Normal baby kittens spend 90% of their time sleeping with their mothers and 10% of
their time nursing. They are a picture of contentment. |
Abandoned baby kittens present a different picture. Cold, hungry and alone they will cry out for their mother and if not rescued will die quickly from the cold and lack of food. Baby kittens are unable to sustain their body temperatures.
All kittens are born with closed eyes and closed ear canals. They can neither see nor hear during the first few days of life. Kittens find their way to a mother’s nipple by sense of smell and tactile sensations. The ear canals will begin to open at 5-8 days of life. Eyes begin to open at 8 days and are completely open at 14 days. All kittens are born with blue eyes and their true colors appear when they are three weeks old. This information can help you determine the approximate age of a kitten.
Emergency care of Abandoned Kittens.
The greatest single danger to abandoned kittens is chilling. A kitten separated from its mother will not live long. Prolonged exposure to cold results in a drop of body temperature and, if it drops below the blood sugar level, the kitten’s internal organs begin a systematic shutdown. If you find abandoned kittens and they feel cold to the touch, hyperthermia has set in and the kitten’s condition is critical.
Although the reaction would be to warm a kitten, care must be taken not to warm the kitten too quickly or dehydration, shock and death can result.
Here are some techniques you can use to warm the kitten as safely as possible:
If you are outside, you can place the kitten under your coat or sweater if you have no other resources. You can also gently begin messaging the kitten to restore circulation.
If you are inside, you can wrap a hot water bottle in a towel and place it next to the kitten, or place a heating pad down the side of a cardboard box and half way beneath the box. Put a towel in the bottom of the box. Place the heating pad on the LOW temperature setting. Make sure the heating pad does not cover the entire bottom, so the kitten can move off it if it needs to.
You also can use a small cat carrier with a heating pad put as above inside.
You should never feed a cold kitten as you will overwhelm its internal organs that might be in a state of distress due to being too cold and it could die. Warm the kitten first and then offer food.
Emergency Supplement and Formula Feeding.
If a kitten is cold and needs to be warmed before feeding, you can administer .01cc of Karo Syrup Light orally or by rubbing it on the gums of the kitten. This will help to raise the blood sugar level and stabilize the kitten while it warms. If you don’t have Karo Syrup you can mix a solution of warm water and sugar in equal parts and administer .01cc. Once the kitten’s body temperature has warmed it can receive its first formula.
Baby kittens have only a very small amount of body fat and must be fed frequently and in the right amounts to maintain adequate blood sugar levels and provide energy for metabolism.
There are a number of milk replacement products (formula) available at local pet stores. KMR and Just Born are two examples. You also can use goat milk or evaporated milk as long as you dilute both of these products by at least ½ with water. (i.e. 1 oz evaporated milk and 1oz. water).
Small, weak kittens do best if they are fed every four hours for the first four days. If they cannot take the amount of formula as shown below, they should be fed more frequently with a lesser amount.
Warm the formula until it feels warm on your wrist. You can warm it in the microwave, but make sure you shake it and place a little on your wrist to make sure it is not too HOT. Place the kitten on its stomach to bottle feed to avoid having the milk run into the kitten’s windpipe. Encourage suckling by keeping a slight pull of the bottle. Do not squeeze formula into the kitten’s mouth as it can go down to fast and make the kitten aspirate.
Always burp the kitten after each feeding to prevent gas from building up in their stomachs. Be careful not to OVERFEED.
Some kittens will not suckle on a bottle right away. If this occurs, you can use an Eye Dropper or a Syringe(without the needle) to feed the kitten. Follow the same methods as with bottle feeding, just be very careful not to force too much liquid at one time as this may cause fluid to build up in the lungs.
After each meal a kitten MUST be stimulated to urinate and defecate. Massage the kitten’s anal area with a warm, damp, cotton ball or tissue. This will provide the necessary stimulation. You usually have to continue this stimulation until the kitten is about 3 weeks old and can go on its own.
A kitten’s stool should be firm and yellowish in color. A loose yellowish stool may indicate that you are overfeeding the kitten. Refer to the chart above to determine this and make corrections immediately, as overfeeding can lead to the kitten’s system being unable to digest any food which can lead to dehydration and death.
If your kitten appears restless and cries excessively check to make sure it is getting enough food. As this is a sign of being underfed, and can also lead to dehydration and death.
