Newborn Kitten Care 101: Guide & Care Sheet for a

As every rescuer knows, you must carefully monitor the progress of tiny newborn kittens

Weighing the kittens is an imperative preventive measure in making sure all kittens thrive and make it to adulthood

Kittens grow fast during those first few weeks, doubling their own body weight every few days

If a kitten fails to gain weight during this sensitive period, it means something has gone wrong and it’s time for you to step in and do something about it

Blind, deaf, immobile and unable to regulate their body heat, kittens are very fragile and many don’t make it past the first week or two of their lives

Good scales can help you do just that

Often, the first sign of a problem is that a kitten stops gaining weight

The only way for you to tell whether or not a kitten is not gaining enough weight is by carefully weighing the kittens at least once a day and writing down the data for each and every day

If you are faced with the daunting challenge of hand rearing kittens, weighing the kittens is crucial in determining just how much to feed

Overfeeding newborn kittens is likely to cause diarrhea, in itself a life-threatening condition as it can quickly lead to dehydration and kidney damage

Not feeding enough is just as dangerous and causes a kitten to fail to thrive and eventually die

Should you weigh kittens that nurse from the mother cat?

Even if the kittens are nursing from a mother cat, their weight must be closely monitored

Malnutrition can be an issue when the mother cat may not be producing enough milk, or if a kitten is too weak to properly latch onto a nipple

“The first ten days of life has the highest death rate and the majority of these deaths are simply due to lack of enough milk, literally a slow starvation death”, says catwoman707, an experienced rescuer and team member of TheCatSitecom

“When there are more than four kittens,” she further explains, “some kittens, especially the runts of the litter, may not be consuming enough milk because they are constantly bumped off of the best nipples, the lower four “

Weighing also means you’re handling the kittens on a daily basis

This can help you notice other problems in time as well

“We had a couple of members who lost whole litters to fleas”, says TheCatSitecom forum advisor StefanZ

“They thought they weren’t supposed to touch the kittens before they were at least two weeks old, and thus they never discovered the fleas until it was too late”, he adds

How to weigh newborn kittens

Our forum experts offer some tips for weighing newborn kittens:

1 Weigh the kittens at least once a day

For generally healthy-looking kittens, once a day should be enough

Catwoman707 suggests weighing at-risk babies twice a day

These would be kittens whose birth weight was 275 ounces and under, the runts in litters of five kittens or more, and kittens that are found away from their siblings and mother

2 Weigh the kittens at the same time every day

Our advisors suggest weighing the kittens at the same time every day to establish patterns in an effective way

3 Keep the kittens close to the mother cat during weighing

“Make sure mom can see what you are doing so she doesn’t get agitated,” says forum advisor tulosai

If you have more than one kitten with the same color pattern, you need to find a way to clearly tell them apart

StefanZ suggests using food coloring on one of the kitten’s paws, choosing different colors or simply applying the dye to different paws

The coloring should be renewed occasionally because the mother cat washes it off

5 Use an accurate kitchen scale

Any good kitchen/postal scale should work

Some of our advisors prefer a gram-based scale as it provides a more accurate reading

How much weight should a kitten gain?

The exact number of grams that should be gained depends on the kitten’s initial weight and its age

Healthy kittens weigh between 80 and 170 grams (28-6 ounces) at birth

They gain weight quickly, sometimes even doubling their birth weight within a single week

For an average healthy kitten, StefanZ suggests a weight gain of 10 grams a day as a good rule of thumb

Smaller kittens are expected to gain weight in smaller daily increments

“Beginning day 2 babies should be gaining a minimum of 7 grams,” says catwoman707

“The safe area is more than 8 grams and some will gain up to 1/2 oz (14 grams) a day,” she adds

If a kitten that was born within the normal birth weight range fails to gain at least 7 grams a day for more than a single day, it’s cause for concern

What to do if you notice that a kitten isn’t gaining enough weight?

If a kitten is gaining less than 7-8 grams a day during the first 10 days of its life, or if you notice a negative trend in incremental weight gain, you should step in

The most probable cause is that the kitten simply isn’t getting enough milk

This can be happening because he or she is the runt of the litter, not making it to the rich milk in the four major nipples in time, or for some other reason

The way to help is by adding extra feedings for that kitten

If the kitten is still nursing, you will be supplementing that with extra feedings of KMR (kitten milk replacement) or goat’s milk if KMR isn’t available

Note that kittens who are still nursing will probably refuse a bottle

Instead, try feeding them with a small 10 ml syringe (without its needle) for better control over the amounts fed

Sometimes you’ll find that the mother cat has rejected the kitten, in which case you should switch to hand rearing and feeding exclusively by hand

Brush up on hand rearing kittens, including feeding them and you could be saving that kitten’s life

You can also write for advice from our rescue experts in the Pregnant Cat & Kitten Care forum

This article was written with the help and advice of TheCatSitecom team members: StefanZ, tulosai, jcat, Red Top Rescue, catwoman707, GemsGem, and CatPack

Get more advice and support by posting your question in the Kitten Care forum

The thought of looking after an adorably tiny newborn kitten can be appealing, but it’s actually incredibly hard work!

