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5-6 week old abandoned kittens, refusing to eat

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

My son brought home two tiny kittens 3 days ago, saying there was a woman with a Free Kittens sign on the sidewalk he uses to come home from school (yes, he knows better at 12 years old, but is such a softie for animals I'm just glad he didn't take the whole box of five kittens).  Naturally, he takes the smallest 2, not realizing how much more difficult this would be.  I had discussed getting a pair of kittens perhaps later this summer when I could budget for a vet, and am not prepared for this.  Nevertheless, the person was gone when I went back, and all the rescues are completely full up.  So I told my son we'd try to make a go of it.


From what I've been able to research, based on the teeth they have, they are about 5 to 6 weeks old.  Adorable, naturally, and just as loving as can be.  No fleas that I have been able to tell, pretty good about using the litterbox, and the bigger one is good about trying to eat the soft food mixed with some dry kibble (using Iams products).  The first day they both seemed to be getting a little more active as they both ate and got used to new surroundings.  Last night, I came home and my son said the smaller one (who is so small as to be able to curl up in my hand), didn't eat all day.  I ran to check him out and he was in his bed, very weak. I set him in front of the water dish and he was very unstable, almost fell over.  I immediately ran out and got a kitten formula (after determining he just couldn't/wouldn't eat even just soft kitten food), and a bottle.  


He absolutely refuses to open his mouth and I had to practically force the formula by putting the nipple in the side of his mouth.  I was very careful to make sure he was in an upright position, after quickly going online to see what I could possibly do.  I managed to get 1.5 ounces of formula in him through the night, from 8pm to 8am.  I've kept him warm but not too warm, and he does seem a little livlier, just a little.  He wobbles to the litterbox and is interested in the water dish but still seems unsure what to do.  


Today I did a lot more online searching, and got a syringe and human baby food, meat variety, along with some Karo syrup.  Still won't open his mouth very much but is at least a little more receptive to having the turkey baby food 'force' fed to him.  He took 3ml and looked just like a human baby afterwards - food all over his face.  He tried water again, took a few sips, used the litterbox, and then keeps climbing up to my shoulder to conk out.  I'm still not quite sure how to administer the Karo syrup, since I hate trying to pry open his tiny mouth.


I do realize that the ideal answer is to take him to the vet; however, I can't stress enough how much I cannot afford that and the local humane society basically told me the kitten would not receive adequate care from them and would most likely die within hours.  The local rescues won't even help with trying to find low cost vet options and outright refuse to take them since I 'voluntarily' took them in.


Please, I just need to know the very best way I can help this little guy on my own.  He's still just skin and bones, and I just want to help him.  The other kitten is doing well, as I have the formula out in a dish and he would drink it all if I let him.  Eats the food well, uses the litterbox well.  I just get a little worried that he's drinking too much formula because he pigs out until his little tummy is very full.


How much should I be trying to feed the little one (baby food)?  How often?  Should I keep trying formula, too?  It seems like such a delicate balance - too much food is bad, too little food is bad...

For the bigger one, is it ok to let him drink as much of the kitten formula as he wants?


I appreciate all constructive responses - thank you!

post #2 of 23

I learned this recipe from the amazing people on this website, great source of calories and nutrients for the little ones who are struggling:


The kitten glop recipe from
8 ounces water (boiled then cooled)
1 envelope Knox unflavored gelatin
8 ounces whole evaporated milk (not skim)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (not low fat)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt (not low fat)
1 large or 2 small eggs yolks (raw)
1 teaspoon clear Karo syrup
* 1-3 drops liquid pet vitamins
* 1 capsule acidophilus
* 1 drop Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE)
* = Optional, though very beneficial.
Boil the water, add the gelatin and mix well. Add the following ingredients in order, mixing well after each addition:
1/2 of the canned milk, Mayonnaise, and Yogurt, Rest of the milk, All other ingredients


Have you tried putting purely wet food in a shallow dish (when first weaning them I use the pate form] and then taking a little on your finger, smearing it on their tongue, and then placing their face near the dish? 99% of the time when I do this the kitten will begin taking a few bites on their own. You can also do this with the baby food. However, if he's not eating all that much you might want to start doing bottle/syringe feedings of strictly KMR every 4 hours or so just to make sure he's getitng enough nutrition until he is weaned. Your son is so sweet for having a soft spot for animals (even though you're now in this predicament). The kittens are much to young to be away from the momma, but there's nothing you can do about it now. It's so wonderful you're helping them.

post #3 of 23

for the bigger; it is OK to eat as much he can. Kittens usually do so. The only contr-indication is if you suspect they were starving before. In such cases it is little but often.  Formula as extra is OK.

