What To Do When A Kitten Has Lost Their Mother
In a perfect world, all kittens would get as much time as they need with their mothers before they move on to their forever home. But unfortunately, sometimes kittens are orphaned or abandoned by their mom when they are super-tiny, even as newborns. That doesnt mean these babies are lost causes, thoughthey just need some extra help to thrive.
The best thing to do, if you come across one or more kittens you suspect have lost their mother, is to call your local shelter, Koski says. They may have foster parents available who can take in a kitten or even a whole litter. Those fosters know what theyre doingtheyve often done it before, Koski says.
Well, why couldnt I just raise one of these kittens? you may be wondering. You can, of coursebut only if you have the time and resources to devote to these cute-but-needy kitties. The first thing youll need, Dr. Kornreich says, is a vet who can guide you through the process. Kittens are very vulnerable to disease and infection, and feeding them the wrong way can cause them to get really sick and even die. So you need someone who knows what theyre doing to give you advice on even the most basic tasks.
Your vet will also likely recommend the following steps to care for your baby kitten:
Kitten kindergarten classes can be really great to help teach the kitten about socializing, especially with other cats, and then also training fundamentals, Koski says.
Why Is My New Kitten Not Eating
Most cats are not big fans of changes, and this extends to kittens too. If you find that your new kitten is not eating as much as they should or usually would, here are some things you can do:
They May Eliminate Outside The Litter Box
Kittens learn how to use the litter box by watching their mom use one. If they are taken from her too early, theyll be less likely to figure out how and where theyre supposed to use the bathroom. You can begin litter-box training your kittens when theyre around 4 weeks old, and they should be able to use a litter box successfully by 8 weeks of age. Make sure to stay calm and positive during litter-box training, as cats respond better to positive reinforcement than punishment. Additionally, punishing a kitten may cause her to become fearful of humans, and she wont understand why shes being punished in the first place.
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How Long Should A Kitten Stay With Their Mother
Different experts disagree on how long kittens should stay with their mothers. Most people agree that eight weeks is the minimum time a kitten should be kept with its mother and littermates. By eight weeks, your kitten will have hit several important milestones, including opening their eyes, starting to walk and jump on their own, and transitioning away from nursing as their primary food source.
But, many people think that eight weeks is still a little too early to start separating kittens and their mothers for a wide variety of reasons.
For instance, most kittens still have a lot of social development to do, and its unusual for kittens to be accepted by other pets in their new home for several weeks. That can mean some developmental delays, or even missed milestones, in kittens that are adopted too early.
Still, the practice of adopting kittens at eight weeks is common enough that most people think its safe enough, even if its not ideal.
Part of the question here is also about balancing breeder costs with profits. Its in a breeders best interest to adopt as many kittens as possible, but breeding too quickly or adopting too early can cause serious problems. Eight weeks is an excellent middle ground between a kittens development and the cost of adopting a kitten vs. the breeders expenses.
Of course, breeding priorities dont necessarily have to influence rescued cat adoptions, but breeders often significantly affect how the law is written.
Are There Exceptions To This Rule
Yes. The exception would be with feral kittens. These kittens were born to a feral mother and never had any contact with humans. In this case, the need to socialize them with humans overrides their need to socialize with their mother and even siblings. If they stay with their mother for too long, they will learn to fear humans. If you care for a feral cat and her kittens, it’s best to separate the kittens at 8 weeks of age. That’s when they can already eat on their own but are young enough to overcome the fear of humans and be successfully tamed. Some experts even suggest 6-8 weeks as the appropriate time span, depending on the specific situation and whether you are able to keep both feral mother and kittens inside with you.
If you are inexperienced with caring for feral cats please post in our Caring For Strays & Ferals forum and ask our members for guidance and advice.
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What Happens When A Kitten Is Removed From Its Mother Too Soon
If a kitten is taken from its mother and sent to a new home too soon, there can be some serious health consequences. The first few weeks of a kitten’s life are essential for its health and body development. The colostrum and nutrients in the mother’s milk are responsible for strong bone development, eye health, and full organ development, so if a kitten is weaned too soon, you could be increasing the risk of your cat developing more health issues later on. A kitten removed from its mother too soon may need nutritional supplementation and other veterinary care early on in life.
