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How to save abandoned kittens - Feeding time

Updated on September 20, 2007

Feeding time was always a stressful affair, perhaps not so much for kittens but for me. But after a day or two you will get the hang of it, trust me if I have managed anyone can.

The first thing you should purchase before you even bring the kittens home is the kitten's nursing kit (which should include a bottle and several nipples) and kitten formula that you should be able to get in any pet store.

See, you cannot give kittens cow's milk for 2 reasons

a) it will cause diarrhea which in turn will lead to dehydration

b) cow's milk is not nutritious enough for kitten and they can starve to death from it.

Before you start feeding kittens, cut the x on the first nipple (the formula should slowly drip from the bottle, too big of an opening they will eat too much too fast, too small of an opening they will not get enough to eat and get tired more easily). Sterilize both the bottle and the nipples in some hot, boiling water before feeding time. The formula should be room temperature (we usually put the bottle with formula in bowl with hot water to get the temperature right). Also before and after the feeding either sterilize your hands or wear surgical gloves to protect both yourself and all of your pets from germs. You can also wear the same sweatshirt of t-shirt for feeding time, again because of the germs.

Now the feeding can start. I used to wrap them up in a clean towel and gave them the bottle. Another option is to sit on the floor, let the kitten place its paws on your leg while it nurses (they will "knead" as they would with their real mum). Open their mouth with your finger and place the nipple in their mouth. As they can be a bit greedy, especially if they are very hungry they can get air in their stomach. To prevent that you should keep the bottle at 45°angle. But you will know once they get the hang of it, as they will suckle away with enthusiasm. In case they are too enthusiastic and get formula in their lungs you have to hold them upside down until they stop choking. If the kitten does not want to nurse and it is past the getting-it-right stage consult a vet.

When it comes to how much they should eat, it is easy to keep track with the nursing bottle. However the general idea is if they are under 1 week - every 2-3 hours, 2 weeks - 4 to 6 hours, after 3 weeks (until you wean them off) - every 6 to 8 hours. If you have multiple kittens like we did, feed them one at the time and then repeat the process. When they have had enough to eat, there will be some bubbles around their mouths while their tummies with be round. And just like with a baby, you will have to burp your kittens as well. Place them on your shoulder and pat them on gently their backs.

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