Although feeding a unweaned kitten may seem fun or cute, it is a difficult and rigorous act that should not be taken lightly, and should only be performed when its mother cannot or cannot. does not want to take care of him, which sometimes happens for various reasons.
It is first of all important to define what a unweaned kitten is: it is a kitten, which is not yet independent, which will still need its mother to meet its primary needs and therefore to survive. Let’s find out how to act with a kitten on its own, unable to fend for itself.
When should you feed an unweaned kitten?
When a cat gives birth under normal conditions, she instinctively takes care of all her kittens, which will therefore not need human intervention. Unfortunately, there are many cases in which a kitten of the litter, or even a few or even the entire litter, does not receive the care of their mother; The reasons may be diverse :
- the death of the mother: naturally, it is extremely sad, but it can happen. Whether it is because the mother is too weak at the time of childbirth which requires too much effort from her to such an extent that she succumbs, or if there is an accident during childbirth, the mother can unfortunately die and the whole litter will be on its own. Suffice to say that without human intervention, it will have no chance of survival.
- the abandonment of the kittens by the mother: most often, this happens because the mother’s state of health does not allow her to breastfeed them, otherwise her maternal instinct would take over. Here, it is her survival instinct that prevails, pushing her to abandon her young to their fate, to protect her own life. It will then be up to man to take over, to give these little ones a chance of survival.
- too many litter: a female cat usually gives birth to a litter of between four and six kittens, this number being up to nine without danger. Beyond that, the litter is often too large for the mother to take care of all of them, and especially all of them breastfeed. It will therefore unfortunately have to “make a choice” and abandon the weakest or weakest, to preserve the lives of those most likely to survive. It might sound cruel, but it’s actually just a natural reflex. As a master, it will therefore be necessary to observe during breastfeeding if one or more of the young are put aside by the mother, in the case of too many kittens.
- one or more individual (s) too weak: this is again a natural reflex of the mother, which can seem very cruel to us, but in nature, for most mammals, if a mother feels that one or more of her young is too weak to survive , she will prefer to leave it or them aside, as if this or these were already condemned. Thus, she will devote herself more to the survival of the little ones who seem stronger to her. Here too, as a master, it will be necessary to observe whether certain kittens are put aside during breastfeeding. If this is the case, then they will have to be taken care of.
Feeding a unweaned kitten: how to proceed? With what food?
If you have to take care of a unweaned kitten, you will need to make an appointment with a veterinarian as soon as possible, especially if he is the only one to have been put aside, because he could well have a genetic or other abnormality, which prompted the mother to part with it. The vet will carry out examinations, if necessary, to try to find out what is wrong with the little one, and he will advise you on how to proceed with the kitten, especially when it comes to food.
Once back home (or even before going to the vet if you have the time), you will need to set up a “nest” for the abandoned baby (s). So prefer a plastic box with edges high enough so that they cannot escape, the bottom of which you will cover with towels, which will have to be changed very regularly (children at this age are obviously not yet clean).
It will also be necessary to take care of the heat, since the newborns do not yet have the capacity to move, or even to tremble to raise their body temperature. It will therefore be necessary to store the box which serves as their nest near a radiator, so that it reaches around 30 ° C. If the little one is alone, adding bottles of hot water wrapped in towels can also help maintain a proper temperature, since he won’t be able to snuggle up to his siblings like he would under normal conditions. . However, the water in the bottles will have to be changed regularly to keep them at the right temperature.
Colostrum: a substance essential for the survival of the kitten
During the first feedings of the young and up to 48 hours after giving birth, the mother transmits colostrum to her young. This substance is vital for their survival, since if their immune system is functional, it remains immature and therefore ineffective. As a result, by drinking colostrum, the kitten absorbs its mother’s antibodies, which thus protect it from the germs potentially present in its environment.
When the kitten does not have access to this maternal colostrum, it therefore becomes extremely vulnerable to all diseases. It will be necessary to contact a veterinarian very quickly (within 15 hours after birth at most), so that he can inject him with artificial colostrum, thus allowing him to be protected against his environment.
The kitten’s diet: the choice of milk
The first instinct a human might have to feed a kitten is to give it cow’s milk. However, this is a mistake, since this milk, intended primarily for animals much larger than the kitten (in this case the calf), will absolutely not be suitable. This milk contains too much casein and lactose, which will cause digestion difficulties for the kitten, in addition to not providing enough energy.
It will therefore be necessary to discuss this with your veterinarian, who will most often prescribe powdered mother’s milk for kittens, which will have to be diluted with water. This milk can be found in certain veterinarians, in certain pharmacies or pet stores. The instructions must be read carefully in order to follow the doses indicated to dilute in water.
Finally, there is a “homemade recipe” for making milk for a kitten: it consists of adding egg yolk and 12% fat cream to cow’s milk, but this solution must remain temporary, only while waiting to see the vet or get the right breast milk.
The right way to feed a kitten
Of course, before the age of three weeks, the kitten cannot yet lap up the milk, so it will have to be bottle-fed. Most of the time, it is present in the can of powdered milk. Otherwise, you can find suitable models for kittens in pharmacies or at a veterinarian.
The milk should also be warmed to a temperature of around 38.5 ° C. Above, the milk would burn the digestive system of the kitten, and below, it would cause hypothermia in the latter.
Finally, the kitten must be fed a very large number of times a day, a number which will decrease as it grows, while adapting the quantity according to the indications appearing on the milk box:
- 8 meals a day the first week,
- 6 meals a day the second week,
- 5 meals a day the third week,
- 4 meals a day the fourth week,
- 3 or 4 meals a day until weaning.
From the fourth week, you can start adding kitten kibble to the milk to gradually get her used to solid food. From two months, the milk can be stopped to switch exclusively to kitten kibble.