Feeding newborn kittens
A newborn kitten usually drinks their mother's milk only, but occasionally kittens are orphaned or abandoned and human intervention is needed. In this case, it's important you know what to feed a newborn kitten, what equipment you'll need, how to feed them, and how often they need feeding.
Committing to feeding and caring for newborn kittens can be a lot of work, especially if you have no experience, so you may decide it's better to contact a local cat or neonatal kitten rescue organization for advice or assistance. If you plan to raise your kitten to adulthood, continue reading our guide for advice on food types and feeding techniques.
Choosing a proper newborn kitten food
When a mother cat isn't able to feed their kittens, you'll need to use a cat milk replacement formula. This is a formula designed for newborn kittens, not "cat milk" for adult cats, which is usually goat's milk or reduced lactose cow's milk. Never attempt to feed newborn kittens cow's milk, goat's milk, evaporated milk, or human baby formula. This can make them extremely sick and may even kill them.
What you'll need
You don't need all that much to feed a newborn kitten: a suitable bottle for feeding, something to measure out the formula, and scales to weigh your kitten (although you can take them to the vet's for weighing in a pinch). Once you have all this in hand, you're ready to get started. If your cat is expecting a litter of kittens, it's a good idea to buy a bottle and cat milk replacement formula, just in case the worst should happen.
How to feed a newborn kitten
Once your formula is prepared and measured out correctly in the bottle, position your kitten face down on your lap. Never bottle feed kittens on their backs. Swaddle them in a towel or blanket to keep them warm and feeling secure. Gently insert the bottle's nipple into your kitten's mouth and squeeze in a couple of drops, careful not to introduce too much milk at once.
Then, the kitten should start sucking on their own. Continue feeding until they pull away from the bottle, which signals that they're done. It's important that you choose a bottle with a gentle natural flow. It shouldn't let too much milk into the mouth at once, but the kitten shouldn't need to suck hard just to get a few drops of milk out. If you choose a quality feeding bottle designed for kittens or small animals, it should have just the right flow.
How much and how often to feed
The exact amount can vary between different brands of cat milk replacement formula, so check the directions on the packaging. You'll usually need to feed your kitten around 8 milliliters of formula per ounce of body weight each day. Weigh your kitten three times a week to ensure you're feeding them the correct amount, especially because kittens gain weight quite quickly.
Newborn kittens need feeding once every 3 to 4 hours, so split the total amount of milk into 6 to 8 equal portions to give throughout the day. This means you're in for some nighttime feedings until your kitten reaches around 4 weeks old, when you can feed them every 6 to 8 hours.
Storing and warming cat milk formula
It's important to store cat milk formula correctly to avoid making your kitten sick. Replacement cat milk formula comes as a powder you must mix with water according to the package directions to make milk. It's likely that you'll make all the milk your kitten needs for the day to save time. What you don't use right away must be refrigerated.
At feeding time, measure the correct amount of formula into a bottle, and then warm the bottle in a cup of hot water until the milk reaches body temperature. We don’t recommend storing formula in the fridge for longer than 24 hours.
When to introduce solid foods
Mother cats generally nurse their kittens regularly up to the age of around 6 weeks old and occasionally up to 8 weeks, so you'll need to keep up feeding some cat milk replacement formula until then. However, when your kitten turns 4 weeks old, you can introduce some solid food by giving them small amounts of wet newborn kitten food mixed with kitten milk formula. Between the ages of 5 and 8 weeks, switch from the wet food/kitten milk mixture to either wet kitten food only or a mix of wet food and kibble. By the age of 8 weeks old, they should be fully weaned, eating kitten food only, whether wet, dry, or a mixture of the two.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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