Bringing Up A Litter Of Kittens: Health Considerations
31st July 2018
You have brought a litter of kittens into the world, either by accident or on purpose, and you are now responsible for their wellbeing.
You also need to ensure that your input over the next few weeks results in kittens that will make good pets for their future owners. To be good pets they need to be both healthy and have the ability to enjoy living with people.
The average birth weight for most cats is approximately 100 grammes, however, it is normal for some pedigree cats to have significantly smaller or larger kittens, depending on the breed. Healthy kittens should double their birth weight in the first two weeks, then continue to gain weight steadily. It is helpful to weigh your kittens to see whether they are thriving and growing as they should.
A Nutritionally Complete Diet Is Crucial During Kittenhood
Remember that a nutritionally complete diet is crucial during the first 12 months of life. During these months, youre building the foundation for a lifetime of good health. A diet that is nutritionally incomplete or unbalanced could set your kitten up for serious health problems down the road.
An article on Mercola Healthy Pets illustrates this fact with the story of a 5-month-old Sphynx kitten who was fed exclusively raw chicken for the first several months of his life. As a result of this imbalanced diet, the kitten developed lameness and eye problems. By the time the kitten was adopted, he was suffering from osteopenia, a condition resulting from inadequate mineral density in the bones. Inadequate taurine had caused central retinal degeneration and lesions on one of his eyes.
Four months of inadequate nutrition may not have had such an obvious impact on an adult cat, but for a growing kitten, every meal is critical.
Kitten Food Should Be Rich in High-quality Protein from Real Chicken, Turkey, Rabbit, Or Other Animal-Sourced Ingredients.
As obligate carnivores, cats of all ages need a lot of protein.
Compared to middle-aged adults, kittens are more sensitive to both the quantity and quality of that protein. While adult cats need at least 6.5 grams of protein per 100 calories according to the AAFCOs nutrient profiles, kittens need 7.5 grams or more.
Her Primary Kitten Food
Your kitten should be eating a good quality kitten food or a food labeled for all feline life stages. Even as you introduce her to other foods, this should be her primary food as too many changes can cause digestive upsets. Feel free to change flavors of food but remain within the same brand to maintain some consistency.
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How To Introduce Kittens To Food Instead Of Milk
Around 4 weeks of age, kittens need to be introduced to solid food. Typically, they wont consume that much at first. Instead, itll just be a few bites here and there. The point at this stage is to practice opportunities for eating.
Its a learning process!
The weaning process usually doesnt end until 8 to 14 weeks. The longer that cats can nurse, the better. Studies have shown that cats that nurse longer have fewer aggressive behaviors later. Nursing isnt just about food. It also provides essential socialization!
Of course, introducing food properly is essential. You want to make it a fun and easy experience for the kittens, to encourage them to wean at the right time. Cats that arent appropriately introduced may have a more challenging time switching over to solids.
When Are Kittens Weaned
“A tremendous amount of growth takes place in the first year of life, with the majority being in the first six months,” Anthony, owner and medical director of Aurora Cat Hospital and Hotel in Aurora, Colo., tells Daily Paws. “During that initial half year, kittens will grow from an average birth weight of around 100 grams to around 6 pounds. In the first two weeks alone, their body weight doubles.”
What do kittens eat from birth to about 4 weeks old? Exclusively mother’s milk, so as a pet parent, your job is to make sure Momma cat is as comfortable as she can be. “Make sure mom has easy access to food, water, and a litter box since she will be the main source of nutrition for the kittens,” Anthony says. Momma cat should eat multiple times per day to keep up the energy needed to produce milk and feed her kittens. If you’re fostering kittens or caring for strays, you’ll assume the role of Momma cat with bottle feeding for roughly the same amount of time.
Anthony adds that kittens aren’t able to go to the bathroom by themselves until about 3 weeks old. Until that time, their mother will stimulate them by licking their little rears. Consult a veterinarian on how to encourage your young wards to urinate and defecate if they’re without a mom.
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Homemade Egg Gravy For Cats
If your cat likes to eat eggs, they will thoroughly enjoy this homemade egg gravy. It requires just a few ingredients to create and holds up well in the fridge between uses, so make a double batch to save time in the future! Here are the ingredients that you need:
- Boil the eggs, then let them cool.
