Hand raising cat babies

  Javascript DHTML Drop Down Menu Powered by dhtml-menu-builder.com  
You are in: A healthy cat
  Cat flu
Causes for rhinitis
FIP in cats: Some tips
Hand raising cat babies
  You may download an Excel XP sheet for the management of cat litters.


Hand raising cat babies




How can I find out when cat babies have to be hand raised

This is not an easy made decision to decide the right point when to start hand feeding the little cat babies.

  • You have to check the queen if she has enough milk, first examine her nipples, her udder must be quite thick, you must really feel it like a thick pillow, but it must not be hard. Then try to massage each nipple by gently pressing it between two fingers, the milk must run out easily.
  • If the queen's belly is quite flat, the queen does not have enough milk. Production of milk is quite fast, if the queen has enough milk. If the belly stays flat for a longer period, something is wrong in the milk production.
  • Some queens, which do not have enough milk, turn away from their babies and do not permit the babies to suck on their nipples. In the first days a queen, which has enough milk, does not leave her babies alone for a longer time. But here the natural selection process becomes evident, when the queen turns away from her babies, because her basic instinct tells her that she cannot preserve her own species.
    Be gentle and friendly to the queen, do not shout her, her behave is quite normal and guided by her instinct, it is only us who think that the queen might be asocial.
  • Next you have to watch the cat babies very carefully the first 24 hours. If the queen has not enough milk, you can see that immediately on the kittens' behaving.
    When they try to suck on the nipples, watch their mouth if it is moving steadily for a longer period. If they do not get enough milk they stop quite fast sucking and only hang on the nibbles and sleep, because they have given up.
  • Often the kitten start to change their nipple frequently trying to get milk from another one. Normally each kitten has its favorite nipple and stays with it. Distribution of positions amongst the kitten, which nipple is for which kitten, is made already in the very first few hours after they are born.
  • When kitten do not get enough milk they whine very often, because they are hungry and upset from getting not enough food. If they get enough milk they suck for a while and then fall asleep giving the impression of being satisfied.
  • Sometimes some queens might have milk during the first days and then milk production is decreased steadily. Best indicator to find out that is the weight of the kitten.
    The little cat babies must put on weight every day at least about 10 g.
    If they do not put on enough weight consequently every day something is wrong, this is a good indicator that the queen cannot maintain her babies and that you have to start to hand feed the kittens.

What you need for hand raising cat babies

  • You will need a little bottle with a rubber teat. You can buy this equipment either at your veterinarian or in the pet shop.
    Best is to use a plastic bottle, not a glass bottle, because when feeding the kitten you can press the bottle gently when the teat is blocked. Take care that the tip of the teat is thin and not too large or too thick, it must fit into a very tiny little mouth.
    Always sterilize the bottle and the teat in hot water after feeding otherwise there will be quite soon a film of milk on the inner surface of the bottle, a source of bacteria which are not very healthy for the kitten because they do not have the protection of their immune system which they normally get through the milk of their mother.


  • You need artificial milk which is especially produced for raising little cats. Do not use normal cow milk or condensed milk, which does not have all the vitamins and minerals the little kitten need.
    There are existing different kinds of milk from various companies, mostly in form of powder which is dissolved in hot water:
    • Gimpet (powder)
    • Whiskas (liquid)
    • KMR from Pet-AG (powder, and liquid for the first hours).

    We recommend KMR, because the dissolved milk can be kept at least 24 hours in the refrigerator and feeding frequency can be extended to an interval of 3-4 hours. So you do not have to feed the kitten every 2 hours which is extremely comfortable in the night. But be careful, do not increase the concentration after the first week as described on the box, the kitten might suffer from constipation, keep the same concentration for the whole period you must feed the kitten.


