How To Feed a Newborn Cat

A kitten should stay with her mother and drink her milk until 8 or 10 weeks of life, before being adopted. Nothing replaces your mother to give you the nutrients you need and the care that allows you to have the best socialization and a good development of your immune system. It is recommended to leave the kitten with your mother until 12 weeks of age.

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However you should watch the kittens and conform that they grow and gain weight at an appropriate pace, otherwise you may have to take care of your food.

If the mother died or found an orphan kitten it will have to be you to feed it, so keep reading this Animal Expert article to learn how to feed a newborn cat .

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The water requirements of newborn cats

If newborn cats have their mother she is responsible for feeding them and should do so for at least 8 weeks.

Usually all water needs must be covered in full by breast milk during the first few weeks. Anything that prevents breastfeeding can lead to rapid dehydration. So make sure that all kittens suck properly especially in the case of numerous litters, also must prove that they gain weight adequately.

The moisture environment is a parameter that must be controlled: the humidity must be between 55-65% especially when the newborn cats are separated from the mother. For this you can simply place containers of hot water near the litter to keep the oral and respiratory mucosa of the kittens hydrated. Make sure that cats can not climb into the containers to avoid possible drowning.

If the hygrometry drops below 35% the risk of dehydration is very significant.

Hygrometry should also not exceed 95% because this can cause respiratory distress, and in addition microorganisms develop more easily in a humid environment. But in the case of weak or premature newborn cats, it may be interesting to maintain a relative humidity of 85-90%, this reduces water losses by evaporation at mucosal level and decreases heat losses.

Signs of malnutrition in the newborn cat

A newborn cat in good health sleeps between the milk feedings and wakes up when his mother stimulates him and then cries for his food source, the mother’s breast.

When their meals are insufficient the cats wake up more often and moan. Progressively they become inactive and do not gain enough weight. The most frequent complications due to malnutrition are diarrhea, dehydration, hypoglycemia and hypothermia.

All newborn cats under-fed or rejected by their mother should be seen quickly.

Weigh the kittens

Birth weight is an important diagnostic factor: it is known that low birth weight is correlated with the severity of newborn diseases. One study shows that 59 percent of cats born or die after a few days after birth were low in birth weight.

If the cat received an inadequate feed for its physiological state during gestation, the weight of the puppies may be affected.

Newborn cats with a low birth weight have a higher metabolism and higher energy needs, that is, they are more predisposed to hypoglycaemia .

To conserve the data, we recommend that you point the weight of kittens on a spreadsheet every day for at least the first two weeks.

The normal birth weight of a kitten is between 90 – 110 grams , and should gain about 15 – 30 grams every day for the first month (at least 7 – 10 grams per day) and must have reached twice its birth weight when it reaches the 14 days of age, being its weight increases some 50 – 100 grams per week. Being male or female does not influence your weight gain in the first few weeks.

A weight loss may be acceptable if it does not exceed 10% per day and only affects a limited number of kittens. On the other hand if the whole litter lose weight should be found the cause quickly.

If a kitten’s weight decreases all herds, the food is probably insufficient or of poor quality and a thorough examination of the mother should be done to find possible mastitis, metritis or any other condition that has a negative influence on milk production.

A newborn cat that loses weight for 24 or 48 hours or stops gaining weight for 2 or 3 days should receive a supplement, the results are more favorable if the intervention of the principle of weight loss.

Relationship between age and weight of newborn from birth to 8 weeks:

  • Birth: 90 – 110 grams
  • 1st week: 140 – 200 grams
  • 2nd week: 180 – 300 grams
  • 3rd week: 250 – 380 grams
  • 4th week: 260 – 440 grams
  • 5th week: 280 – 530 grams
  • 6th week: 320 – 600 grams
  • 7th week: 350 – 700 grams
  • 8th week: 400 – 800 grams

For orphans or malnourished cats: artificial feeding

The artificial milk

Artificial milk should be a food that best meets the needs of newborn cats. The energy requirements of the kitten are estimated at 21 – 26 kcal per 100 grams of body weight.

A kitten that has had a mother will receive the colostrum in its first hours of life, which serves not only to give nutrients to the kitten but also to give passive immune defenses by transmitting immunoglobulins. Therefore, for the first hours of life a substitute should be found that fulfills the same functions as colostrum. Colostrum is produced physiologically by the cat during the first 24 to 72 hours of breastfeeding, after which time begins to produce milk.

Distribution rhythm

The number of daily food recommended for a newborn cat is difficult to calculate. Effectively newborn cats tend to absorb the milk in small amounts but in several doses: up to 20 per day. The rate of distribution of the replacement food should be regular, not to exceed 6 hours between two intakes .

But there should be enough time for the stomach to empty: about 3-4 hours and respect as much as possible the rhythm of the newborn cat. Actually waking him too often can lead to stress. We advise 4 to 8 daily doses , separated by 3-6 hours.

Generally, although conditions are favorable and substitute milk is good, kittens fed on artificial feeding tend to have a delay in growth. This delay should not exceed 10% and should be compensated during weaning.

The stomach capacity of a newborn is one of 50 mL / kg, usually a kitten only absorbs 10-20 ml per milk intake, so the concentration of milk is paramount to cover the needs of the kittens.

If the energy density of the milk is too low we have to increase the number of shots. In this case to cover nutritional needs we create an excess of fluid that can affect the water balance and damage the kidneys. On the other hand, if the substitute is too energetic or gives too much to the kitten, it can have osmotic diarrhea or other digestive disorders.

The milk

The natural composition of the cat’s milk changes within 72 hours after giving birth and starts producing milk instead of colostrum. Milk will be the only food gain of the newborn cat until weaning. You can use, for example, formula milk.

The maternalised milk should be prepared just before being administered to kittens and should be given using sterile syringes or bottles, it is also better than each kitten has its own bottle. It is advisable not to prepare the milk in advance, but if you have to do it, it should be kept in the refrigerator at a maximum temperature of 4ºC, and never more than 48 hours. The milk should be given at a temperature of 37-38 ° C , it is best to warm it in a water bath because if you heat it in the microwave it can form very hot bubbles of liquid and others very cold.

When cats accept to nurse in the bottle, this is the ideal situation: so the newborn cat stops nursing when enough milk has been ingested. But the newborn cat must have a suction reflex to be fed with the bottle, otherwise it may have problems swallowing.

Syringes are most appropriate for kittens less than 4 weeks old because often the teats on the bottles are too large for them or have too much liquid cadence.

Kittens between 1 and 3 weeks require two large spoons for 110 grams of live weight every 2 to 3 hours.

To feed the kitten put it in the same position as if it could suck on your mother: head up and belly on a towel, letting it suck until you are not hungry, but be careful not to give too much. You should be at ease when you feed him to make him feel confident and calm, and let him take his time to nurse to avoid digestion problems or to eat too much food.

As soon as you finish nursing keep the kitten lying on your back and gently caress the belly, if it were with your mother it would lick your belly or genital region to stimulate the intestines to form to evacuate solid or gaseous. This step is very important.

Then place the kitten on your bed so it curls up and rests. Continue to feed it until it is time to start weaning and gradually introduce another type of food.

Generally you should start by adding ration at 4 weeks , but some cats feed exclusively on milk by 8 weeks, so you should consult a veterinarian to determine the optimal time for weaning and to know the needs of your newborn kitten.

If you want to read the similar products to How to Feed a Newborn Cat , we recommend you to enter our Breastfeeding section .

Emily Harris

Hi Guys, Girls, and Cats:-p I am Emily Harris, and you can see in above pic. She loves me I swear. I saved her from a dumpster a few weeks back.

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