Feeding a Newborn Kitten

Nutrition is a major component to the survival of newborn animals. Young kittens especially need to be fed often in order to grow and develop properly. If you find yourself caring for newborn kittens that require bottle feeding, here are some tips that may help.

What Supplies do You Need?
Milk replacement formulas, either powdered or pre-made, are available at the local pet store, online, and your veterinarian’s office. There you will also find the necessary small plastic nursing bottles and nipples. Other useful supplies include soft towels or rags for cleaning up after the feeding session.

What’s the Proper Way to Feed a Kitten?
The bottles and nipples should first be sterilized in hot water, and the formula should be mixed well and warmed. Squeeze out a little onto your forearm to make certain it’s not too hot, then begin. The kitten should be placed on her belly, not tipped on her back, as this can lead to a fatal condition called aspiration pneumonia. Do not squeeze the bottle too much and do not raise the kitten’s head either, as this can cause too much formula to go into the mouth, causing aspiration into the lungs.

How Much Formula Does a Kitten Need?
Kittens will require feedings every 2-3 hours around the clock for the first week of life. As a basic rule of thumb, each animal should be eating about 8 cc (about 1/4 ounce) of formula for every ounce of body weight per day. As each week goes by, the kitten will need less frequent feedings to consume all the required formula. If the kitten is not gaining weight or has diarrhea, consult your veterinarian to make certain she is getting enough formula and in the proper way.

What’s Next?
Much like a human baby, the kitten will need to be burped after a nursing session. Hold the kitten with the palm of the hand under its stomach and pat the upper back area gently to stimulate the reflex. The animal will also need you to help with elimination for the first few weeks of life. Typically, the mother cat will lick the genital area to start the process, but using a damp washcloth or cotton swab to rub the area will have the same effect.

After 3-4 weeks of age, weaning can begin. Your veterinarian can give you suggestions on the type of food to feed a young kitten until she is ready for dry food, which occurs at about 8 weeks of age.