Dubai Pet Smart

It is preferable for kittens to stay and nurse from their mother cat at least 8 weeks, preferably 12 weeks prior to their adoption. However in the case of rescued kittens there are many elements to consider and materials required to care for and bottle feed a kitten. Thorough and careful consideration and preparation will soothe and comfort the kitten, and ideally result in a happy and healthy cat.

Things you may need:
1. Box:
  • A Warm, snuggly nest box for the kitten. A small cardboard box that can be easily replaced works well, since kittens may soil their box. 
  • Mother cats always look for small confined spaces to place their kittens. The box needs to be just big enough for the kitten(s) to turn around but not much bigger.
  • Line it with crumpled white unscented tissue or a soft towel. Before placing the kittens in the box, remove any fleas that may be on them, as the fleas can quickly suck kittens dry of blood. Check with a vet immediately if there are many fleas and the kittens' gums are pale (anemic).
2. A heating pad or a hot water bottle:
  • Warmth is very important for the first 14 days of a kitten’s life because they have not yet developed the ability to control their body temperature. During the first two weeks, kittens can not shiver when they are cold. They will rely on the heating pad or hot water bottle for warmth.
  • Keep the pad or water bottle under one side of the box and set it only on its lowest heat setting. Wrap the pad with sufficient cloth towels so that the inside of the box stays at 32C but not higher. With only one side of the box heated, the kitten(s) will be able to crawl away from the heat source if it gets too warm for them. This is very important because more rescued kittens die from overheating than from chill. 
  • Place the box in a draft free place. Make sure the box is at least six inches tall so the kitten cannot fall out. Make sure that area is safe from other pets and children. As the kitten matures, the temperature in the box can be gradually lowered. When the kitten reaches the end of its first month of life it can tolerate room temperature at 21-23C.
3. Pet nursing bottles, and kitten milk formula (powder or liquid form):
  • Make sure it isn't lumpy or rancid-smelling when you open it.
  • A kitten-nursing bottle often holds 2-4 ounces of formula. They generally come without holes punched in the nipple, you can use a flame-heated needle to melt two small holes in the cap. The holes should be only big enough so that a few drops of milk drip out when the bottle is pointed down and vigorously shaken. If too many holes are punched in the cap, the kittens will inhale the formula rather than swallow it.
4. A small food scale: 
  • Keep track of the kitten(s) growth and a notebook to record it in. You will be able to record if the kitten is gaining weight on a steady pace, and can contact your vet if not.
Bottle Feed a Kitten in steps:
1. Consult a local vet or shelter to find out if there is a feline nursing mother (queen) who may be able to take on the kitten:  A mother's milk is the best option for any baby mammal, it is always preferable to seek a natural resource such as a nursing mother's milk before attempting to bottle feed a kitten with formulas.
  • If a nursing mother can be found, always remain present with her to make sure the nursing mother cat does not reject the kitten.
  • The younger the kitten, the higher the metabolism, therefore the more often the kitten needs feeding because of its tiny stomach, which means someone needs to be with the kitten all day until the kitten is old enough to eat solid food.
  • A kitten 6-10 weeks old needs to be fed six to eight meals a day, while a kitten aged 10 weeks to 6 or 7 months needs four meals a day and a kitten up to 9 months needs 3 meals a day. It's not until adulthood that 2 meals a day is alright!
2. Sterilize the feeding bottle, mix and warm the milk slightly, according to the instructions on the package or as per your vet. Put a few drops of milk on your wrist, to ensure it is not too hot. This is just the same as is done for a human baby. 
  • Measure the appropriate feeding amount according to the weight of the kitten.
  • Do not put the formula in the microwave; this will cause bubbles of very hot or very cold formula to form in the bottle. Instead, put the formula in a container and put that into the hot water.
  • Mix the formula just before offering it to the kitten to ensure the best quality and freshness. It is not recommended to leave mixed formula sitting around or even refrigerated – make only the amount you need and discard what isn't used.
  • Boil feeding bottles between every use, and make sure you wash your hands before mixing the milk and feeding the kitten. 
3. Feed the kitten. Do this by sitting in the chair with a towel folded on your lap. Position the kitten similarly to the way he would nurse from his mother, with his head elevated and the kitten should be resting on its stomach.
  • Allow the kitten to continue nursing until he has finished, but do not overfeed. Overfeeding a kitten can lead to pneumonia when milk is inhaled into the lungs rather than swallowed into the stomach and it can cause bloating and diarrhea. 
  • It is important to remain patient and calm while bottle feeding a kitten to ensure that the kitten is at ease. Allow the kitten to take his time while bottle feeding to avoid overeating or problems with digestion.
  • If the milk bubbles out of the kitten's nose, then the milk is flowing too fast from the bottle, or the kitten is not being held in the correct position, or the kitten is too weak to suckle properly. It could also mean the feeding bottle has a feeding hole that is too big or the kitten is being overfed.
4. Encourage and stimulate burping by holding the kitten with his back resting against your body and gently rubbing his stomach. 
  • In the queen and kitten relationship, the mother will groom the kitten to help him pass wind and stools. Don't be surprised by either result – it's a good sign!
5. Help the kitten to eliminate. 
  • After every feeding, gently place the kitten in a clean litter box, and gently wipe its anus and urinary orifice with a clean cotton ball or clean tissue moistened with clean warm water. This imitates the cleaning by a mother cat. Be very gentle when doing this, and don't worry if no urine or stool is produced after every feeding. Some kittens may even be alright without any help to eliminate.
  • Normal Kitten stools are yellowish brown with a jam-like consistency. 
  • Watery yellowish or greenish stools are sometimes caused by feeding too much or too fast. 
  • Overly hard stools that are clumped and cheese-like are sometimes due to feeding a too concentrated formula. When a kitten strains to defecate and passes overly hard stools, check with your vet.
6. Return the kitten to his warm bed or box to rest. 
  • Continue with the regular feeding schedule every day for the coming weeks until weaning onto solids is appropriate. At this time, speak to your vet about an appropriate weaning diet.
When the kitten is about 4 weeks old, a little bit of kitten wet food can be introduced to the kitten by smearing a little bit of the kitten wet food on the kitten's pallet. The kitten will very soon understand the idea. Please avoid giving human food or baby food as it may contain onion powder, or be low on calcium and vitamins This may result in the kittens having bowed legs and soft teeth. 
Some kittens may take a bit longer to express interest in solid food. If this is the case, you can still place the kitten milk in a bowl to teach the kitten to drink from it. If the kitten expresses interest in the wet food, you can place the wet food in a bowl to let the kitten explore and try to eat on its own.  Slowly substitute moistened kitten kibbles for canned kitten wet food, and make sure clean fresh water is always available to the kitten. 