- Once cool, dice the eggs into tiny pieces, and add them to a pot.
- Then add the broccoli, the oil, the chicken broth, and the gelatin to the pot.
- Stir until well combined, then let cool and serve to your cat.
Slowly Increase The Amount Of Food
As the kittens get older, you should slowly increase the amount of food that they get. Until the kittens are weaned, you dont have to worry about them overeating. If they eat more solid food, it will likely cause them to drink less milk, not necessarily eat large amounts of both.
The last thing that you want is for little kittens to go long without a meal, so continue to offer meals multiple times a day. By the time that the kittens are 8 weeks old, you can lower the number of feedings to four or three times a day. It mainly depends on the size of the kittens.
Small breeds need more frequent meals than large breeds.
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Feeding A Kitten Over 8 Weeks Of Age
Once a kitten has surpassed eight weeks of age, they should be fed twice a day with normal kitten food. Solid food should not be an issue for kittens of this age but they may still try to nurse on occasion. Between eight and ten weeks of age, a kitten should be fully weaned and preparing to leave its mother if you plan to find the kitten a new home. The first vaccinations are typically administered at about eight weeks of age, so when the kittens have a vet visit, you can be sure they have been growing appropriately.
At What Age Can My Kitten Drink Water
Weaning a young kitten isn’t limited to regularly feeding it wet and dry foods rich in protein. It is also about introducing water to it. Water is essential for keeping your kittens in good health. This age is also suitable for litter box training.
After one month, Kittens become steady on their feet, and exploration of their environment begins. At this time, they will slowly start to eat solid food. Thus, it is appropriate to introduce water to your little kitty in small, shallow water bowls, convenient for lapping up. Providing your kitten with fresh water will keep it well hydrated. When your kitten has finished eating, make sure it burps.
During the first months, start interacting with your pet kitten and try to put it in contact with water by playing with it in a puddle or with tap water. This will make your kitten want to drink water. Make sure you dry the little kitty immediately with a warm, fluffy towel and keep it warm. If you notice any issues in the kitten’s health during the weaning process, contact your vet and get the kitten examined immediately.
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What Is The Meaning Of Weaning
The Oxford English Dictionary defines weaning as to accustom to food other than its mothers milk. There is a second definition, which when talking about baby animals, is often conflated with the first: accustom to managing without something which they have become dependent on. In this context, removing the kitten permanently from the mother. This confusion is unfortunate as it suggests that kittens should be removed from their mothers when they start eating solid food. In fact, a kitten should remain with the mother at least a month after they have started eating solid food to ensure adequate socialization.
Early weaning, as in early separation from the mother, can result in behavioural problems. It can be a challenge in hand-reared kittens. However, here we discuss weaning in strictly the sense of introducing a kitten to solid food.
Choosing A Type Of Solid Food
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Recognition And Treatment Of Illness In Kittens
If kittens cry excessively, or fail to suck, they are usually hungry or ill. Common signs of illness include the kittens being cold , lethargic , or regurgitating milk. Sick kittens respond poorly to their environment, they often lay separated from the other kittens, and are often ignored by their mother. They typically have either very empty abdomens from lack of food or very swollen abdomens from swallowing air. Since kittens can die very quickly, they should be examined by a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible to ensure that nothing serious is going wrong.
The most common health problems seen in young kittens are probably hypothermia , hypoglycaemia , dehydration, diarrhoea and constipation. Newborn kittens may die suddenly, or present as poor doers and fade within a few days. Unfortunately, the clinical signs of many kitten diseases are very similar and vague.
Adolescence Stage: 6 To 12 Months
As kittens approach adult size, their nutritional requirements begin to change again. Their rate of growth begins to slow, activity levels may decline and they can start eating fewer, larger meals each day. During this stage, kittens begin to look like adults, but they are still growing and need the special nutrition found in kitten food. Continue feeding your adolescent kitten a high-quality kitten food, such as During the adolescent growth stage, many cat owners are tempted to change a kittens food for variety. But cats do not get bored with a consistent diet of high-quality dry food, and giving a kitten human food and table scraps can lead to undesirable behaviors, such as begging or stealing food.
