Saturday, June 21, 2008

Weekend Cat Blogging: How to feed kittens

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

16 comments:

Jessika said...

Well, congrats to cat mom Anne ;). Too bad about the brothers! Are you working at the same time or do you take turns so that you get some uninterrupted sleep?

Anne said...

Uninterrupted sleep - ah, well, no. I do the night shifts. It's just one night feeding - at 3 or 4 - but Per does the late night and early morning. I can work from home these weeks, luckily. :) It's a good thing it's summer!

Dianne said...

Oh how cute those little kittens are!

KARLAVAGNEN said...

I have recently been in a similar situation with a somewhat older orphaned kitten, who went straight onto solids. But I had to stimulate the bowelmovements.

These two kittens are superlucky to have their mum to do part of the job, and of course the two of you for the nursing part.

Bon courage!

Anonymous said...

I am so happy these kittens are doing well. They are indeed lucky to have you and Per on their side!

Happy belated midsommer, btw!

Brad and I are off to Montréal tomorrow - just a quick trip (3 nights). We had an incredible time in Italy, too. Just returned from there on June 10. I will send you a long overdue e-mail after we're back from Montréal!

Ciao bella!

Jeff

Big Boys Oven said...

oh congrat, such cute kittens!

JoLynn Braley from The Fit Shack said...

Wow, so this is what my vet tech goes through! The kittens (now grown) that I adopted were raised by her at home - she does that a lot because people bring them into the vet and drop them off.

She raises them until they are old enough to be adopted...she had to clean up one of them (the boy) all the time since he didn't have a mother. At least you don't need to do that. :)

This is an excellent post Anne with all of the instructions and pictures, stumbled it for ya, hope you get some traffic on it.

Dagmar - A Cat in the Kitchen said...

You're doing great, I'm so impressed. The kittens are lucky Excellent guide and beautiful photos and kittens!

ptasia said...

So great they're doing fine - good job!

allaboutattitude said...

Adorable .... if only they could stay that way forever!!

Garlotte said...

Congrats! they are so cute!!!

glamah16 said...

Your doing a great job and keeping it all together!. You are a good 'Mommy"

Anonymous said...

Anne, thank you for looking after these baby kittens and for writing about it. I love your stories about them and I am so happy your kittens are doing well.
I would like to know if Kelly is comofortable letting you feed them, does she get nervous about it? Or is she completely trusting you with the kittens? And do the kittens come to you readily?

Wonderful stories, thank you so much!
Anna

Anne said...

Thanks everyone! :) Anna, Kelly trusts us completely, me a little bit more than Per but she's fine with both of us feeding her babies. If they scream TOO much, she gets a little worried and comes to check it out, but she's really trusting. :) The kittens are pretty much sleeping when we're not feeding them, but they seem to recognize our smell, and will start to suck at our fingers if we don't feed them fast enough. :)

Debs said...

Oh so cute! Thanks for indulging my daily need to see adorable, tiny kittens.

Food Is Love

emiglia said...

The kittens are adorable, Anne. And kudos to you for taking such good care of them when Kelly can't!