Taking Care of Motherless Kittens
There are a number of reasons why a mother cat may abandon her kittens and most of them are beyond her control. One of the most common reasons is that she cannot produce milk, called agalactia or that she has a behavior problem that prevents her from properly caring for them. There is also the sad occasion that the mother doesn’t survive the birth of the kittens. This means owners can face anything from a newborn kitten to one several weeks old that needs a substitute mom.
The first step is to understand what you will need to do to take care of a motherless kitten, as it is more than just simply feeding them. You will also need to take care of their toilet and create the right environment for their mental growth. Sometimes raising a litter of kittens can be easier than a lone kitten as this will help with socialization issues but will also take more work.
If possible, kittens should nurse from their mother for the first 12 hours of life to ingest something called colostrum. This provides them with antibodies that they need to protect their little bodies. If there is no chance of the mother feeding the kittens then a bottle or tube feeder will be needed. Bottles are the best method as tube feeding is a more specialized job. Commercially available kitten milk formulas are available that are nutritionally balanced to provide everything a kitten needs and there are also recipes to make a homemade version if you cannot get the commercial product.
Newborn kittens don’t urinate or defecate without stimulation from their mothers but this is easy to replicate. Simply moisten a cotton ball with warm water and rub the genital or anal area, simulating the mother grooming the area to get the kitten to go. This needs to be done after every meal and watched for signs of a problem. Normally the stool will be dark brown and partially formed.
Kittens need help keeping warm that would normally come from their mothers. An incubator, warm water pad, electrical heating pads or a heated mat will all do the job and help them keep the right body temperature. Keep a thermometer close by to ensure they don’t get too hot, as this is just as dangerous.
Keep in close contact with your vet during this process and refer to them if you think there are any problems. Disease prevention is a big issue at this time and you will also need to work on their socialization whether you have a single kitten or a litter.