Feeding orphaned kittens will require constant attention and diligence.
If you have already determined that finding a surrogate nursing queen for the orphaned little ones is not an option, then the responsibility is all on you.
If you just rescued an orphan that is in need of emergency care, please read this orphaned kitten care article about important first steps to take before attempting to feed him.
Now that the orphaned baby is stabilized and brought to a safe body temperature, it’s time to feed him.
The most nutritionally balanced food if the orphaned kittens are too young to be weaned is a commercial kitten formula such as KMR.
This can be found in pet stores and veterinary offices, and is one of the best products if you have to resort to bottle feeding kittens.
The product comes in a liquid form as well as a powder.
We recommend the powder for feeding orphaned kittens, because any unused portion of the liquid will have to be thrown out after the feeding.
The powder, alternatively, can be constituted with water little by little as you use it.
If you live in a remote area or you found some very hungry kittens right as the stores close, you can get by with a homemade formula temporarily.
This is a short term solution, however; long-term use of cow’s milk is not recommended for feeding orphaned kittens, since it does not provide complete nutrients–cat milk has 60% more protein than cow’s milk, and formula will approximate this more closely.
How to Start Feeding Orphaned Kittens
Formula needs to be warmed to their body temperature, about 100 degrees.
Now that the mixture is ready, how do you feed it?
The best thing to use for feeding orphaned kittens is an eye dropper.
It will encourage a suckling reflex, and compared to a bottle there is much less danger of the kittens aspirating the formula (getting it into the lungs) which can cause pneumonia.
Besides the dropper, a syringe (without needle of course!) is also acceptable.
Baby bottles are also available, but here there is a danger of the kittens aspirating the liquid when bottle feeding because you can accidentally squeeze too much out at once.
It is attached to a plunger so that the correct amount can be given. This method requires extreme care, and you should see your vet do a demonstration before attempting on your own.
How Much and How Often Should I Be Feeding Orphaned Kittens?
Kittens should be sitting or standing when being dropper or bottle fed.
Hold his head firmly but gently between your thumb and fingers, and hold the bottle as close to horizontal as possible to avoid having too much formula come out at once.
Do not try feeding orphaned kittens on their backs, as they could choke or inhale some of the liquid.
For newborn or the very young, feed every 2 or 3 hours–even during the night–for the first few days.
Reduce to every 4 to 6 hours until they are 3 weeks old.
To determine how much formula to mix when feeding orphaned kittens, measure by body weight.
1 oz of kitten body weight requires 2 tsp per 24 hours, divided into the required number of feedings based on kitten age.
So a 4 oz kitten will eat 3 tablespoons in a 24 hour period.
A full tummy will feel firm and tight, but not distended.
If they are fairly quiet in between feedings and producing urine and stool, they are probably being fed enough.
NOTE: The first 4 weeks of her life, she depends on mom to stimulate him to eliminate his waste.
You are “mom” now to orphaned kittens, so you have to encourage this. It is critical that you do this after every feeding.
Take a damp cloth and gently wipe the her tummy and anal/urethral area to stimulate.
The stools should be firm but not hard, and will likely be a creamy color.
Once you are at the 3 or 4 week old mark, your orphaned babies are ready to graduate! Time for them to be weaned onto solid food!