Dec 222015

Caring for newborn kittens is hard work. They require attention and care around the clock. If you have recently taken in some newborn kittens, you will have your work cut out for you. If the mother cat is still in the picture, she can provide most of the kittens’ needs herself. You can support her by feeding her and leaving the kittens alone during their first week of life. If the mother cat is not around or not able to care for her babies, then you will have to take over her responsibilities. This will include feeding the kittens, keeping the kittens warm, and even helping the kittens go to the bathroom.



  1. Consider the situation. The care that you give some newborn kittens will depend on a few things: the kittens’ ages, whether or not the mother cat is still caring for the kittens, and how healthy the kittens are. If you find a litter of kittens that have been separated from their mother, then you will need to provide the things a mother cat would, such as food, warmth, and help with toileting. Take some time to consider the situation before you start caring for the kittens.[1]
    Care for Newborn Kittens Step 3.jpg
    • If you find some kittens that you think have been abandoned or separated from their mother, observe them from a distance of about 35 feet to see if the mother cat returns.
    • If the kittens are in immediate danger, then you will need to intervene without waiting for the mother cat to return. For example, you should intervene immediately if the kittens are in danger of freezing from the cold, left in a place that they might get run over or stepped on, or in an area where dogs might harm them.[2]
  2. Get help from your veterinarian or local animal shelter. Do not feel like you need to provide care for these kittens all by yourself. Caring for newborn kittens is a difficult job and you may not have everything you need to ensure their survival. Contact your local veterinarian or animal shelter for assistance. They may be able to provide a surrogate mother to help the kittens get proper nutrition or they may be able to help you with bottle feeding.[3]
  3. Provide food for the mother cat if she is still around. If the mother cat si still present an d caring for her kittens, then the kittens will be better off if you let their mother take care of them. But you can still help by providing food and shelter for the mother cat. Just make sure that you keep the food and shelter in separate areas or she may not accept either.[4]
  4. Feed the kittens. If the mother cat is not around or is unable to care for her kittens, you will need to prepare their food for them and feed them yourself. The type of food that you prepare for the kittens will depend on how old they are. Make sure that you ask your veterinarian about any special feeding needs your kittens may have.[5]
    Care for Newborn Kittens Step 5.jpg
    • When the kittens are 1-2 weeks old, bottle feed the kittens every 1-2 hours with a commercial milk replacer formula. Do not give cow’s milk to the kittens because it is too hard for them to digest.
    • When the kittens are 3-4 weeks old, provide formula in a shallow dish as well as some kitten food that has been softened with water. Offer these foods 4-6 times per day.
    • When the kittens are 6-12 weeks old, decrease the amount of formula that you offer them and begin to give them dry kitten food. Offer these foods 4 times per day.
  5. Weigh the kittens once per week. To make sure that the kittens are getting proper nutrition and putting on weight, you will need to weigh the kittens once per week and keep a record of their weights. Kittens should gain about 1 ¾ to 3 ½ ounces per week. Talk your veterinarian if you are concerned that the kittens are not gaining weigh fast enough.[6]

EditHandling and Protecting

  1. Leave kittens alone during their first week of life if the mother is around. Mother cats may reject their kittens or get upset if they are handled too much, so it is in their best interest to leave them alone if she is still around. However, from the age of 2-7 weeks it is important to get kittens used to being held by humans.[7]
    Care for Newborn Kittens Step 1.jpg
  2. Handle kittens gently. Be very careful when handling a newborn kitten. If you have children who will be handling your kittens, teach them how to be gentle and never allow them to hold the kittens unless they are being supervised. Newborn kittens are fragile and even a small child could cause serious harm to a kitten.[8]
    Care for Newborn Kittens Step 2.jpg
  3. Provide a place for the kitten(s) to sleep. If the kittens do not already have a place to sleep, make sure that you provide someplace for them that is warm, dry, and away from potential predators. Make sure that the place you choose for the kittens is out of the elements and away from drafts. You can use a box or a cat carrier that is lined with clean towels or blankets.[9]
    Care for Newborn Kittens Step 6.jpg
  4. Keep the kittens warm. If the mother cat is not around, you will need to provide a heating pad or hot water bottle wrapped in a towel to help keep the kittens warm. Just make sure that the kittens can get away from the heat if they become too warm. Check on them often to see if they seem comfortable.[10]


  1. Allow the mother cat to help her cats if she is around/able. If the mother cat is still around to help her cats use the bathroom, let her do her job. During the first few weeks of their lives, mother cats will lick their babies’ genital regions to help them urinate and defecate. Do not interfere when the mother cat is helping her babies like this.[11]
  2. Help kittens urinate/defecate if necessary. If the mother cat is not around, you will need to help the kittens to urinate and defecate during their first few weeks of life. Use a wet washcloth or a piece of damp gauze to gently rub each kitten’s genital region until it urinates and/or defecates. Wash or discard the cloth immediately and dry the kitten off before putting him back in with his litter mates.[12]
    Care for Newborn Kittens Step 7.jpg
  3. Encourage litter box use at four weeks. At about four weeks, the kittens will be ready to start using the litter box. To encourage litter box use, place a kitten in the litter box after it has finished eating. When the kitten has finished using the box, put it back in with its litter mates and then put the next one in the box. Allow each kitten a few minutes to use the box after each meal.[13]
    Care for Newborn Kittens Step 9.jpg
  4. Watch for problems. If you notice that any of the kittens are not urinating or defecating when receiving help or when put into the litter box, then you should contact a veterinarian right away to find out what is going on. The kitten might be constipated or have a blockage that will need to be removed.[14]



  • Don’t let your children under 8 years of age handle the kittens without supervision and untill the kittens are about 5-6 weeks of age.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your veterinarian or a local animal shelter. They may have volunteers available who can help you to care for the kittens and increase their chances of survival.


  • Remember not to feed your kittens cow’s milk! It is too hard for them to digest and they may become sick.
  • Do not hold a newborn kitten like a newborn child when feeding through a bottle. If you do, milk may go into the kitten’s lungs. Always have the kittens four feet on the floor or in your lap during feeding times.
  • Contact your veterinarian right away if one of your kittens seems sick (lethargic, sneezing, not eating, etc.). Kittens can die if they get sick or become malnourished.
  • Do not bathe kittens until they are over the age of 9 weeks, or the mother will abandon it because the kitten will lose its scent to the mother.

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EditSources and Citations

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How to Care for Newborn Kittens
Source: How To Of The Day