Saturday, June 21, 2008
Weekend Cat Blogging: How to feed kittens
I have food on my mind, all the time. It's just that right now, it's not human food I'm obsessed with - it's kitten food. Kelly apparently doesn't have any milk, or at least not enough, so we're feeding her cute little babies by hand. It's no picnic, since it has to be done every three or four hours, around the clock. Much like having a human baby, I suppose.
Their two brothers didn't make it. Both died last Saturday, but these two girls are strong and definitely doing well. You can see how chubby they're getting - just like kittens should be. So, I thought I'd tell you all something about how to hand-rear a kitten. I'm not an expert by any means, but this is how we do it.
Now, to hand-rear kittens, you must use special kitten formula. You can't use cow's milk, or any other type of milk - cat's milk is much higher in protein. My chosen formula is called KMR - not sure what's available where you live, but contact your vet and find out if you ever have to do this. I also mix in a little bit of powdered glucose, to give them extra energy. (About one teaspoon for every two tablespoons of dry formula.) It's not necessary, but I find that it helps.
To mix, I highly recommend a tiny electrical whisk. Formula is a pain to mix otherwise, clumping a lot. This little thing is really for foaming milk for lattes - it sucks at that, but is great for this. I mix the formula in a tiny tupperware container, and keep it in the fridge. I heat as much as I need at each feeding, just to body temperature. (Microwave - gotta love it.)
Then, you need a bottle. Many will use other things instead, droppers or syringes, but I definitely prefer a small, soft bottle. We have very long silicon teats, that we've fitted inside the teat that came with the bottle. Make sure it's *really* secure. The kittens will suck very hard, and you don't want them to swallow the teat. The hole in the teat must be small enough for the formula to just drip out a drop at a time. If it flows faster than that, it can drown the kitten.
The main hazard is that the kitten will get formula in its airway, drawing into the tiny lungs. To prevent that, don't turn the kitten on its back, and let it suckle at its own pace rather than forcing it to drink. You can keep a finger very lightly on its throat, to make sure it swallows.
Our little darlings got the hang of this very quickly, and will suckle really well now. After feeding, they purr contendedly (they started purring when they were about a week) and we usually can't resist placing them on their back and rubbing their chubby tummies.
If your cat mommy won't clean the kittens, you have to take care of that, too, but Kelly seems to be doing a good job so I'm leaving that to her. A risk with feeding kittens formula is that they can become a bit constipated - but I'll leave that worry for when I have to. We'll be doing this until the kittens are 3-4 weeks old - after that, they can move over to solid foods.