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How to Take Care of a Kitten

How to Take Care of a Kitten

There's no denying that kittens are absolutely adorable! But what will you need to do to raise one if they have no mother? Today our Charlotte vets offer information about taking care of kittens, protecting them against parasites and diseases and what to watch out for.

How to Take Care of a Newborn Kitten Without a Mother

while your new kitten can be a cute addition to your household you need to be ready for the level of care that they require. These needs are different for every stage of their life, and if something goes wrong or is missed it can impact their overall health and longevity. Our vets share some of the main points for caring for a newborn kitten and what to expect as they age.

Caring for a Kitten

Your kitten will be considered a newborn until they reach the age of 4 weeks. During this time they will be learning all the basics, from walking and meowing to regulating body temperature. Typically a kitten's mother would care for the basic needs of the kitten. Your job would be to care for the mother and to provide a safe and comfortable home for them. Make sure the floor of their crate/area is covered with a blanket, and they have a warm bed to lie on. However, if the kitten does not have a mother the first thing you should do is take them to see a vet. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the health of the kitten and inform you of their requirements. 

Keep the Kitten Warm

One of the main things you will need to do if the kitten doesn't have a mother to keep it warm is to provide a heating pad under the bed to help keep the kitten warm. You should also make a little nest out of blankets for the kitten to lay in for comfort. It's essential that you make sure that the heating pad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands and providing a comfortable place in your kitten's cage/crate that does not have a heating item so they can go there if they get too warm.

You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old because if kittens get too cold they will catch hypothermia, for this reason, their area should be kept at 85°F or 29°C. 

Feed the Kitten as their Mother Would

Since the kitten won't have a mother to feed them you will need to do this too. You will have to bottle feed the kitten every 2 - 4 hours when they are a newborn. Every kitten is different, your veterinarian will be able to inform you of the best formula to use, how much to feed them and how frequently you should be feeding your kitten. In order for kittens to grow healthily, they will need to gain approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your cat cow milk and always make sure you are feeding them the same formula. And, in order for your kitty to digest food properly they will have to be kept warm.

What to Expect as Your Kitten Grows

When the kitten you are caring for is around 5/6 to 10 weeks old they should gradually stop being bottle fed or fed by their mothers and start feeding high protein meals about 3 to 4 times a day. You can make this change by beginning to order their formula in a bowl along with a little soft food. And because their motor skills will be improving at this stage they will start becoming adventurous and you will have to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't get themselves into trouble. They will require a lot of supervision and hands-on bonding playtime as they are between 2 -4 months old.  

Your kitten will enter their adolescent days when they are 4 - 6 months old. This is when they are generally very troublesome and might require some behavioral modification, this is also when you should start considering having them spayed or neutered before they reach the 6 - 8 month mark.

The Types of Preventive Care a Kitten Needs

The first vet visit for your new kitten should happen shortly after they arrive at your home and generally within the first few weeks. Your veterinarian will evaluate the health of your kitten as well as inform you of their dietary needs. This is a good time for you to ask any questions that have come up about the care and health of your new furry friend.

Making sure your kitten gets routine preventive care is essential, including wellness exams, routine vaccinations, and parasite prevention.

Routine exams give your vet the opportunity to assess the overall health and well-being of your kitten including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.

You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of its vaccinations and parasite prevention on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.

Health Concerns Regarding Kittens

While your kitten should be healthy if you've followed the care information listed above and been to visit the vet but there is still a chance that something may go wrong at some point. If you see your kitten displaying any of the following signs call your vet immediately to schedule an appointment.

Here are some of the concerning symptoms that may affect newborns:

  • Delays or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
  • Lethargy
  • Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting

When your kitten is 4 weeks old or older you still need to keep an eye out for the signs above in addition to these behavioral signs:

  • Litter box usage/ not using the litter box
  • Signs of play biting or aggression
  • Fears and other concerning behaviors that should be managed when they are still young

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you would like to learn more about how to care for a young kitten, please contact our Charlotte vets today. We are here for all your kitten needs.

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