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Kitten Hand rearing

It is relatively common for a queen to reject her kittens or to not have enough milk to feed her young. If this happens it falls to you as owners to rear the kittens yourself until weaning age. Below are some useful tips for hand rearing:

  • Keep the kittens warm – The environment and floor temperature needs to be kept very warm. The most common cause of kitten death is hypothermia and subsequent death. Provide plenty of bedding to burrow into and covered heat pads/ hot water bottles.
  • Newborn kittens require feeding approximately every 2 hours day and night for the first 7-10 days. As they get older they will be able to go longer between feeds. Specialist proprietary kitten milk must be used such as Cimicat or Royal Canin Babycat milk – NOT COWS MILK. You can purchase kitten bottles with small teats separately or alternatively the Royal Canin Babycat milk comes with a bottle.  Feeding position during bottle feeding is important; kittens like to have their front feet up near their face when feeding as this mimics the kneading of mammary tissue when feeding from mum.
  • Up until 3-4 weeks of age kittens are unable to toilet for themselves. After each feed you need to stimulate them to toilet by using a damp piece of cotton wool and gently rubbing around the anus and genital region. This mimics the mothers licking action.
  • It is important to keep a close eye on the weight of the kittens daily. Kittens should be putting on weight daily and SHOULD NOT lose any weight at all, even 1-2 grams.
  • Weaning your kittens is the fun, if not messy part! Hand reared kittens are generally ready to be weaned between 3- 4 weeks old. Initially start using the kitten milk mixed with soft kitten meat or scrambled egg, and mix into a thick gravy like consistency. Use a flat plate or dish allowing the kittens to walk through it whilst sniffing and lapping at the mixture. Once they are used to lapping at the food you can increase the consistency and by 4 – 5 weeks old they should be capable of eating kitten biscuits. It is tempting to use lots of different foods when weaning, but it is definitely better to stick to one food at a time and add in small bits of scrambled egg or chicken.
  • Kittens should be wormed with a veterinary wormer every 2 weeks from 2 weeks of age, as round worms can be passed through the placenta from the mum.
  • Hand reared kittens can quite often develop behavioural problems. This is thought to be due to missing out on learning crucial behavioural and social skills from their mother. It is therefore important to ensure the kittens are well handled and socialised safely from 4 weeks of age.