Kittens require specific care to ensure they are happy and healthy. Today, our Everett vets offer some tips on how you can care for a new kitten.
Just like human babies, kittens require far more attentive and specialized care compared to their adult counterparts. Their eyes are sealed tightly shut, and their ears are usually folded against their heads. They're not able to stand and are more or less helpless. This makes it incredibly important to ensure that you can provide them with proper care throughout the time that they are still developing to ensure that they go on to live a healthy adult cat life.
Caring for Newborn Kittens
Much like newborn human babies, newborn kittens spend much of their time sleeping, waking occasionally to be fed and cared for. Kittens can sense warmth and use their sense of smell to move toward their mother's belly and are dependent on a source of milk and warmth to aid them in their development.
While we are all aware that cats enjoy sleeping, you may not know that kittens actually require up to 22 hours of sleep a day. Your kitten's mobility will start to improve at about the same time their teeth start coming in; at around two weeks they are crawling and by four weeks they can walk, jump, and play more steadily. This is also when their capacity for mischief increases, as they are curious and adventurous – and often eager to practice climbing!
Keep Your Kitten Warm
Newborn kittens can't regulate their body heat, which is part of the reason that they usually pile up near or on their mother. If your newborn kitten doesn't have a mother or littermates to keep their body temperature up, you will have to do more to help keep them warm by using something such as a heating disk in the crate or a heating pad on low heat underneath a blanket in their enclosure. You should also make a little nest out of blankets for the kitten to lay in for comfort. It's important that you make sure that the heating pad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands and providing a comfortable place in your kitten's cage/crate that does not have a heating item so they can go there if they get too warm.
You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old because if kittens get too cold they will catch hypothermia, for this reason, their area should be kept at 85ºF or 29ºC.
Provide Proper Nutrition
Of course, when caring for a newborn kitten without a mother you will need to feed them and provide them with proper nutrition. You will have to bottle feed your kitten a special kitten formula every 2-4 hours. Every kitten is different, your veterinarian will be able to inform you of the best formula to use, how much to feed them and how frequently you should be feeding your kitten. For kittens to grow healthily, they will need to gain approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your cat cow milk and always make sure you are feeding them the same formula. For your kitten to digest food properly, they will have to be kept warm.
Keeping Your Kitten Healthy
No matter how old your kitten is, it's important to take them for their first veterinary appointment when appropriate. Your veterinarian will evaluate the health of your kitten as well as inform you of their dietary needs. This also provides you with the opportunity to ask any questions you may have regarding the care of your new family member.
Ensuring your kitten gets routine preventive care is vital, including wellness exams, routine vaccinations, and parasite prevention.
Regular wellness exams allow your vet to assess the overall health and well-being of your kitten including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.
You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of their vaccinations and parasite prevention care on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.