  • You need a weighing machine which has a scale indicating grams. Hold in mind that the cat babies will put on weight in the range of grams.
    • Control the weight of the kitten every day at least once, always at the same time, best is in the morning.
    • You may do it also twice a day, about 7 am to 8 am, this weight put into a weighing table, and about 6 pm to 8 pm, because thus it can be checked if the kitten will put on enough weight until the next day. If the kitten have put on weight approx. between 15g to 20g in the evening they will have about 10g-12g more the next day in the morning, because they loose about 5g to 8g after defecation. Checking the weight also in the evening gives you the possibility to increase the feeding frequency and reduce the interval to 2 hours during the night.
    • Note:
      The algorithm that cat babies have to put on 10 g more on weight every day functions in the first 6 - 7 weeks, after that period mostly the kitten start to eat by their own and will put on weight rapidly and noticeably more.
  • You have to check the weight of the little cat babies every day !
    You do the following calculation to see whether the kitten are in plan with their weight or not:
    weight at birth * (age in weeks + 1)
    bullet 1 week old:  double the weight they had at birth
    bullet 2 weeks old: triple the weight they had at birth
    bullet 3 weeks old: multiply weight they had at birth with 4
    bullet 4 weeks old: multiply weight they had at birth with 5
    bullet and so on
You can find a weighing table for cat babies in Excel XP for download here .
The example of the weighing table includes a diagram to visualize the increase of weights.
Note: There are different formulas included in the table.
  • You may need an infrared lamp for the first 2 weeks, if the queen does not care about the kitten and they cannot cuddle to their mom, because otherwise the babies will become very cold soon which might lead to diarrhoea, where the babies loose too much liquid and get dehydrated, or even soon will die.
    But do not put the lamp too close, keep a distance of at least 70-80 cm and do not let it shine directly on the babies. You can check the temperature, it must be hand warm.
    Do not use heating pads, the babies might become desiccated which will soon lead to their death, dehydration is the greatest danger for the little babies.


  • You should have a cage for the queen and her babies where they should stay until the little babies are at least 3 month old.
    Some will say now: "It is rude and cruel to cage the cats."
    Please think about the following:
    • Some queens are hysterical, and carry their babies around and want to hide them somewhere, mostly on places which are underneath the bed or behind the furniture or which are high up like your book shelves. They even have the tendency to change their hiding-place frequently and you're searching for the little babies like mad. If the kitten are carried around too often, they might be carried to death, because they do not get enough time to rest and to make the necessary sleep.
    • You might oversee the cat babies when they are so little and step on them, if they are creeping or running around free.
    • If the queen has hidden them on top of your book shelves they might fall down and be dead.
    • If they are not old enough to jump down from higher heights, and under an age of 3 month they are not, they might fall down, and have a very bad accident or even be dead. Little kitten can climb up high very early, and then they let themselves fall down like a stone, because they do not know any fear and the coordination of their motion is not fully developed in the first 3-4 months.
    • And, by the way, in the first weeks the motoric radius of the little cat babies is small, so they do not feel uncomfortable when being caged.
About some tips in case of emergency we will discuss in a separate section.

What you have to do when you have to help the queen giving birth we will discuss in another chapter.

What is important when hand raising cat babies

  • Kitten have to start to suck latest after 3-6 hours after their birth !
    So try to put them on the nipples, if they do not start to search by their own, or if the queen is hysterical or inexperienced.
    But give them also time (20-30 minutes) to rest between each trial, otherwise the little babies will get exhausted very soon. Do not become nervous if the first trials do not work, because you will stress the queen and make her nervous.