If you can get goat milk is is nourishing for both of them.

The little one you must fight on so he does get food and fluids in him.  If they are weak enough, they do lose appetite. It is probably what happens here.  He probably also has some virus in him, as he ate and moved OK the first day. But hopefully no dangerous virus by itself.

The Caro you can smear up on the gum or even inside of the lips. Just lift up the lips and smear up. You dont need to force the teeths open.  Or if you can get dextrose, it will be even more sure thing. (Dextrose is in Swedish food shops, at the shelf of baking cakes things, so it is surely so in most other countries too.)

Honey contains much dextrose, I suspect Caro syrup does it too, that is why it is so useful.


Welcome to our Forums!



Good luck!



ps.  Good your son took the two smallest.  It would be easier for you with the two biggest. But these two smallest would die.  NOW they do have a good chance. The bigger almost 100% sure good chance, but even the little one has still a good chance.

He would be gone by now left there.  Or taken by someone not caring.

post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 

Cooper (the smaller one) did ok last night, took more of the baby food by syringe, was more receptive to being fed that way.  Sniffed at the dry food and watched his brother, Pepsi, eating almost like he was trying to figure out how he was supposed to be eating smile.gif.  He slept a lot, was more stable while walking.  Then he got his 'I don't feel well so I won't eat' look - yes, it's a look and I've already figured it out! - and we realized he hadn't pooped in the last two days.  So I did the whole stimulation thing and he finally managed to produce a little, but it looked painful, the poo was too hard, so I'm going to have to keep an eye on that and maybe help him go after eating if he doesn't right away.  I think all the straining wore the little guy out, he conked out after that.  


I woke up to about the best thing possible - Cooper hopping out of his bed, trotting right up to me, sitting at my feet and crying up at me - he was hungry!  So hungry in fact that he didn't let me get the baby food out of the jar...he literally stuck his whole head in the jar.  Which made for some fun clean up, but I didn't mind.  He's really got the hang of the syringe, just going at it, but still isn't good about eating it off a little saucer.  But we'll keep working on that.  Poor guy is kind of crusty from getting the formula everywhere - I try to gently clean him up (it's so hard because you can feel every bone and they feel like bird bones, so small and light), but I don't think I should do a straight up bath yet.


Pepsi is pure on crazy - sweet guy, but will NOT shut up, no matter what you do, pick him up, put him down, give him food...just meowing all the time.  He's just fearless, too, stalks the 80 pound chocolate lab, jumping on her, batting at her face.  My dog is so very gentle with them, and is older so just doesn't care all that much, but the look she gives me is priceless - 'Mom, can't you make him stop pouncing on me?'.  Also, I think Pepsi has food issues - I can't leave food out (I was trying to encourage Cooper to eat whenever he wanted) because Pepsi will eat it all - drink all the formula, eat all the food, his little belly was overstuffed yesterday to the point that I was worried.  And now that we have the baby food for Cooper, he's going nuts.  He can't be in the same room at the same time because he will do anything he can to get it - when Cooper's done eating, he just pounces on him, trying to get any leftover bits.  He even bit my boyfriends neck trying to get at the little bit of baby food that was there after Cooper rubbed his face on his neck.  I've heard of food aggressive dogs, but is there food aggressive cats?  I just wish Cooper was big enough to stick up for himself.  But I guess the fact that I can even picture the day that he can play fight with his brother like a normal kitten is good considering 48 hours ago I was convinced he was not going to make it!

post #5 of 23

I truly believe some things happen for a reason. It sounds like these two were meant to be yours :)

So happy that Cooper is improving!  It sounds like he had given up on life ...