In addition to health concerns, behavioral issues can arise in kittens who were removed from their mothers too early in life. Mother cats teach their kittens’ lifelong lessons and give off calming pheromones. Kittens who left their mothers too soon may have trouble grooming themselves, not know how to bury their waste in the litter box, play too rough, not know how to hunt for food, or have other behavioral problems.
How Soon Is Too Soon To Separate Kittens From Their Moms
All parents know that rearing a family is hard work, and the same holds true for mama cats. Between regularly feeding and bathing her kittens to providing a constant source of warmth and snuggles, mother cats have their work cut out for them when theyre taking care of newborn kittens. However, just because Mama Cat is exhausted from caring for her litter, that doesnt mean you should separate the kittens from their mom too early. Have you ever wondered, When can kittens leave their mom safely?
Well share everything you need to know about helping your cat take care of her little ones, from how to avoid kitten care becoming a second job to when kittens are old enough to safely leave their mom.
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Do Mom Cats Get Sad When Their Kitten Leaves
Mom cats have, sadly, evolved to be able to handle the loss of a kitten pretty well. In most cases, when a cat loses one of her kittens, shell look for that kitten and call for them for a couple of days, but no longer.
There are a few reasons for that. When a kitten gets lost or dies young, the mother cat still needs to take care of the rest of the kittens. Plus, since cats can be independent, older kittens can fend for themselves pretty well.
Most importantly, mother cats only have a strong drive to protect their kittens for so long. After a while, its more important to focus on their survival than their kittens.
Even in domesticated settings, those evolutionary traits help mother cats cope when their kittens are adopted. As long as the kitten wasnt showing signs of distress before the adoption, your momma cat will probably be just fine in a couple of days.
How Do I Feed A Weaning Kitten
If kittens are not orphaned, you don’t have to feed a bottle. They can still nurse when they are with mom. Just want to have some time away from mom to give her a break and decrease their dependence on her.
While your orphan kitten is weaning, you should feed them kitten formula from a bottle or shallow bowl. When bottle-feeding, always tilt the bottle and make sure the kitten is on their stomach, never their back.
When kittens are still drinking formula, you will need to burp them. Burp a weaning kitten by placing them on your shoulder or on their stomach and patting them gently. You will be able to hear or feel them burp.
To encourage a kitten to make the shift from bottle to bowl, dip your finger into the bowl and let the kitten lick formula off your finger. Gradually direct your kitten to the bowl â patiently â until they learn the process.
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The Risks Of Bringing A Kitten Home Too Soon
If youve fallen in love with a kitten under 8 weeks old, its easy to feel tempted to bring them home. But a few weeks of patience will pay off in the long runand the risks of taking them home too early can affect the rest of your cats life, Dr. Kornreich says.
If you adopt cats before that really early socialization period is taking place, they may be more aggressive with other cats and with people. They may not feel safe and be more skittish, he explains.
Your kitten may not have good cat manners either, Koski says. If he doesnt know about bite inhibition, maybe he plays a little too rough, is a little bit quicker to lash out, she explains. You can help curb this behavior by taking a cue from mama cats: If your kitten is showing signs of aggression when they play with you, get up and walk away. Thats exactly what their mom would do, says Koski. Still, she adds, an easier and more effective solution would be to let your kitten learn these lessons straight from their mom.
Mother Cats Might Reject One Or All Kittens For Several Reasons
Sometimes, mother cats reject their kittens and refuse to care for them. They might run away and leave her babies because she is too young, or the kittens are too sick for her to care for them. Or she is weaning her babies and needs some space for herself.
The other reason a mother cat might reject her kittens nursing is that she has mastitis, and it is too painful for her to continue nursing her babies. If thats the case, and she is your cat, she needs medical attention immediately for her comfort.
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Can You Adopt Feral Cats And Kittens
Feral cats cannot and should not be adopted. Feral cats are wild animals that have lived their entire lives without human influence and would not adapt well to any sort of human interference. A feral cat is better left on its own in the wild, where it has learned to survive by any means necessary.
Feral kittens, on the other hand, can be adopted. As long as the kittens are brought into the human home before four months old, they can successfully become house pets. Suppose youre planning on adopting a stray or feral kitten. In that case, you should be fully aware of the possibility that the cat might not be as cuddly or friendly as the standard housecat, and youll have to work extra hard to socialize the cat with humans.