  • If you have to bottle feed the kitten, be very patient and stay calm.
    It might take up to 1 day, until the babies will accept the bottle. Give them time for their necessary sleep between your trials, at least 1 hour. Do not forget, you have to continue with your trials also during the night, so forget to sleep until the babies have accepted the bottle.
  • Hold the little cat babies in your palm straight up, not leaning backwards, otherwise the milk might go down the wrong way. Think about, you are lying in bed and try to drink something, it won't work properly.
    • Press the teat to get out some milk and put this drop on the lips of the kitten. Repeat this procedure every time before you try to put the teat into the mouth, you stimulate the kitten.
    • It is not easy to get the teat into the mouth, insert the teat from the side into the mouth and press down the tongue very gently and let fall a drop on the tongue, so the baby will get the taste of the milk, it will be stimulated and the reflex action of swallowing will be released. Try to feed the baby drop by drop, but give the baby time to swallow. After several trials you will see that the baby starts to suck on the teat over sudden.
    • Do not press the bottle to fill in the milk, you will force the baby to swallow the milk the wrong way into the trachea and so liquid will come into the lungs which can lead to the death of the baby.
      Be very careful that no milk is swallowed into the trachea !
      The cat babies have to suck by their own.

    If the natural sucking reflex does not work, something is wrong with the baby, chances that the baby will make it are little, but sometimes feeding by a tube inserted into the stomach might work, we will come to this later.


  • Do not give up and do not loose your nerves, even the cat baby is screaming like hell !
    Time of each trial per baby should be about 10-15 minutes, then let the babies rest and sleep for a while. You will have to feed the babies between 3-4 hours.
    You can estimate that the kitten have to be hand raised for at least 6-8 weeks. In shorthairs they might start to eat by their own already sometimes with an age of 5 weeks, Persians and Exotics are quite slow in their development and it will take longer.


  • After each feed do not forget to stimulate the digestion and the blood circulation of the cat babies. Rub the little baby on the back from the tail towards and over the head, on the flanks, do the same on the belly, until you feel the baby is getting warm enough, you stimulate the blood circulation system and keep it intact. Their mother does the same as often as she licks and washes them. When you watch the queen you will see that she turns the babies around and licks them intensively and periodically.
    Rub the baby gently on its genitals that the baby urinates. Do not forget to dry the babies afterwards, a wet belly can lead to diarrhoea. Then stroke the baby's lower abdomen between its genitals and the anus to stimulate the baby to defecate, the baby should have stool minimum once per day, better would be twice a day. When you watch the queen, you will see that she licks their lower abdomen and genitals very intensely to stimulate them to urinate and defecate.
    The babies like this procedure and will be very relaxed.
    If you are skilled, your fingers will do it. Otherwise you may use a paper towel, which is a bit rough, or a towel which you have put into warm water.
    It is absolutely necessary and extremely important that you keep the cat babies' digestion running !
  • Always check the colour and consistency of the feces, they must be light to middle brown, if they are green, something is severely wrong with the digestion system. The baby might have got too cold on its belly, this is quite often the reason. So keep the blood circulation system in motion. In severer cases you will have to administer antibiotics, Amoxicillin, injected every 2nd day once will help here very well. The stool must be well formed and neither be too thin nor too liquid. You can regulate this sometimes by increasing the concentration of the milk a bit (i.e. dissolve more milk powder in less water, but carefully increase the amount of milk powder).


  • In severer cases when the cat babies cannot or do not want to suck, you will have to put a tube into their stomach, every time when you feed them. If you are inexperienced let your veterinarian do it for the first time and show you how to do. Then through the tube you fill in the milk very slowly, give the baby time.


  • The amount of milk per feed increases with the weight and age:
    1st week:  1-2 ml per feed
    2nd week: 3-7 ml per feed
    3rd week:  about 10 ml per feed
    4th week: 15-20 ml per feed
  • With an age of 7-8 weeks (depends on the weight: about 700 g) start to feed besides the milk the following food:
    • cook chicken with rice and mix it fine (consistency not too liquid), put it into a plastic syringe (without the needle, of course) or
    • soak kitten dry food in water, and afterwards mix it, add some warm water when you mix it (consistency not too liquid), put it into the plastic syringe

    Feed about 10-15 ml. But do not force the kitten. If they do not want to take it, continue only to feed the milk.
    Alternate milk feeding with this food.

  • When kitten start to eat, feed them with dry food for cat babies, the first 2 weeks soaked in water. There should not have any problems with defecation, but be very careful using tinned food !

