Advice on Feeding Small Kitten
Kittens even from the same litter can differ widely as to when they start accepting solid foods (the weaning process). At about four weeks old, most kittens express some interest in solid foods. Be sure to treat this weaning time as a positive experience, so the kitten will not be frightened. Start by offering some formula on your finger. If the kitten does not lick it off, then you should gently smear the formula on its mouth, being careful not to get the formula on its nose or restrict its breathing. The kitten will definitely clean itself, and get the formula that way.
It is important to remember how delicate the kitten's digestive system is and how easily it can get upset. Taking it very slowly, continue to work on the kitten's lapping skills, by using your finger, and encouraging the kitten to lap up formula from your finger. The next step is to gradually add some slightly warmed baby food to the formula, making a "gruel" out of it. Some of you may have heard that baby food is dangerous to kittens due to the dehydrated onion that is used; the major baby food brands such as Gerbers and Beechnut have eliminated those ingredients from their recipes, and you can use the baby food with confidence. One of the reasons baby food (we recommend the lamb, chicken or turkey flavors...start with lamb and stay with it if possible) works so well with kittens is that it is easy for them to lap up, but more importantly, it has a high degree of odor to it, which stimulates the kitten's appetite and encourages it to eat, when it is young or sick, and not able to smell properly or understand that it is hungry.
Be patient. Some kittens do not even express interest in solid foods until they are seven weeks old...that is extreme, but it can happen. Continue working with the kitten a minimum of four times a day, and supplement with a bottle or syringe to be sure the kitten is getting adequate nutrition per day. As the kitten learns to eat solids, you want to gradually introduce the wet food that you want to have your kitten eat, such as Iams Lamb and Rice canned food. Lamb and rice is popular as it is the easiest mixture for kittens to digest. Keep the "gruel" very moist with bottled water or Pedialyte, and gradually decrease the amount of baby food and increase the amount of canned cat food. Also, be sure you are offering a high quality, scientifically formulated dry food for your kittens available at ALL TIMES. Some kittens will actually prefer the dry food to the wet food, and will enjoy teething and crunching on the small kibble pieces.
Make sure your kitten does not get dehydrated. The easiest way to check how hydrated your kitten is, is to grasp the skin firmly but gently between the kitten's shoulder blades, and lift it straight up with a twisting motion as you release it. Kitten skin that is well hydrated pops back within a second or less. The longer it takes the skin to return to its place, the more fluids your kitten needs. In severely dehydrated kittens, you and your vet may decide to inject water or a special veterinary formulated electrolyte solution under the kitten's skin, for faster absorption. In some cases, slightly older kittens who have been nursing from their mother but are suddenly unable to do so (such as if the mother becomes ill, hurt, or dies) may not take easily to the bottle or to the formula. Or, your lactating mother may need additional nutrition. There are several variations of a home-made, highly nutritious formula:
(The following is to be used only in emergency situations where a kitten formula is not available. They are NOT meant or formulated to be used long term)
HOMEMADE RECIPE FOR KITTEN FORMULA
3 oz. condensed milk
3 oz. water
4 oz. plain yogurt (NOT low-fat)
3 large or 4 small egg yolks
ANOTHER KITTEN DIET
1/2 cup whole milk
1 egg yolk
1 drop mulitple infant vitamins (Please ask your vet)
Mix well or blend together in a blender for smoothest consistency.
DOSAGE (Divide and feed 4 times daily)
|Age (in weeks) ||ml /per grams of body weight /per day |
|1 week||13 ml|
|2 weeks ||17 ml|
|3 weeks * ||20 ml (* encourage solid food) |
|4 weeks ||22 ml |
Always remember to consult your vet if you are ever unsure of feeding amounts or requirements. Never use these homemade diets for long term use.
KITTEN REHYDRATION FORMULA
This formula can be used for kittens suffering from dehydration and diarrhea. This mixture is thick but drinkable. It is just as effective as glucose-based oral solutions in preventing and treating dehydration and has the added advantage of reducing the volume and duration of diarrhea.
Cereal-based oral rehydration solution can be made by mixing:
1/2 cup dry, precooked infant's rice cereal
2 cups of water
1/4 teaspoon salt.
NOTE: This solution should only be used temporarily. If you think your kitten is suffering dehydration and/or severe diarrhea, do not hesitate to see your vet immediately. Dehydration and persistent diarrhea in young kittens and cats can lead to serious organ failure, fever, shock, malnutrition and other serious health conditions.
At three weeks or so, you can start training the babies to eat food in a dish. Do so by mixing either dry or canned kitten food with the milk formula and mush it until it is a thick liquid. Go ahead and use your blender, and pretend you're making a milkshake. You'll probably need to "prime" the kitty by putting a bit of the mixture on your finger tip, then showing her the saucer. As the kitten learns to eat and enjoy her "mush", you can gradually reduce the amount of milk replacement formula.
Finally, she can graduate to solid kitten food. Many cat owners provide dry food to be eaten at will, supplemented with a small serving of canned food once or twice a day. Canned food remaining in the can should be refrigerated immediately after opening, and the next serving can be warmed in a microwave for just a minute or so. Uneaten canned food in the plate should also not be left out after the kitten has had her fill, as it can spoil rapidly.
At the same time your kitten is learning to eat from a dish, she can also learn to drink water from a dish. Use a sturdy ceramic bowl and place it where the kitten can find it easily. You may have to dabble your fingers in the water at first to show the kitten what it is. Don't be surprised if there is a little splashing and water fun before kitty discovers it is to be taken internally.
The Litter Thing
Use a low-sided box for training - the lid to a shoe box would work. A pellet-type litter is generally recommended, but not the clumping style. Kittens will experiment with eating litter and the clumping type is murder on the intestines. Once the kitten starts eating on its own, just put her in the box around 15 minutes after eating. Scratch the litter a bit with your finger to show her what it's all about. If she hops out, put her back in again a couple times, then leave her alone. If she makes a mistake and poops on the floor, pick a small amount up and put it in the box to show her where it belongs. She'll get the idea sooner or later, and more likely sooner.