Beginning Kitten Care

Kitten care is special care needed to get off to a good start. There's nothing as cute as the wide eyes, tiny ears and the flagpole tale having a mischievous moment. Ideally, these munchkins should remain with their mothers until seven or eight weeks old. If the mother is healthy, vaccinated and de-wormed before her pregnancy, she should be able to give good kitten care to her youngsters. The mother will feed them, clean them and stimulate them to urinate and defecate.

Most of these babies will start eating softened food by about four weeks of age when the mother starts weaning them. Even though she starts the process of weaning, they shouldn't be taken from her yet. Pet nursers and milk supplies are available at most pet supply stores if needed for their kitten care.

Remember they still need her nurturing and guidance. She will teach them to use the litter box, how to play...but not too rough, and she'll teach them other social rules. By seven to eight weeks of age they can go to new homes.

Although the mother does most of the work in raising them, the owner has responsibilities also. A healthy kitten nurses and sleeps for most of the first three to four weeks of life. A kitty that cries a lot, or is very restless, may be sick, hurt or hungry. They weigh about three ounces at birth and will double their birth weight by the end of their second week of life. If a baby isn't getting bigger, it could be a sign of problems.

If it is not gaining weight and is restless, the mother may not have enough milk. Although most mothers can feed their litter without help, sometimes supplemental feeding is necessary. Commercial products are available at pet stores that you can use to supplement the mother's milk; read the directions on the product package. At home recipes are also an option. 


If you need to feed one or more in the litter and cannot find a commercial kitten care formula, here is one that you can make up at home.

6 ounces whole milk (cow milk) 2 egg yolks (no whites) 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil, 1 drop infant pediatric vitamins or 1/4 inch nutrical supplement

Beat well to mix and dissolve all the ingredients. Warm without using the microwave. Use an eyedropper, a needle-less syringe or a pet infant bottle to feed the kitten.

A one week-old weighing four ounces needs 32 cc's of formula per day, broken into six feedings.

A two-week old weighing eight ounces needs 60 cc's of formula per day, broken into five feedings.

A three-week old weighing 12 ounces needs 90 cc's per day in four feedings.

A four-week old weighing one pound needs 120 cc's per day in three feedings.

At about two weeks of age their eyes begin to open. They should be handled gently by trusted members of the household. Early gentle handling before their eyes open may also be beneficial, as the early stress may make their reaction to stresses as an adult much better. Handling facilitates bonding to people and is very important to future relationships. By about four weeks of age, they will start to play. Although they act like fierce little predators, play should still be very gentle. They are not as tough as they act and they need to learn to relate to people...gently.

Bringing home a new pet to join the household is a precious time. Have a litter box set up where you wish it to remain. Also have the food and water dishes located where your little critter won't have too many obstacles to face, but preferably not too close to the litter box.

You should take the newcomer to see your veterinarian within 24 hours of bringing him home to facilitate good kitten care. The vet can make sure your kitty is healthy and start him on a series of vaccinations. Bring a small fecal sample with you so a fecal analysis can be done to see if it has worms or other parasites. Better to catch these things early.

Kitten care involves proofing your home to protect your from getting into trouble. They are intelligent, curious and for the most part, very unafraid. Anything that can be investigated will be and sometimes that means that things will get broken, or worse, kitty will hurt himself. Eliminate dangling phone cords or electrical wires and put away fragile items for a few months. You can also limit your kitten's freedom.

Just keep the kitten in one room of the house for a few weeks, with a litter box, food and water. Then you can sit down, watch him and interact with him, taking him into the living room with you for brief periods of time. This method actually works well to protect the baby because it's so small it can get behind the refrigerator, inside the sofa and under a recliner....all areas where it can get hurt.

Playtime is very important with kitten care, especially from seven to 12 weeks of age. During this time period, active play helps the pet learn body coordination and helps his muscles to grow strong. Most of them enjoy active play that mimics natural hunting techniques. A feather waving back and forth on a string will be stalked, pounced on, grabbed in the teeth and shredded by the back feet. 

During playtime, make sure you don't teach the kitten to attack you or other family members. All playtime attacks should be made on toys, not people. You can still control the toys but attacks should be to the toys, not you. You should allow for quiet time as well.

When you're reading, watching TV or on your computer, let the kitten sit or nap on your lap. When held close, the little baby will feel your body warmth and should spend time with you quietly. If the baby learns to enjoy quiet time with well as active playtime...those quiet times will continue to be treasured later.

If it's possible, find out from the owner of your kitten's mother, what type of food he was eating and have it on hand. If you wish to switch foods later, you can. But do so slowly, over a period of a week or two so the pet doesn't suffer gastrointestinal upset from an abrupt change in diet.

New pet owners have a hundred questions about pet foods. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has established nutritional guidelines for pet foods. These guidelines include testing procedures regarding the foods.

The guidelines also strive to assure the consumer that the food they purchase will supply their pet with the nutrition needed for good health. The labels of quality foods will have a statement as to whether the food meets the AAFCO's guidelines.

If the statement is not present, be aware that the food may not be nutritionally complete. Read the labels for what is in the product even if it has the AAFCO on the label, just so you know what your pet is eating. Many are specifically for kitten care.

Feeding directions are also important. If the feeding directions say your pet needs to eat 1 1/2 cans of food per day, and you know your kitten is only eating 3/4 of a can per day, your pet is not getting all of the nutrition he needs from that particular food. Of course, these are only guidelines...feed more to a thin cat and less to a heavy cat.

Overall...the basics of raising kitten care standards are easy to remember. Don't wean him too early, make sure he gains enough weight and eats a proper diet, and help him feel comfortable with people. With a little love and good health care, you and your baby cat will be companions for many years.

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