Daily Care for Moms with Kittens

Most mothers, even first-timers, can take care of themselves and their offspring quite well. For the most part, you will leave mom and babies alone while observing for any signs of trouble.

Provide a nesting box for nursing mothers so babies can’t get out but mom can when she needs some peace and quiet. Only half of the nesting box should have extra warmth added.

Young Kitten Care

A kitten’s survival depends on getting consistent nutrition and warmth. The mother’s colostrum, which is the first milk produced, is vitally important to a newborn’s cardiovascular system and defense against disease. Colostrum is rich in antibodies to help protect against various infections, but kittens can only absorb these antibodies and benefit from them for a short period after birth.

So-called “Fading Kitten Syndrome,” when a newborn fades and dies despite adequate care, is usually due to either a genetic defect or lack of sufficient colostrum. For this reason, it is very important that newborns nurse as soon as possible after birth. If they do not find a nipple on their own, put their mouth close to one and hold them until they nurse.

Continued healthy nursing behavior is crucial for kitten survival. In order to tell if the kittens are nursing, put on exam gloves and gently pick up each kitten and feel for a round belly full of milk. A flat or concave belly indicates that the kitten may not be nursing. You should perform this check once or twice a day, always wearing your exam gloves.

Also, visually confirm that each kitten is actually latching onto mom. A gram scale works great to log each kitten’s weight on your health monitoring sheet (found later in this guide). Healthy kittens should gain a little weight each day.

Problem Signs

During the first two weeks, kittens should spend approximately 90% of the time eating and sleeping. If kittens are crying during or after eating, they are usually becoming ill or are not getting adequate milk. A newborn kitten is very susceptible   to infections and can die within 24 hours. If excessive crying occurs, the mother and entire litter should be examined by a veterinarian, so please call us immediately.

Supplemental Feeding for Nursing Kittens with Mom

When adequate nursing isn’t possible, supplemental feeding one to three times per day may be recommended, especially for any litter with more than five kittens. We will supply you with liquid

or powdered Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR) for supplemental feeding.

The temperature of the milk replacer can be tested on your forearm and should be about the same as one’s skin. The KMR can gives directions concerning feeding amounts.

NOTE: Do not hold kittens on their backs like human babies or squeeze the bottle while feeding—this can cause kittens to aspirate the milk, choke and/or catch pneumonia.

If the kittens are still nursing from their mother, the amounts recommended will be excessive. Generally, one-third to half of the listed amount should be the daily goal. Supplemental feeding may be continued until the kittens are old enough to eat kitten food.

If the mother does not produce milk or her milk becomes infected, the kittens will cry excessively. If this occurs, the entire litter could die within 24 to 48 hours. Total replacement feeding, using the KMR, or adopting the kittens to another nursing mother, is usually necessary.

If replacement feeding is elected, the amounts of milk listed on the KMR container should be fed. Kittens less than two weeks of age should be fed every 3 to 4 hours. Kittens 2 to 4 weeks old do well with feedings every 4 to 6 hours. Don’t feel like you have to wake them up to feed—if they’re full enough to sleep peacefully, let them rest until they wake up hungry.

Feline Foster Care Content:

Overview: Is Fostering Right for You?   

Preparing Your Home and Family                     

Getting Acquainted

Kitten Growth Milestones

Daily Care for Moms with Kittens

Daily Care for Orphaned Kittens

Grooming, Bathing, Socializing

Cleaning & Sanitizing

Medical Information & Concerns

Print & Post Resources for Caregivers

More Foster Resources on ASPCApro

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