Useful tips:


  • Kittens are very playful and do not like to eat human food. The baby kittens' teeth grow to full size by about eight weeks and at five to six months they are replaced by permanent teeth.
  • Weigh kittens prior to feeding formula to ensure that the appropriate amount is given. Keep track of weight gain or loss over the course of feeding and consult with a vet if the kitten is losing or gaining weight too rapidly.
  • Stimulate elimination by placing the kitten in a clean litter box and gently wiping its genital and anal areas with a clean cotton ball, or a clean tissue with clean warm water. This imitates the cleaning a mother cat would do to encourage elimination.
  • Boil feeding bottles between every use. Also wash hands before mixing the milk and feeding the kitten is important. As Kittens who did not nurse on their mother for their first 48 hours did not receive the first milk or colostrum. After that time window, they cannot absorb it through their intestines even if you give it to them. As a result, these kittens are more susceptible to infections and diarrhea, so make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and make sure the milk is fresh. It is also why it is safer to have the kittens stay with their mother until they are 12 weeks old before finding them new home. Moreover, there are complications from orphaning a kitten; kittens may become unsociable, develop health issues, and their development can be hindered.
  • Make sure the kitten is not cold when you feed it because this can cause digestive problems.
  • Kittens play more roughly and bite much harder than kittens reared to weaning age by a mother cat. This seems to be because they haven't had the appropriate feedback during play development. They also develop fixations like sucking buttons and earlobes and without an adult cat to show them how to groom or use the litter box, life will be a lot harder for such a kitten.
  • Use different bottles for separate litters as some diseases can be passed from mothers to kittens and from one litter to another in a multiple cat situation.
  • When learning how and practicing to bottle feed a kitten, keep in mind that overfeeding or feeding improperly can cause problems with respiration. Observe the kitten during feedings to ensure that no milk is coming through the nose or the stomach does not feel distended.
  • Consult a veterinarian if the kitten won't eat at all, this could be a sign that the kitten is not well.
  • Be absolutely certain that the milk you give a newborn kitten is not hot. Giving a kitten hot milk will burn its mouth and other sensitive areas.
  • Never feed a kitten cow's milk as many cats are in fact intolerant to lactose and suffer from gastric complaints when fed dairy milk.
  • Once a kitten has been removed from its mother and formula has been administered, it will not be possible to return the kitten to its mother for occasional feedings.
  • When in doubt, always ask a licensed vet 

Written by Dubai Pet Smart — January 21, 2014

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