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.
What you need for
hand raising cat babies
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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
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
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.
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)
||1 week old: double the weight they had at birth|
||2 weeks old: triple the weight they had at birth|
||3 weeks old: multiply weight they had at birth with
||4 weeks old: multiply weight they had at birth with
||and so on|
- 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
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
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
- 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
What you have to do when you have
to help the queen giving birth we will discuss in another chapter.
- 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
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
- 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.
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
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
- 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 cat babies start to sneeze, pus comes out
from their nose, they have ulcers because of herpes, and so on.
- Use Amoxicillin as described
section about respiratory problems.
Note: Amoxicillin may cause thinner feces. You must continue with the
cannot stop, try to regulate the defecation with a slightly higher concentration of
- You can also support the babies and give them a shot of
- 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
The cat babies have diarrhoea.
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
- You also might add 1 spoon cream which you use for
the tipping on cakes or ice.
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
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.