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The Cutest Endeavor Ever: Caring for Stray Kittens

Who can say no to a basketful of fluffy kittens? Not many of us. It can be overwhelming to take on a litter of new baby cats who need your help, but caring for stray kittens can be a rewarding experience. Keep reading to learn what it takes to get these little bundles of joy off to a good start.

It’s All in the Age

How much and what type of care is needed depends highly on how old your little wards are. Newborn kittens need a lot of help and rely on mom for everything, from food to helping them go to the bathroom.

Determining the age of your kittens can help you understand what they need from you. If mom isn’t around, you may need to bottle-feed the kittens. If at all possible, kittens should remain with their mother until around 5 to 6 weeks of age.

Caring for Stray Kittens

Stray kittens have a few basic needs that they will rely on you to provide. These include:

Warmth – Just like any baby, a kitten is not good at regulating body temperature. Keep your kitten(s) in a warm, dry place (around 90 F for the first week).

Veterinary care – We should examine your kitten(s) to be sure that they are not dehydrated or suffering from any other concerning health problems. It is also important for us to check for parasites and deworm them, even at an early age. Fleas can also severely debilitate or even kill a small kitten and must be treated with safe medications.

Food – If the mother cat is not present, your kitten(s) will rely on you to feed them until they can eat solids around 4-5 weeks of age. Most kittens can be bottle fed with kitten milk replacer (never give cow’s milk). They will need to eat every 3-4 hours around the clock.

Stimulation to eliminate – Young kittens often cannot urinate or defecate without stimulation. The mother cat licks the kitten’s abdomen in order to initiate elimination. You will need to help your kitten(s) by gently rubbing their bellies at each feeding for the first few weeks.

Of course, all kittens need lots of love and affection as well. Luckily, this is the easiest and most fun part of raising kittens.

When to Ask for Help

Helping to raise stray kittens can be rewarding, but sometimes it is a little more than the average pet owner can take on. If you are not able to provide the care required (bottle feeding a whole litter round the clock is demanding) or your kittens are not doing well, please ask for help.

Kittens are very susceptible to disease, particularly upper respiratory infections and diarrhea, both of which can be devastating if not treated appropriately. Please let us know right away if your kittens are not eating well or exhibiting symptoms of illness.

It is okay to ask animal control or a rescue group for help if you are not able to care for stray kittens. Rest assured that they will be in good hands, and much better off than if left to their own means.

Caring for stray kittens is often a wonderful experience, but can be challenging for even the most dedicated cat lover. Should you choose to take on this task, know that West Park Animal Hospital is here to help you with all of your questions and difficulties along the way.

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