Newborn Kittens

If you find a litter of newborn kittens, please do not assume they are abandoned. Many times the mother is off hunting, and if she is truly feral she may only be active at night. It is highly unlikely a mother cat will abandon her litter unless she has been killed or cannot return because of trapping, injury, etc. If the kittens are not in immediate danger, watch for the mother before rescuing the kittens. If the mother is socialized, provide food and shelter for her and her litter, and try to rescue them together. If the mother cat is feral, contact your veterinary office for procedures on bringing new mothers in for TNR, and keep in mind future TNR or rescue and socialization for the kittens.

If you feel the kittens are in danger, in need of medical attention, or should be rescued for any other reason, you should be prepared to care for them yourselves until a rescue or foster can take them in. Newborn kittens are a 24-hour/day job. They must be fed every 3-4 hours, stimulated to go to the bathroom, and kept on a heating pad constantly. Before taking on the job yourself, check with rescues or vet technicians in your area for a nursing mom or experienced bottle feeders. Help could be hard to find, and it will be your decision to raise the kittens yourself or surrender them to Animal Control for euthinization.

Caring for Newborn Kittens ("Bottle Babies")

  • Newborns must be fed KMR (Kitten Replacement Milk). Do not give them anything else--no cow milk, water, or any other formula. KMR can be found at Wal-Mart, vet clinics, or pet stores.
  • If the kittens are old enough to have teeth they can generally eat wet/canned food. We recommend Kitten Instinctive by Royal Canin. You can heat the wet food in the microwave to enhance the smell and make it easier for them to eat. Note: if you are feeding them Gerber Baby food, make sure the bottles are meat only. The dinners contain onions, which are toxic to cats.
  • Newborn kittens should be kept on a heating pad that is set on low. Do not feed the kittens until they are warm; if their body temperatures are not high enough, they will not be able to digest their food.
  • Newborn kittens must be stimulated to use the bathroom. Use a warm washcloth or cotton ball to rub their genitals to produce urine and feces.
  • They may not use the bathroom until they have eaten enough milk to produce a bowel movement.
  • Newborn kittes can be bathed in Dawn dishsoap to kill fleas. They must be dried and placed on their heating pad immediately after a bath, and flea products should never be put on newborn kittens.
  • Do not try to syringe water into kittens. They can inhale it into their lungs and get pneumonia.
  • See this teeth chart to determine approximate age: http://www.ruralareavet.org/PDF/Physical_Exam-How_to_Determine_Age.pdf.
  • Kittens should be taken for veterinary care as soon as possible.