Additionally, feeding homemade diets, food formulated for adult cats or supplementing an already complete and balanced diet with vitamins could cause nutritional disorders. You can, however, supplement your kittens dry food with a nutrient-dense for a nutritious and tasty
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Heres What We Looked For In The Best Kitten Food
When we asked about his recommendations for the best kitten food, Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH emphasized that its very important to choose a food formulated for kittens because they require different nutrients for growth. Kittens require more calories per day than adult cats. These calories go into growth as well as the higher level of activity kittens have. Kittens generally have double the calorie needs per day compared to an adult cat. Kitten foods also have a different ratio of minerals compared to adult foods to assist with their bone growth.
In addition to looking for foods that were properly formulated for kittens, we sought products with certain key qualities, including high protein and fat content, appropriate levels of DHA, and more.
This is in line with veterinarian Dr. Chyrle Bonks recommendations. She explained that youll want to make sure any kitten food is fortified with DHA for healthy brain development, adding that kitten food should also be higher in protein and fat than the adult version in order to fuel their growing bodies, and choose one with smaller-sized kibble so that they can easily get their tiny mouths around it.
Is Your Kitten Ready For Adult Cat Food
Providing your kitten with the proper nutrition goes way beyond just putting fresh food in a clean bowl. Your kittens nutritional needs will change as their body develops through adolescence and into adulthood. Proper nutrition during these critical growth periods will help your kitten mature into a strong, healthy adult cat.
The nutritional needs of kittens and cats are vastly different, and its critical to give your pet premium age-appropriate nutrition. Heres everything you need to know about kitten food vs. cat food and how to feed your growing kitten.
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How Do I Teach A Kitten To Eat Solid Food
IOnce a kitten has started trying to eat mom’s food, the process of offering them mushy food can begin.
f you are weaning an orphaned or fostered kitten, plan on serving the kitten milk and food in a shallow saucer or bowl. Donât use cowâs milk, which can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea in some kittens. Instead, use kitten formula.
Gradually mix the formula with wet food and encourage the kitten to eat it on their own. The next step is to adjust the ratio of formula to wet food until the mixture is primarily wet food. Next, mix formula with dry food and repeat the process.
Remember to always provide your kitten with fresh water.
Newborn Kitten Age: 0
During this stage, most kittens rely on their mothers milk as their only source of nutrition. If their mother is present, you wont need to feed kittens at alltheyll know how to feed themselves! That said, if youve rescued an orphaned kitten, youll need to bottle feed him. Kittens require a kitten milk replacer, which replicates the nutrition found in mother cats milk. Do not feed a kitten cows milkit doesnt have the right nutritional balance to nourish a newborn kitten.
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So You Cant Give A Kitten Adult Cat Food
While this answer is highly frowned upon by veterinarians everywhere. Feeding your kitten once in a while or for short periods when necessary of adult cat food is not impossible, and can actually benefit your kitten too. The downside though, is that you can possibly give them too much because theyre going to require higher calories from adult food, but they can also be at risk for vitamin toxification if youre not careful.
The best way to do it is to incorporate something like wet cat food with the dry food in order to give them the most nutrients and calories, as well as crude proteins and fats theyll need in order to truly achieve their success.
What’s The Best Type Of Food For Kittens
Kittens must be weaned on good quality, nutritionally complete kitten food. Kittens have specific calorie, protein, and calcium requirements for healthy growth. They also need adequate vitamins and minerals.
Look for a manufacturer who employs board-certified veterinary nutritionists, or someone with a Ph.D. in animal nutrition, to work on their formula. Consider looking for a brand that is part of the Pet Food Manufacturers Association . To be a member, the manufacturers have to meet higher quality standards than the legal minimum.
You can find out more in our vet’s guide to which kind of kitten food is best for your young cat.
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How Do I Switch From One Kitten Food To Another
Cats are often considered the epitome of the picky eater. But it doesnt have to be that way. Get your kitten started off on the right paw.
Its easier to switch foods if a kitten has been exposed early on to different textures and flavors, Larsen says. If exposed to the same food over and over, cats tend to get a fixed preference for a particular flavor and texture.
If youre trying to make a switch to a new kitten food, try mixing the new food and old foods in the same bowl. Over time, offer smaller and smaller amounts of the old food along with the new food.
Remember that making rapid changes in food can cause stomach upset or hunger strikes. So you may need to make the transition to a new food over four to seven days.