What you need in case of emergency - some useful tips

The cat babies start to sneeze, pus comes out from their nose, they have ulcers because of herpes, and so on.

  • Use Amoxicillin as described in the section about respiratory problems.
    Note: Amoxicillin may cause thinner feces. You must continue with the treatment and cannot stop, try to regulate the defecation with a slightly higher concentration of milk.
  • You can also support the babies and give them a shot of Viruvetsan everyday.
  • Most important:
    The little cat babies must drink the necessary quantity of milk to put on weight !
    Of course, when their nose is blocked and they cannot breath so well they won't like to drink, how should they breath without problems when the mouth is blocked with the teat of the bottle, and so the babies whine and scream and struggle. Most people then make the biggest fault they can do, because they feel pity for these little babies, they do not feed the necessary quantity. Make more pauses on every feed and feed the necessary quantity divided in smaller portions.

The cat babies have diarrhoea.

  • Before using any drugs try to increase the concentration of the milk, use more milk powder and less water.
  • If this does not help within 2 days (morning until evening the next day), then you have to use some drugs, but still keep the concentration of the milk increased.
    • You might use Petvital (cream) which helps to rebuild the intestinal flora, if the colour of the stool is normal.
    • If the colour of the stool gets greenish, you may use Socatyl (cream, produced by CIBA-Geigy). Use this only in older kitten!
    • If the colour of the stool is green (mostly a sign for an infection), use once more Amoxicillin.

    Note: The amount to be administered depends on the weight !

  • Keep the cat babies warm, you can use an infrared lamp.
  • Be aware:
    Due to diarrhoea the cat babies may suffer from dehydration (An estimated 60-70% of diarrhoeal deaths are caused by dehydration !).
    Make the following check: Take the skin on the back between your two fingers and gently pull it up, if the skin is elastic enough it moves back to its original position quite fast, if the skin stands like a fold or moves back quite slowly, there is red alert.
    The kitten need an infusion: therefore Sterofundin is used.
    But note: Do not do it by your own, if you are not experienced enough, consult your vet immediately !

The cat babies have constipation.

  • When hand raising kitten with artificial milk products (see above) it can happen that defecation is blocked.
    Decrease the concentration of the milk by using more water , for example instead of using 4 spoons water : 2 spoons milk powder, use 5 spoons water : 2 spoons milk powder.
  • Add Dextrose to the milk, try to get it liquid: for example Laevolac, which is also used in human babies who are not breast fed. Ask your pharmacy to help you with the calculation of the amount, for example on 4 weeks old babies 1 ml per feed for each kitten can be used, but this can be increased up to 2 ml. You have to try it, until the feces have the correct consistence, if they get too thin reduce the Dextrose a bit. You can easily regulate the consistence of the feces whether by increasing or decreasing the amount of Dextrose without little harm for the kitten, it works immediately.
  • You also might add 1 spoon cream which you use for the tipping on cakes or ice.
  • Note:
    At least after 2-3 days constipation the cat babies need an enema !
    But this is not so easy as you think, because the rectum of a little kitten is too small to insert a so called baby-enema. The vet uses an anal needle which he puts on a syringe (it is a very thin curved needle) and fills the liquid used for enemas for babies into the syringe. Do not try it yourself, if you are not experienced !

The cat babies do not open their eyes in the right time.

Normally kitten open their eyes with an age of 8 - max.12 days. If they open their eyes too late, very severe inflammations can occur which might damage their eyes permanently. So you have to prevent that.

  • Use mallow which you soak in hot water. Cool down the water until it is hand warm. With soft cotton bath the eyes until they open.
  • You will have to repeat this procedure more frequently, may be during several days, because the eyes do not stay open, they have the tendency to close after a while. So do not give up.
  • If there is already an inflammation use an antibiotic cream twice a day, no Cortisone or Steroids.

Eurocatfancy 2005-2012
Email:  epost@eurocatfancy.de
Contact | Disclaimer | Download ECF-logo