Caring for a Rescued Kitten
If you find yourself in charge of raising a kitten that is too young to have been separated from its mother, you may find that there is very little information available on exactly how to do the job of a mother cat. David from the Japan Cat Network has kindly offered his advice about this tricky undertaking based on his years of experience with rescuing kittens in Japan.
(Please note that this advice is for taking care of VERY YOUNG kittens who are too young to take care of themselves. A kitten that is old enough to be separated from its mother does not need this much maintenance. We don’t want to scare off any potential adopters who might think that raising a kitten is this much work!)
One of the most useful skills a cat rescue group could have is taking care of kittens. It is, frankly, a skill many vets do not have. If you feel your otherwise good vet is not so good with kittens try another vet, and learn to do more things yourself.
If you see a tiny kitten, and want to help it, you probably have just the one chance. If you wait til a more convenient time, or call someone else to please help it, it may be too late. If you see it with a mother cat, don’t remove it, but if it is by itself then it was probably abandoned there by a person. Search the vicinity for other kittens. There could be more a few steps away. If you don’t have much
experience with kittens like with feeding or recognizing the signs of dehydration, then get to a vet right away.
Little kittens won’t get a fever even if they are very sick. They can’t because their bodies can not control their temperature. They will easily die from exposure to the heat or to the cold. So get them to a room or basket where there is a good temperature. Kittens will dehydrate easily, You can syringe liquid into their mouth for them to swallow. Light sugar water or pet milk is good. Check well for cuts and scrapes, bumps and swellings. A small cut can abscess and kill in no time. Kittens get icky eyes for lots of reasons. Most are not serious but need medicine. Medicines that are fine for adult cats may
not be ok for kittens. Ask your vet.
Little kittens need milk about every 4 hours – Try to get 6 hours of sleep if you can – feeding last thing before bed and first thing in the morning. We greatly prefer the esbilac powdered milk, and the esbilac bottles and nipples. Get extra nipples at the start. They will wear out, be bitten through and you’ll screw some up cutting too big a hole. In bottling kittens, the goal is to get the kitten to suck. If the kitten is merely swallowing the milk that you drip into their mouth, they will not drink enough to survive. That is really just first aid. If they are too stressed they won’t suck. So be patient. Try and if you don’t have success after a few minutes, set the kitten back in its box and try again soon.
The Poop and the Pee
They can’t do it on their own. They will need to pee soon after bottling. There is some technique but basically take a tissue and pat pat pat. Then out it should gush into your tissue. Have the box handy. Depending on the age they will not poop every day. Keep ’em clean but be careful not to irritate. If their genital area gets red and sensitive, they may need ointment from your vet.
Let’s say you rescue 3 different kittens from 3 different places, and they have the typical things kittens get. One has a sneeze maybe from exposure to herpes. One has diarrhea from coxidium. One has ringworm (a fungus not a parasite). If you bunk them in the same box, after a few days all three will be sneezing, pooping diarrhea and losing hair and whiskers from ringworm. You have to separate kittens until you know they don’t have something which can be passed to another kitten. Also wash or disinfect your hands when going from kitten to kitten, which are from different litters
Little kittens did not enough of mothers milk so are vulnerable to all the germs we live with. Cats may clean themselves but kittens don’t. That’s momma’s job. So, you will have to learn to wash the kittens. Don’t get water in their eyes. Don’t get soap on their face. Don’t let them be exposed even for seconds to the cold air while they are wet. Use a blow dryer to dry them completely.
The Long and the Short of it
Some kittens will not make it no matter what you do. It’s hard to lose them because of the intensity to which you have cared for them. Even the most skilled kitten carer (their mother) would lose some. There is much more detailed information to be found on line through many sources. And a good kitten vet will give you the practical help that could only be given when the kitten and vet are there in person.