Spring is in the air! That can mean only one thing: kitten season. As the months get warmer, momma cats start popping out their babies. Spay and neuter programs have significantly helped reduce pet overpopulation, but cats still have the highest rate of euthanasia in shelters across the country. Low cost spay and neuter options for pets and trap, neuter, release programs for feral cats continue to chip away at the issue. In the meantime, most shelters are buckling down in preparation of an influx of kittens. It is the perfect time to build or grow a foster program to assist in caring for bottle babies.
Mothers always know best when it comes to taking care of their young, but unfortunately they are not always able to do so. It is common for kittens to come into shelters quite young without a mother. This means that shelter and rescue workers or a foster family must assume the responsibilities of being “mom”. The role of a mother is no joke, no matter the species.
Fosters are vital for young bottle baby kittens, as they require around the clock care. Newborn kittens up to a week old must be fed every 2-3 hours using a bottle and formula. At two to three weeks old they can go a bit longer and be fed
every 4-6 hours. Solid food can be
introduced between three and four weeks. Cleaning kittens using a wet washcloth after feeding mimics a mother’s tongue. It rids a kitten’s fur of food, urine, feces, or debris and helps keep up overall health.
They must be weighed daily using a small kitchen or postal scale that reads in grams. Kittens should be slowly
and steadily gaining weight. If a kitten plateaus and is maintaining or begins to lose weight, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Gaining about half an ounce each day is ideal, or three to four ounces each week.
When not being fed, bottle babies
should be kept in a carrier or similar
shelter for safety. As kittens must be
kept warm, they need special heating
pads approved for pet use. The heating
pads can be warmed in a microwave
and wrapped in towels. Towels and
bedding should be cleaned and changed daily. Heating pads are needed until kittens are about three to four weeks old.
Socialization and handling are extremely important, as it gets kittens accustomed to human contact at a young age. Gentle petting helps create a bond with humans that carries through with age, making kittens more social and more adoptable. Playing with different toys helps develop fine motor skills and stimulate a kitten’s mind. Constant supervision in a foster setting also helps catch any possible heath issues early. These could begin as goopy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation or difficulty urinating, hair loss, or loss off appetite. Young kittens are extremely fragile. Seeking medical attention with the start of symptoms is essential.
Caring for bottle baby kittens is a difficult, rewarding job. Generous, loving foster homes allow the opportunity for them to grow and flourish, eventually finding their forever home. There are many resources available if considering fostering bottle babies and deciding if your home is appropriate. While a demanding task, nothing beats saving a life.