Saving baby kittens takes time, patience, and practice! Learn how to bottle feed a kitten and help increase their chances of growing up healthy.
To start, here’s a list of what you will need for successful bottle feeding…
- Bottles and nipples – look for a nursing kit like this one that has a variety of nipple sizes included, and bottles that have liquid measurement markers
- Kitten formula – we like PetLac and KMR; goat’s milk formulas for pets are also great and usually have higher caloric content
- A kitchen scale, baby scale, or veterinary scale if you have access to one
- A dry towel or flannel baby blanket
- Alcohol-free baby wipes
Crunch Some Numbers
To avoid overfeeding and tummy discomfort, it is best to weigh each kitten to determine the right amount of food they should receive. Each kitten should eat enough calories each day, based on their weight, to start them off right and help them grow up healthy.
Our pals at Maddie’s Fund have made it easy to calculate how much to bottle feed a kitten. Click here to download their entire bottle feeding guide.
How To Bottle Feed A Kitten
Bottle feeding a kitten is very different from feeding a human baby. Watch this helpful video to see how to properly hold a kitten and offer the nipple when feeding.
Make sure the milk is warm, but not hot. Do not microwave the milk; instead, microwave a bowl of water and place the prepared bottle inside to warm up safely. Check the temperature of the milk on your wrist, just like a human baby bottle. If it’s too cold, put it back in the warm water for a while longer; if it’s too hot, swirl it around a bit to cool it down.
Do not hold a kitten like a human baby – a kitten’s belly should be facing the floor when he eats. His neck should be outstretched to allow the milk to flow into his body easily.
Keep kittens warm and comfortable to encourage feeding. Here’s where the dry towel or baby blanket comes in handy. You can also use your fabric to wrap the kitten like a burrito so that only his head is visible – but don’t forget to hold him with his belly facing the floor.
Kittens need to eat at regular intervals to encourage them to grow. Expect to feed your kittens every 2-4 hours, depending on how old they are. That means waking up in the middle of the night for feedings, too. It can take 6-7 weeks for kittens to wean and eat on their own.
Very young kittens may not be able to handle prepared formula without it being diluted. Thin your formula with unflavored Pedialyte or distilled water.
Don’t overfeed your kittens! Overfeeding causes gastrointestinal discomforts like diarrhea and gas, and in some cases kittens can aspirate the formula if they are fed too much too quickly.
Use your alcohol-free baby wipes for clean up after feedings, and to mimic the mother cat’s act of licking. Mama cats clean and groom their babies A LOT! You may need to very gently “lick” their private parts to encourage “movement” – a pooping kitten is a healthy kitten! A dry towel and an old toothbrush with dull bristles can also help you groom your foster kittens.
The Truth About Homeless Kittens
Not every kitty orphan has a happy ending… our staff and volunteers have been there for many sad stories. The only way to prevent sad stories is by preventing litters before they are born.
Spaying and neutering house cats and feral cats is vital to the health of the animal population. Some 80% of the kittens that are born each year are born to feral cats. Those that survive often end up being young mothers and fathers, perpetuating the sad cycle. When abandoned or orphaned, these infant kittens often have nowhere safe to go… many municipal shelters do not have the resources to properly care for them and will euthanize immediately.
Special Pals is a limited intake shelter, and we can only help as many orphaned kittens as we can manage with our resources and volunteers. To help save more kittens, volunteer to be a foster with Special Pals. We give you guidance and support while you give these at-risk kittens a safe place and a fresh start. Contact us now for more information about being a foster.
Can’t foster but want to help? Check out our bottle baby wish list on Amazon and send some love to these babies.