Pepsi might improve when he realizes he doesn't have to worry about where his next meal comes from.

I have had foster kittens that growl and use a paw to stop anyone from intruding on their meal.

It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with these two! Can you upload pics?

post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 

The top one is Cooper, looks scraggly only because I have to wipe him down after each feeding, the second is Pepsi, looking innocent but is really plotting something naughty.


download (2).jpegdownload (1).jpeg

post #7 of 23

Oh they are too precious!!! So wonderful you are helping these little babes. You've got yourself two fur friends for life! They are going to be so grateful for everything you've done for them! You and your son have saved their lives, know this!!!

post #8 of 23

Oh, wow how cute.  Too bad they couldn't stay with mom longer, but sounds like the woman giving them away would not have it.  Yes, do try to stimulate him after every meal if he is not going on his own, use a warm wet rough wash cloth.  Also try to bring him in the litter box and scratch around in there with him.  Is the bigger one using the box yet?

post #9 of 23
I'm glad this turned out so well, I was worried for a minute. They are adorable kittens. As far as Pepsi's food issues... Some cats probably grow out of it, but my Oksana didn't. She's a "Foodie" through & through. She begs for food constantly.She'll beg for it with her bowl still half full for Pete's sake! Luckily she's an only child. wink.gif
post #10 of 23

Quick question: Did you check to make sure onion in any form is NOT in the turkey baby food? This would be very detrimental (toxic) for a kitten, as it is for adult kitties.


Here's a basic kitten formula that you can make for your wee one (I'm not keen on store bought stuff, especially by Hartz; KMR can be okay in a pinch, but would try to do the following recipe if at all possible):

This is enough for 2 days for one 1/2 lb kitten's daily needs; you can keep for 1-2 days in fridge.

- 8oz of actual raw goat's milk or Meyenberg goat milk liquid


if using powder

- 8 oz of freshly boiled water with 4 oz powdered goat milk, for example Meyenberg brand which comes in 4 and 12oz sizes

- 2 egg yolks (raw) - add when boiled water/powdered goat milk is cooled or it'll cook

- 1 tablespoon of any animal fat e.g. ghee, lard, duck fat

- 50 mg taurine (goat's milk contains a lot but this is insurance)

You'll basically end up with approximately 8oz liquid or 1 cup or 16 tablespoons. Should be given at warmish temp, not hot and not straight out of the fridge, kinda like a human infant's formula, warmish. Test it on your wrist first.

You want give between 1 to 2 teaspoons of this mix every 2ish or so hours. You can use an eye dropper, and with really teensy weensy peeps you can dip a cotton ball and squeeze the ball, but a dropper might be preferred even for wee ones. A pediatric syringe (holds 5ml) also works if it's smooth enough to squirt gently.

BTW, the Ca:Phos of goat's milk seems to be about right (kittens need lower ratio than adult cats), so no need to add a calcium supplement or anything else:

Just one article showing how great goat's milk is compared to cow:


Aw, bless you and your son for caring for the littlest of God's creatures! Awesome to read your post.

post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 

I did make sure to check the labels after I read on these forums that onions are toxic for cats (although I knew that they were for dogs, so I don't know why I didn't automatically check it...let's blame sleep deprivation!)  


It's funny what can make your day: my son sends an update about hand feeding Koopa today at lunch. Koopa is not only eating like a champ, but when his food aggressive brother attacked him for the leftover bits on his chin, for the first time Koopa tried to defend himself by biting Pepsi on the neck. The kitten that literally almost died 4 days ago, who weighs less than half a pound, now has enough pep to defend himself!


And even better, I was able to move finances around enough to schedule a vet appointment tomorrow for the both of them - finally I'll be able to have solid answers about their health (I'm worried about worms at this point).