When a kitten is three weeks old you can begin to train it to eat out of a bowl. You can mix the formula with Gerber’s turkey and broth baby food. You can also mix Gerber Rice Cereal with the formula and offer this in a bowl or add a slight bit of the cereal to the bottle when feeding. Continue bottle feeding until you know that the kitten is eating adequately on its own.
A healthy kitten will weigh 3-4 ounces at birth and begin to gain weight rapidly a few days after birth. They should double their weight by one week. Here is a chart of the normal weight ranges for kittens
Common conditions of abandoned kittens
Fleas : Most kittens are exposed at a very young age to fleas and other parasites. It is very important that if you find a kitten infested with fleas that you remove all of them as soon as possible. Fleas can literally suck the blood out of a young kitten and the kitten can die from anemia. If the kitten is infested with fleas you can remove the fleas by bathing the kitten in Mycodex pet Shampoo, just make sure the kitten does not get chilled. Make sure the room is warm, the water warm and the kitten is dried immediately and kept warm afterwards. A fine toothed flea comb can also be effective in removing flees, should you not wish to bath the kitten.
Ear Mites: Typical signs of an ear mite infection are headshaking, pawing and scratching the ear. You can detect an ear mite infection by looking into the kitten’s ear and observing a dark brown waxy material. It is best to consult a veterinarian to get effective ear mite medicine. You do not want this condition to persist as it can cause permanent damage to the kitten’s ears if left untreated.
The most common internal parasites found in kittens are roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. The gastrointestinal parasite, Giardia and Coccidia, are also found in kittens.
Roundworms: Kittens become infected with roundworms through their mother’s milk. Infected kittens may lose their appetite, appear depressed, have diarrhea, or have roundworms visible in their stool. They are long and thin and white. It is very important that your kitten receives a worming treatment immediately if roundworms are suspected. Please consult your veterinarian as this condition can be life threatening.
Hookwoms: Hookworms are also passed to the kitten through mother’s milk. An acute infestation can cause anemia and potentially kill the kitten from loss of blood. The stool of the kitten will appear very black and possibly bloody. It is very important that your kitten receives a worming treatment immediately if hookworms are suspected. Please consult your veterinarian as this condition can be life threatening.
Tapeworms: Tapeworms are not life threatening as the other two above. Kittens become infected with tapeworms by ingesting a flea with a tapeworm. You may notice white rice looking segments in the kittens stool. Kittens are usually treated for tapeworm at six weeks of age.
Giardia: Giardia is a protozoa parasite of the small intestinal tract. Giardia interferes with the absorption of nutrients and fluids by the intestines. This leads to severe diarrhea. A yellowish, foamy, soft stool can be an indication of Giardia.
Coccidia: Coccidia is a protozoa parasite of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine. Kittens can develop dysentery from Coccidia and die. The kitten’s stool will contain mucus and blood.
There are medicines available to cure the various internal parasitic infections of kittens. Stool samples must be examined by a veterinarian to determine what medicine to use. If the kitten you are caring for has persistent diarrhea and you are not overfeeding, you can suspect an internal parasitic condition may be causing it.
Common Upper Respiratory Diseases
Eyes: A kitten’s eyes open all the way by 14 days of life. If you find a kitten with a crusty or oozing eye or eyes you can apply a warm (not hot) compress to the eye area to clean it and afterwards please see a veterinarian for eye medicine. Never force open a kitten’s eye, especially if they are under 14 days old as this can harm the eye itself.
Sneezing and Runny Noses: These are signs of upper respiratory distress and you will need to contact a veterinarian as soon as possible for diagnosis and antibiotic or other treatments.
We strongly suggest that the kitten is kept separate from any other animals in your household when you first bring it home as upper respiratory diseases, as well as most of the other conditions above, are contagious. A kitten should be isolated for 14 days as this is the amount of time within which most diseases will present themselves. We urge you to have your kitten examined by a veterinarian prior to introducing it to your current animal household and just to ensure its good health in general.
We hope the above information with be helpful to you. Caring for an abandoned baby kitten is a time consuming, and at times, difficult work. However, participating in a process that turns a fragile abandoned baby kitten into a healthy adoptable kitten is an enriching experience. Together we can substantially reduce the numbers of abandoned baby kittens that die needlessly from lack of care.