Bottle feeding kittens – the complete guide

Cats are probably the most independent pets; they like company but can do without. They depend on you for food but would probably get by somehow if they had to. But they aren’t born strong and independent. Kittens are born blind and completely defenseless. In complete contrast with the resilience of adult cats newborn kittens are very fragile. If for some reason they aren’t getting the nutrition they need from mom cat they will require around the clock bottle feeding to survive. Bottle feeding kittens is hard but gratifying work. Read on to learn how to do it right.

Bottle feeding kittens dos and don’ts

When kittens will require bottle feeding

Normally, newborn kittens should nurse from their mom until they are about a month and a half old. But there are a number of different reasons for which kittens will require bottle feeding:

    • If they get separated from their mom for some reason and no alternate nursing cat is available
    • If mom cat isn’t producing enough milk
    • Mom cat rejects her kittens
    • Mom cat becomes aggressive to her babies
    • An abnormally large litter mom cat can’t provide for
    • If mom cat develops a medical condition preventing her from nursing

In any one of these scenarios bottle feeding becomes crucial for the kittens’ immune system development and general survival.

bottle-feeding vs tube feeding

Feeding a newborn kitten can be done in two basic techniques; bottle-feeding and tube feeding. Choosing one over the other will depend on the kitten’s condition.

If the kittens suffer from a medical condition that hinders the ingestion of food through their mouths, tube feeding would be the best option. If the kittens’ mouth is underdeveloped or injured for some reason, tube feeding would work best as well. Note that if you find yourself caring for kittens with such medical issues you might need some professional help from a vet.
Bottle-feeding is the most common hand rearing technique and it doesn’t require any special skills. When caring for newborn kittens bottle feeding will usually be the way to go.

Choosing the right bottle

Do: To bottle feed a kitten you’ll need to get some special equipment. Kitten milk bottles are equipped with nipples to mimic nursing, just like human baby bottles. There are numerous manufacturers of bottle-feeding tools and
it is important to check on quality and get recommendations before making a purchase. Other things that are important to look at are capacity, nozzle, and durability. Kitten feeding bottles should be available in local stores.

Don’t: don’t be tempted to use human baby bottles as they are not suited for kittens and kittens will not be able to nurse from them.

What to feed nursing kittens

Do: With newborn kittens kitten formula is the way to go. This is a very important point. When it comes to bottle feeding kittens there are special kitten formulas available.

Don’t: Don’t feed your kitten cow milk or human baby formula as it lacks important nutritional values that are crucial to a kitten’s immune system.

It is of course best to consult with a vet regarding suitable portions. It is important not to deprive your kitten or over feed them. Normally, the kitten will stop eating when they’re full.

Before you start

Do: First thing’s first, just like when you’re feeding a baby, you have to check the temperature of the formula to make sure it’s not too hot or cold. It should be room temperature.

How to hold a kitten during a feeding

Hold the kitten in your hand gently but firmly. Be sure the kitten’s belly is facing down and his head is facing up towards the bottle.

Hold the bottle in a 45 degree angle and tilt it into the kittens mouth. The kitten should start suckling and will typically try to knead on the bottle and grab it.

Feeding habits differ in kittens; some will take the liquid continuously while others will pause after few seconds but will consume the same amount.

After a feeding

After you are certain the kitten has had enough, remove the bottle and pat the kitten gently on it’s back. Also wipe the kitten’s face with a warm towel.

Be sure to sterilize the nipple and bottle after every feeding. Most bottle-feeders come with a cleaning brush to enhance the cleaning process, make good use of it.

How frequently should you bottle feed?

In their first few weeks of life kittens should eat every 2 hours. As they grow up 5-6 times a day should be fine; don’t worry, the kittens will let you know when they’re hungry by squealing and crying. when the kittens become a little more active the level of activity they get during the day will determine the how often they get hungry. When bottle feeding your kitten is supposed to constantly be putting on weight. If it seems that the kitten is losing weight check (and correct) the frequency of bottle feedings and take the kitten to the vet to make sure there’s nothing wrong with the kitten.

Helping kitten eliminate after bottle feeding

Kittens require help eliminating until they are about 4 weeks old. Normally mom cat will stimulate the kittens’ bowls by licking their anus. Since you’re bottle feeding you’ll have to do it but don’t worry – no actual licking is necessary. Gently massage the kitten’s anus with a damp towel. That should do the trick. Make sure the kitten urinates as well.

To conclude

Caring for newborn kittens and bottle feeding kittens is hard work, but when you get to watch your kittens grow up and mature into strong, happy and healthy cats it’s all worth it. There’s a lot of information online about bottle feeding kittens – read all you can, watch some YouTube tutorials and you’ll be fine.

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