Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Raising Orphaned Kittens

by Louise Holton, ACR President and Founder

One cold wet October Saturday, a man dropped off a box at the Alley Cat Rescue office; inside were two tiny kittens. By the time they got to me, they looked as though they would not live for another hour. I quickly dried them with a towel and started warming a heating pad to put them on. 

Note 1) If you find cold kittens, you cannot feed them right away until their body temperature rises.

Finally, they started to warm up and I got some warm KMR (kitten replacement milk) into them using an eye dropper. Sadly one of the babies only lived for a few hours. That left poor Dennis without a sibling and without a feline mother.

Note 2) I had to step in to be “Mommy.” Dennis was only a few days old, eyes still closed, and umbilical cord still attached. He made a lot of noise for such a tiny kitten. He cried a lot and it was very hard to comfort him. I have raised many neonatal kittens and he was one of the most demanding. He needed more care and attention than any of the other kittens I have raised over the years.

Note 3) He did settle down a bit when I put a warm, fuzzy dog toy in with him; he would cuddle into it. But mostly he would only stop crying when I put him up against my neck. So in order to be able to do any work, I had to sit on the couch with my laptop and with Dennis nuzzled into my neck.  

Note 4) Thank goodness in a couple of weeks, someone else dropped off an older litter of four kittens. I put Dennis in with them, and they kept him company so I could get some Alley Cat Rescue work done! It’s not a bad idea to consider fostering some older kittens to keep a single orphan company.

Note 5) Dennis developed a terrible bout of diarrhea. It just poured out of him and I had to get him to the vet immediately. We dewormed him in case he had parasites and took him off the kitten milk. We put him on a diet of prescription I/D canned cat food mixed with warm water. This new diet helped and in a few days, his diarrhea was under control.

Note 6) Dennis did a couple of things really well: (a) at just a few days old, he took to the kitten bottle and loved eating meals from that, and (b) he learned quickly from the older kittens how to use the litter box, and I was relieved of wiping his bottom and stimulating him to go potty … something their mothers assist with and you will have to help with when you take over as “Mommy.” 

Note 7) Whereas my many other neonatal kitten babies often started to eat canned kitten food mixed with KMR on their own, from around three weeks old, Dennis totally refused to eat from a dish and demanded the bottle for five whole weeks! I was getting really worried as I was going to California for Thanksgiving and could not expect the kitten sitter to bottle feed such a big kitty.

So it was a real celebration when he finally decided to start eating on his own. Although before he turned in for the night, he would still come and ask for a bottle before bed! He sure had a way of manipulating me!

Now a happy, healthy Dennis!

Please consider fostering orphaned kittens or mama cats with a litter. Animal shelters are always flooded with kittens in the Spring, and you will be saving lives!  Many will be killed as most shelters cannot do this work on their own. Kittens, especially bottle-babies, require a lot of time and energy and shelters do not have the resources to care for kittens. Alley Cat Rescue is here to help get you started. Visit our website for more tips on caring for orphaned kittens.

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