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Raising an Orphan Kitten
  • Try to find a nursing cat with similar age kittens. A Foster Mom is the best solution!
  • Otherwise you will need to....
    1. keep the kitten warm. (ambient temperature of 86 to 90°F for kittens less than 1 week of age, gradually lowered over 3 week period to 75°F)
    2. feed the kitten up to 10 times a day (depending on age) with a diet that is nutritionally equivalent to cat milk.
    3. stimulate urination and defecation several times a day by licking the anogenital area.(....just kidding a moist cotton ball will work as a tongue substitute)
    4. provide a sense of security with a regular schedule of feeding, sleeping, grooming and exercise.
    5. teach him/her how to be a cat. Another kitten who was raised by his mom may be needed for this.  two kittens are better than one.
  • For an excellent in depth discussion of hand rearing kitten please visit the Feline Advisory Bureau site Hand Rearing Kittens

Keeping the kitten Warm
box light
The kitten will need a place to sleep between feedings.
  • You can use a cardboard box ( maybe a bit bigger than the one in the photo).
  • You will need a safe heat source that the kitten can move towards or away from.
    • A swing arm lamp or a heating pad set on low will work just fine.
    • With any heat source be aware of fire hazard and the risk of burning the kitten's delicate skin.
  • You can warm a cold kitten with your own body heat by putting him or her inside your shirt.
  • A stuffed cat as a mom substitute is nice for the kitten to snuggle up to.

Feeding your orphan kitten
Age of Kitten Body
Total Volume
per day
Number of
1 week 4 oz 32 ml 6
2 weeks 8 oz 60 ml 5
3 weeks 12 oz 90 ml 4
4 weeks 16 oz 120 ml 3
Homemade Kitten Formula
for emergency use only
  1. 6 ounces whole milk
  2. 2 egg yolks (no whites)
  3. 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  4. 1 drop pediatric vitamin
    or 1/4 inch nutrical supplement
beat well to mix, warm to body temperature (100°F)
DO NOT use microwave to heat!
Use hot water bath to warm bottle of Milk replacer
milk replacer Iams milk
Use Commercial Kitten Milk Replacer for Long Term Feeding

Feeding Methods
  • Kittens that are 3 to 4 weeks of age (eyes open, body weight = 12 to 16 oz) may be able to eat solid food.
  • try offering a canned kitten food blended with warm water or kitten milk replacer to make it the consistency of a gruel.
  • If your orphan is not ready for solid food try using a pet nursing bottle.
  • This type of bottle can be purchased at most pet stores. Use a hot sewing needle (heat with a match or lighter) to poke a few holes in the nipple.
bottle feed

Tube Feeding
tube and syringe
  • For weak kittens that cannot nurse effectively, or if you are trying to save a litter of orphan kittens, Ask your veterinarian to show you how to use an orogastric tube.
  • Passing a stomach tube is an efficient way to get formula into a kitten. However, if you get formula into the lungs it will kill the kitten.
  • It takes practice to perfect this feeding technique and even an experienced person can lose kittens using it.

What goes in Must come Out!
  • Kittens less than 2 weeks of age require stimulation in order to urinate and defecate.
  • Their mom does this by licking their anal area as part of her regular grooming of the kittens. You must take over this job for orphan kittens.
  • Gently rubbing the anus and genital area with a slightly moistened cotton ball after each feeding will do the trick.
  • Make sure you keep the kittens clean. Urine and feces, if allowed to remain on the skin, will produce inflamation.

A Few other things to remember.
two kittens
  • Kittens who have not had an opportunity to nurse from their mom during the 24 hours immediately after birth will not have any maternal antibodies and will often die of bacterial or viral infection.
  • Never give kittens straight cow's milk. Not only is it nutritionally inadequate, it can cause diarrhea, dehydration and death.
  • Kittens do better in pairs. Provide a companion for your orphan if possible.
  • Very young kittens may suckle on each other. You may have to separate them for the first week or so if this is a problem.

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