Over the years, I’ve cared for various orphaned animals. I recently found an orphaned newborn kitten, and these are some tips to give your newborn the greatest chance of survival.
1. Understand the kitten may be sick and could die no matter what you do.
Often, a newborn kitten will be “kicked out” of the litter due to an underlying illness or medical problem. It seems cold, but this is the way things sometimes happen in nature.
2. Consider leaving the kitten where you found him.
If the kitten was not orphaned on purpose due to a sickness, it is possible the mother cat was in the process of moving her litter to a safer spot. She may have been startled and left the kitten until she could safely return for him. Some vets recommend you leave the kitten untouched and see if the mother returns.
3. Prepare to invest a lot of time, especially at night.
If you opt to keep the kitten, be aware that newborn kittens need to be bottlefed approximately every three to five hours. This means you will have to care for the kitten overnight or during working hours. It is a lot of responsibility to care for a kitten.
3. Kittens need special formula.
Available at most pet stores, Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR) is available to provide your kitten plenty of nutrition. It is available in powder or liquid. The powder is the most economical, as you only use as much as you need and it does not spoil or go to waste. Liquid KMR must be used rather quickly once you open it.
4. It is imperative that you not mistakenly force milk down the kitten’s trachea into his lungs.
Pet nursing kits are available at many pet stores. They come with tiny bottles. Follow the instructions to carefully pierce a hole in the nipple of the bottle. Make the hole in increments to ensure it is not so big that the kitten will choke on the formula. If the KMR goes into the kitten’s lungs, you could accidentally drown him. There are some great videos on YouTube demonstrating how to feed a newborn kitten with a bottle and KMR.
5. Kittens cannot regulate their own body temperature, so you must keep him warm.
Find a deep box (six inch sides is best so he cannot climb out). Place an old towel in the bottom of the box and set the kitten on the towel. Place the box on a small heating pad. It is a good idea to leave one half of the box hanging off the heating pad, so that if the kitten gets too warm he can crawl away from the heat.
6. Kittens must be prompted to urinate and defecate.
After feeding the kitten, use a warm, wet wash cloth and gently massage the kitten under his tail. This simulates a mother cat’s rough tongue licking him, stimulating him to go to the bathroom.
7. Take your kitten to a veterinarian.
A vet can assess the kitten’s overall health and answer any questions you may have about proper care. Most vet hospitals are unable to take in orphaned kittens. However, if you just cannot care for him or are having difficulty, seek out a no-kill animal shelter to take in the kitten. It is generous to offer some sort of donation to compensate them for taking care of little orphans, as most shelters operate on very small budgets and with the help of volunteer staff.