Whether you find yourself helping your cat support her kittens or fostering a kitten that’s been abandoned, these little babies require round-the-clock care to grow up big and strong

If you’re wondering exactly what’s involved in caring for a newborn kitten, you’re in the right place

Our guide and care sheet will walk you through everything that you need to know

From what to feed them and how to care for them and keep them warm to which illnesses you need to look out for, we’ve got you covered

What to Consider Before Owning a Newborn Kitten

Image Credit: Tom Pingel, Shutterstock

Before you even think about owning a newborn kitten, you need to be 100% sure that you can meet their needs

There are two main ways that you might find yourself owning a newborn kitten:

Your cat has a litter of kittens

If your cat has a litter of kittens, you can expect her to carry out most of the care

But if she rejects some of the kittens, you’ll need to care for them yourself, much as you would for a fostered or rescued kitten

Newborn kittens don’t offer much in the way of interaction, as for the first 4 weeks, they’re completely dependent on their mother cat (or caregiver!) for everything that they need

For the first 2 weeks, expect to feed them every 3 hours, even overnight

They’ll also need help going to the toilet

Very young kittens can’t regulate their own body temperature, so if there isn’t a mother cat to keep them warm, you may need to keep them in an incubator or under a heat lamp

If you’re going to be caring for newborn kittens, you need to make sure someone can be home to look after them at all times for the first 12 weeks of their life

Where Can I Get a Newborn Kitten?

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If you’re considering buying a kitten from a breeder, these little bundles of fluff won’t be ready to leave their mother cat until they’re at least 8 weeks old

Many breeders prefer to allow kittens to stay with their mothers until they’re at least 12 weeks old

This gives them a better opportunity to learn how to use a litter box and play independently

By 12 weeks, a kitten’s immune system will also be better developed, meaning they stand a much better chance of growing into a healthy and happy adult cat

You may find yourself looking after newborn kittens if your own cat has had a litter of kittens

She might not produce enough milk for all the kittens, and some cats reject their kittens, in which case you’ll need to care for them instead

If you’re fostering newborn kittens that have been found without a mother, they may come to you when they’re only a few days old

These little babies usually require the care of an experienced foster human who is well versed in caring for newborn kittens

Speak to a cat rescue organization before attempting to take care of kittens from a feral mother found outside

What Kind of Home Does My Newborn Kitten Need?

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For their tiny size, newborn kittens need a great deal of equipment!

If a mother cat is caring for her kittens, she keeps them warm and well-fed and helps them go to the bathroom

For humans looking after newborn kittens, you’ll need to provide all of that yourself!

Here’s a list of everything that you’ll need

Cat beds, blankets, and towels

Heat lamp, heated cat bed, or incubator

Non-clumping cat litter

Cat scratcher

Cat toys

If a kitten is without their mother, you need to make sure you can keep a newborn kitten warm, as they can’t regulate their own temperature in the beginning

You can either use heat lamps, heated cat beds, or an incubator if you have access to one

Keep a thermometer near the kitten’s bed so you can monitor the temperature

As the kittens grow up and start moving around, they may be interested in playing with toys, climbing small obstacles, and investigating scratching posts

Make sure you have a secure room where they can explore without the danger of falling down stairs, injuring themselves falling from high surfaces, or getting trapped behind furniture

By the time that kittens are roughly 4 weeks old, they’ll be starting to explore their environment, play with toys and each other, and get into all kinds of trouble!

It’s also a good idea to keep a supply of disinfectant and cleaning products on hand

A kitten’s immune system is still developing at this young stage, so you want to do everything that you can to minimize the chances of them picking up an infection

What Should I Feed My Kitten?

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Newborn kittens without a mother to provide milk should be fed a kitten milk replacer

The exact amount per feed will depend on the brand, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions

As a rough guide, newborn kittens will need roughly 2-6 milliliters per feed, increasing to 18-22 milliliters by the time that they are 5 weeks old

Do not be tempted to feed your kitten cow’s milk

It’s a good idea to weigh your kitten every day to check that they’re putting on a healthy amount of weight

Newborn kittens usually weigh around 35 ounces and should gain an additional 10 grams each day

By keeping a close eye on your kitten’s weight, you can make sure they’re growing as much as they should be

As kittens start to be weaned at around 6 weeks, make sure you provide a constant source of fresh and clean water

At this point, you can offer them a bowl of a soft kitten food, and pâté-type textures are usually well received!