Timeline For Weaning Kittens
Mother cats will typically start to wean their kittens off their milk at one month of age. This does not mean that this is the time that the kittens can go home, though. The next month of life is still full of essentials for a growing kitten, even if it isn’t consuming its mother’s milk all of the time.
The weaning process usually continues for about another month until the kittens are fully weaned between eight and 10 weeks of age. During this time, the kittens will still occasionally nurse on their mother but they will also start to eat liquid kitten food. The liquid kitten food should gradually get thicker until it is a watered-down canned kitten food or a moistened kitten kibble. Over the four to six week weaning period, the kitten will consume less and less milk from its mother. Getting a kitten used to eating dry food can take some time, so it should not be forced or rushed.
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Do Mother Cats Remember Their Kittens
Yes, mother cats do remember their kittens. In fact, they have a very strong attachment to them and will often continue to care for them even after theyve grown up and left the nest. This is why its so important to be careful when introducing new cats into a home with an existing cat theres a very real risk of the two not getting along and the mother becoming hostile towards the newcomer.
Will A Mother Cat Abandon Her Kittens If You Touch Them
It is a myth that a mother cat will abandon her kittens if a human touches them. However, a mother cat may stay away from returning to her kittens if a human is too close to them or watching over them. She may become spooked by your presence, especially if you are unfamiliar with her.
Most domestic cats live with humans indoors, so they are used to smelling humans all around them. A human touching their kittens may upset them, but it is unlikely to cause a mother cat to reject the kittens.
Newborn kittens are very delicate creatures, and humans should be extremely cautious when handling them at a young age. Cats are pretty protective of their young and should be able to provide for their kittens without a lot of outside human interference during the kittens first few weeks of life.
Some mother cats have such strong maternal instincts after giving birth to happily take in other kittens from another mothers litter or even babies of other species.
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Depression In Mother Cats
When kittens are left to be with their mother until they are mature enough to leave, mother cats know instinctively that their kittens will be safe without her. This means she is less likely to become sad or depressed subsequently. If, on the other hand, the kittens are separated too soon, she could suffer from severe depression and search desperately for her kittens in and around the house. Suppose kittens have to leave earlier than recommended. In that case, cat experts suggest that the kittens space and all it contains, such as the blanket, cushions, and utensils, are washed to remove their smell to quicken the mother cats recovery.
Will A Mother Cat Come Back For Kittens
Yes, most of the time, a mother cat will come back for her kittens if she has only stepped away for a short period. If you happen to find a litter of young kittens that appear to be within their first six weeks off life, refrain from immediately picking them up or trying to get involved.
Cats are not weaned until about six weeks old, and a mother cat knows she must stay with her kittens that long to keep them fed and healthy. Most mother cats will do everything in their power to return to their kittens while they are still within that age range.
Most of the time, if feral cats leave their young, they can find food. They must stay full themselves to continue producing milk for their kittens, so they must be well fed.
If you find a litter of cats in the wild and appear to be twelve weeks or older, it is more likely that the mother cat will not come back. Once cats know how to hunt and survive on their own, the mother cat will typically move on.
When cats have not been spayed or neutered, their sole focus is to mate and continue reproducing. Although the mother cat may have just given birth to a litter, once they are old enough to be on their own, her mind will have moved on to mating again.
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When Do Kittens Start Eating Food And Drinking Water
A lot of states use the time kittens can eat and drink on their own as an important marker of when theyre ready to be adopted. Some kittens wean themselves as early as 6 or 7 weeks old, but most kittens arent fully weaned until theyre about eight weeks old.
In some cases, it may take longer for a kitten to be weaned. Its rare for a kitten to still be nursing by ten weeks old, though.
Learning The Basics To Be A Cat What Your Kitten Has To Learn From Mother Cat
In the very first month, the fury kitten can hardly take care of herself, and she needs to be in constant touch with her mother and her littermates to stay calm. Even the second month is extremely sensitive and very important stage as this period will determine her final personality throughout her life.
During this period, the little one should be able to learn the proper cat behavior from her mother, including eating, practicing body language, using the litter box, and staying safe.
One of the most important aspects of a kittens behavior is grooming and even though we think adult cats do this naturally, it is actually a result of learning from the actions of their mother, who grooms them right from day one.
The little furry friend also must learn some valuable life lessons from her mother. Catching prey is an important feline action, and teaching hunting skills to the kitten is a must from her mother, although she might not even be in a need of doing so in her entire life.
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