the ventilation holes in the box or transport crate to avoid suffocating the kittens

Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 4

Step 4. Keep the kittens together

You don't need to put each kitten in a separate box. Put them all together in the same cozy nest. It will also keep them warm and comfort them. Make sure the kittens have enough room to move around.

Kittens should be able to move away from a heating pad, for example, if they are too hot

Part 2 of 3: Feeding the kittens

Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 5

Step 1. Purchase powdered replacement formula

You can find them at a veterinary clinic, pet store, or online. It is the feline equivalent of infant formula, which contains the same nutritional elements as cat milk. Never give cow's milk since kittens cannot tolerate lactose, which is the sugar in milk.

If you don't have replacement milk to feed your hungry kittens, offer them boiled water that has been cooled. Use a food dropper or syringe until you are able to get to a pet store or veterinary clinic. The water will keep the kittens hydrated and will not make them sick

Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 6

Step 2. Prepare the food for the kittens

Sterilize the bottle in boiling water then let it cool completely on a clean towel. Mix the breast milk substitute powder with a whisk to remove any lumps. You should heat the milk to a temperature of 37 ° C before giving it to the kittens. Pour a drop of the liquid on your wrist to check that it is not too hot before giving it.

Always make sure kittens are warm before feeding them. Never feed a kitten whose temperature is below 36 ° C. This can cause aspiration pneumonia, which will cause breathing problems and even death

Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 7

Step 3. Correctly position kittens and bottles for feeding

Never hold a kitten like you would a baby. Instead, keep the kitten on its feet with its head upright, much as if it were breastfeeding its mother. Hold him by the back or neck and insert the pacifier at one corner of his mouth, then in the center. The kitten will adjust until it is comfortable. Let the kitten control the sucking from the pacifier. Do not squeeze her or force milk into her mouth.

  • Remember to burp the kittens after feeding them. Do it as you would a baby. Lay a kitten on your chest, lap, or shoulder and gently rub its back with two fingers until it burps.
  • Immobilize the kitten's head and prevent it from moving if it is having trouble starting its burp. Try to feed him again and just express a few drops of milk. He's probably going to burp.
Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 8

Step 4. Feed them frequently

You will be able to tell when the kittens are hungry if you see them crying and fidgeting for a pacifier. Kittens should be fed every two to three hours night and day for the first two weeks after birth. It is best to use a bottle specially designed for kittens and which has a pacifier suitable for feline babies (you can find it at a veterinarian). Follow the instructions on the packaging to know the quantities of milk to give at each feeding. A full kitten will often fall asleep while nursing and have a small, round belly.

  • In an emergency, use a dropper or small food syringe to get the milk into the kittens' mouths.
  • You can space out feeding up to about every four hours when kittens are over two weeks old with six hours overnight.

Part 3 of 3: Caring for Kittens

Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 9

Step 1. Help the kittens eliminate urine and stool

The mother usually licks the kittens' genitals after each meal to help them clear their stool and urine. You should therefore wipe the kittens' hindquarters with a cotton pad dipped in hot water before and after each feeding. This encourages the kitten to relieve itself, which it cannot do on its own for a few weeks. Place the kitten on a clean blanket and lay it on its side. Use the damp cotton pad to rub the genitals in the same direction and not back and forth, which can be irritating. You will notice that the kitten will start to urinate or defecate. Keep rubbing until it's finished removing, otherwise it might not be able to do it completely.

The urine of the kittens should not be smelly and should be a pale yellow color. The stools should be yellowish brown. The kitten may be dehydrated or sick, if you notice very light or greenish stools or dark urine that smells quite strongly

Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 10

Step 2. Clean them

When you have fed the kittens and helped them relieve themselves, you will still need to wash them. Take a cloth soaked in hot water and run it over the kittens' coats with fairly brief movements. Make sure to towel dry the kittens until they are completely dry and put them back in their cozy bed.

Gently dip the kittens' hindquarters in a bowl of hot water if you notice any dry stool stuck to their coat. You can then gently wipe the softened stools with a cloth

Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 11

Step 3. Check their weight

Kittens should gain weight at a regular interval throughout the first two months of life. Make sure you weigh each kitten at the same time every day and note their weight. Kittens will usually double their weight within a week of birth. They should gain about 15g per day in the first week. Something is wrong if the kittens stop gaining or losing weight and they need to see a vet.

A kitten will, for example, weigh at birth between 90 and 110 grams. A kitten of about two weeks should therefore weigh around 250g and around 300g at three weeks

Care for Orphaned Kittens Less Than Three Weeks of Age Step 12

Step 4. Know when you should take the kittens to a vet

It is good to take the kittens to a vet as soon as possible so that he can check that they are not dehydrated, that they do not have worms or parasites and in order to carry out a health examination. general. Some veterinary clinics may even offer you a free exam if you specify that you are caring for orphan kittens. You should also know when to take them to a vet for treatment. You should do this in the following cases:

  • too high or too low a temperature (above 40 ° C or below 36 ° C),
  • a lack of appetite (have a kitten urgently examined that has not eaten all day),
  • vomiting (take him to a vet right away if he is constantly vomiting)
  • weight loss,
  • coughing, sneezing, discharge from the eyes or nose
  • diarrhea (take him to a vet immediately, if it persists)
  • a lack of energy,
  • any bleeding (this is a veterinary emergency),
  • respiratory problems (this is also a veterinary emergency),
  • any trauma, such as being hit by a heavy object, falling, stepping on, limping or unconscious (these are veterinary emergencies).


  • Castration and sterilization operations are offered in most municipalities to limit the wandering feline population.
  • Animal shelters are often a good place to get inexpensive veterinary advice and care. Kittens can also be found homes when they are of adoption age. Some shelters also have volunteers who are dedicated to raising the kittens until they are of adoptive age.
  • The best solution for a newborn kitten is still its mother. Stray kittens should stay with their mothers for up to four weeks, if possible. Observe the litter to make sure it is orphaned or abandoned before you take it on. The mother is often around and is watching you closely. Abandoned kittens will be dirty and constantly cry from hunger and cold.
  • Drop off a litter of newborn and orphaned kittens as quickly as possible that you have found in a shelter or animal welfare organization if you can't take care of them or don't know anyone who can. The SPA or a local association will know how to take care of these orphan kittens if you cannot afford to do it yourself.
  • If there is only one kitten, you can give it a small, cuddly stuffed animal that will keep it warm and remind it of its litter mates and mother.
  • Use a toothbrush to mimic the roughness of a cat's tongue on the kitten's tummy after her meal. Place a clock that ticks in the kittens' nursery, as this has the power to soothe them.

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