Mix a small amount of kitten food with pre-prepared formula, and put this in a shallow bowl

It’s also a good idea to offer a shallow bowl of formula as kittens get used to transitioning to a solid food

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Newborn kittens need round-the-clock care, so be prepared for sleepless nights

As they grow up, the frequency of feeds will reduce, but there’s still much you need to do to take care of these little bundles

We’ve outlined how often you should be feeding your kittens here:

Age 5 weeks: Feed every 5-6 hours

Age 5 weeks: Feed every 5-6 hours

Age 5 weeks: Feed every 5-6 hours

Age 5 weeks: Feed every 5-6 hours

Age 5 weeks: Feed every 5-6 hours

At 6 weeks old, you can start weaning kittens onto a soft kitten food

Keep everything clean when you feed your kitten, to minimize the chances of them picking up bacteria or an infection

It’s a good idea to keep an apron or coverall for feeding purposes only and launder this regularly

Feed your kitten by allowing them to lie on their stomach

Allow the kitten to set the pace, and you may need to support their neck with your free hand, especially for a newborn kitten

Next is helping your kitten go to the bathroom, which you’ll need to do after every feed

Helping kittens go to the bathroom

Newborn kittens need help going to the bathroom

If their mother cat isn’t there to help them, you’ll have to do the job instead!

After your kitten has had their feed, use a cotton ball dipped in warm water and rub this over their bottom in a circular motion

You may also need to rub your kitten’s belly

Kittens will need this help for the first 4 weeks, after which time, you can introduce them to the litter box

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Luckily, kittens are pretty smart at learning how to use the litter box

At around 3-4 weeks of age, you can place the kitten in a litter box and stimulate them to go to the bathroom like you’ve been doing previously

By 5 weeks old, kittens shouldn’t need help using the litter box to do their business

Kittens will spend most of their time in their bed for the first 4 weeks

They’ll soon start to explore their new environment on wobbly legs, as they work on improving their coordination

They won’t need too much exercise before they tire out and head back to bed for something to eat and a nap!

Keep the area in which you allow your kittens to exercise fairly small, so there’s less chance of them getting into trouble

Kittens should be allowed to choose when they want to exercise, so make sure they can always leave their bed from 4 weeks onward

Kittens will usually learn socialization skills from their mother

If your kitten is being brought up without their mother cat, they will need extra help to develop their socialization skills

If you have a single foster kitten, you may want to see if you can find other kittens to integrate them with, if your vet recommends that as a possibility

You can also help develop a kitten’s socialization skills by allowing them to interact with a range of people and other animals and exposing them to different sights and sounds

Making these experiences positive by rewarding your kitten with their favorite treat will help them grow into a confident adult cat

Image Credit: Casey Elise Christopher, Shutterstock

Keep a close eye on your kittens, and if anything seems out of the ordinary, it’s always worth asking your vet for advice

Newborn kittens are defenseless and fragile

As their tiny bodies grow and mature, they’re also working on building a strong immune system to fight off infections

Until they’re around 12 weeks of age, a kitten won’t have a fully functioning immune system

They can pick up a few different illnesses during this time

The main things to watch out for with newborn kittens are the following

Abandoned kittens often haven’t had access to the vital first milk, or colostrum, from their mothers

Kittens with a respiratory infection may not need antibiotics, but they will definitely need veterinary advice

Fleas are common on small kittens, and as they’re too young for conventional treatments, you’ll have to remove the fleas manually

You may be able to bathe each kitten using a mixture of warm water and Dawn dish soap

Don’t use other dish soap brands, as they may not work as effectively

After bathing, make sure the kittens are kept warm until they’re fully dry

A newborn kitten’s small body can be prone to developing dehydration if they’re not drinking enough milk

A kitten’s urine should usually be a pale straw color — any darker than this and they may be dehydrated

Speak to your local vet, as they may either recommend subcutaneous fluids or a supplement that you can add to your kitten’s formula

Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

Newborn kittens that have been abandoned should be taken to the vet for an assessment

After this, either speak to your vet if you think that the kittens have picked up an illness, or schedule another wellness check at around 9 weeks, when their first set of vaccinations are due

Kittens should have a booster vaccination at 12 weeks old, and it’s at this point that breeders will often allow them to go to their new homes

See also: How to Take Care of a Cat : Beginners Guide (With Care Chart)

The rewards of watching a tiny helpless newborn kitten grow into a strong and playful 4-month-old kitten ready to leave for their new home are huge

Looking after newborn kittens takes time and dedication and isn’t easy

By following this guide, though, you’ve got all the information that you need to care for your newborn kittens

It’s always a good idea to get your vet involved, and local shelters may be happy to provide advice too

If there are any experienced kitten fosterers in your area, that can be a great way to learn new techniques and pick up plenty of advice

If you’ve ever raised a kitten from a newborn, let us know what it was like!

Featured Image Credit: Liliya Kulianionak, Shutterstock

Contents OverviewWhat to Consider Before Owning a Newborn KittenWhere Can I Get a Newborn Kitten?What Kind of Home Does My Newborn Kitten Need?What Should I Feed My Kitten?How Do I Take Care of My Kitten?FeedingHelping kittens go to the bathroomLitter Box TrainingExercise Socialization VaccinationsHow Do I Know If My Kitten Is Sick?Conclusion

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