How To Nurse Abandoned Kittens

Caring for motherless kittens requires dedication and patience. Here are a few suggestions for giving them a shot at survival.

Raising motherless kittens is a demanding task. Depending on the kittens' age, they may require around-the-clock care. If you find babies from a mother that has been killed or that has abandoned them, here are suggestions for helping the little ones survive:

1. Make the kittens warm and dry. Wipe their fur with a warm, soft towel and let the babies huddle together for warmth and comfort. You can place them in a cardboard box layered with newspaper (preferably shredded for softness that resembles grass or hay) covered with a large, fluffy towel. You may want to heat the towel or blanket, if you can, in the dryer for a few minutes before placing the kittens on it. This will help them retain body heat. Getting chilled (hypothermic) is the number one killer of small animals.

2. Have a veterinarian look the kittens over. This is especially important if they were found in a rural or desolate area. If so, they may be feral, or wild, which means they are unfamiliar with human contact. The vet can check them for wounds, diseases, fleas, worms, and other potential problems, as well as offer a medical opinion as to their overall condition and likelihood of survival.

3. Ask the veterinarian or pet supply store for kitten milk formula. This comes in a can, just like human formula, and should be heated and fed to the babies in a medicine dropper. The kittens will need to learn how to eat at first, and must be coaxed to take a little at a time while you feed them. They may have to wrapped snugly in a warm hand towel or other cloth while you offer them the dropper to be sure they focus on it and eat enough to stay alive.

4. Keep the kittens' box in a warm, dry place where predators (like larger cats or owls) cannot get them. You may want to use a heating pad beneath their blanket. If so, do not use newspaper with it, to eliminate the risk of fire. Use a low setting. Or you can use a heating lamp, also set on low, and adjusted so it cannot fall on or burn the kittens.

5. Feed them every two or three hours. This will give you an opportunity to make sure they stay warm and cuddled together if there is more than one. Small kittens can become dehydrated very easily, so frequent feeding, along with maintaining adequate body heat, is essential up to five or six weeks of age.

If the kittens make it to four of five weeks, they have a good chance of surviving. Be prepared to provide careful vigilance, and consult with the veterinarian about making adequate provisions and finding them a good home at about six to eight weeks of age. Remind their owners to keep the kittens indoors while they are small and to get the needed immunizations. Then you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done, knowing that you protected innocent lives and provided them with a caring home.

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