Litter box is coming along; never thought I'd be so worked up about watching a kitten poop as I was this morning.  I'm not even that much of a 'cat' person for goodness sake!  That's probably why God makes kittens so cute, so that you naturally want to take care of them.  My main hope, outside of their health and survival of course, is that maybe by getting them so young that they'll have more of the personality of follow you around the house and act kittenish when they're grown...rather than the hide under the bed and hiss when strangers stop by (I think that what most people who don't own or care for cats much think of - but I've been around plenty of 'dog' acting cats, friendly and playful as can be).

post #12 of 23
It's going to be very important that you socialize them properly. Invite lots of friends over to play with them once the vet gives them a clean bill of health. it's also important to desensitize them to loud noises. They will act terrified but don't baby them, it will make them brave. Look in the behavior section for a whole section on this. I don't know much, but many here know a lot.
post #13 of 23

The woman I got my kittens from 5 years ago vacums every day - and they hate it, girl cat especially!


Lots of people over is a good idea, but have them leave their shoes at the door and wash their hands before handling the kittens.

post #14 of 23

Kitty doesnt like the hoover to much, the more I use it the better she is with it, I assume kittens will get used to it. Three of my kids have had a cuddle with the kittens, except the youngest whose 8 she would be to cuddly with them i think, so ill wait till the kittens are a little older for they are subjected to her cuddles lmao!

post #15 of 23
I didn't think any amount of desensitization could make a cat like the vacuum cleaner. Then I saw this little fella on the news a couple of weeks ago:
post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 

Does anyone have any suggestions for getting a kitten to not 'talk' quite so much?  Pepsi talks constantly - not crying necessarily, but just making noise.  Different pitches, volumes, trilling, tones...and will literally do it non stop for hours no matter what I do - pick him up, play with him, feed him.  He's the cutest little guy but frankly a bit of a stinker - climbing couches and beds and walking on end tables (I don't mind the kittens on the couches or bed, but I am determined to make sure they do not get on tables or counters, that is really a no-no in my book).  He tries to climb the window treatments and then runs and tries to chew on anything coming out of an outlet and then runs and attacks the dog and then runs up to you and demands food...all normal kitten behavior that I understand, and I'm sure Koopa will do it too once he's 100%, but man, the constant noises he makes are really overwhelming.  Of course then my son tells me the lady that he rescued them from said they were part Siamese, and if true it makes more sense, but I don't know if there's a positive way to discourage how constant it is...?

post #17 of 23

I love it when my cats talk!  He sounds delightful and absolutely normal, and even if you teach him not to go on the forbidden tops when you are there you can't know what he gets up to when you are out, so cleaning before using is the way to go.

post #18 of 23

Some say cats have become more vocal through the the domestication process, in order to to voice their needs to humans.   All cats are different, but kittens obviously tend to vocalize more.  I have one that trills a 50+ times a day, it's just constant.   They may not be as loud as dogs, but most cats are not silent pets. 

post #19 of 23

Kittens talk to their mothers....which, speaking in a feline sense, we are to our cats.


Some biologists say that cat self-selected for domesticity, playfulness, and talkativeness, which are traits that endear them to us.

post #20 of 23

I love when my kitties talk to me, the little trills announcing themselves when they walk into the room. It's just his little personality... just how some humans are shy and some you can never get to shut up. I really don't think there's anything you can do except learn to love it.


As for counters... I tried and failed many times attempting to keep them off. As OrientalSlave said, when you're there you may be able to enforce the rule- but when you're gone the house is theirs.

post #21 of 23

I have found by spraying (very light spray) with a water bottle that my cat has stopped getting on the coffee, kitchen and counters when I m around.  I found that she will not even try to get on them now because she knows I will squirt her, LOL!  Problem is that she will still get on them when I am not around, I know this because I still find  cat hair now and then on the tops, LOL! 

post #22 of 23

Oh they are so cute! Good for you for giving them a chance and going for it even though you weren't quite feeling prepared. 


As far as the talking- agreed there is not much you can do about it. My girl is a chatterbox as well. She'll yammer on incessantly for no particular reason. That's just her. Like with the food, he may calm down a bit as he gets older and realizes all his needs are being met. He may not have been getting enough attention before and the only way he could was by talking so he picked up the habit. You could try paying extra attention to him when he's quite but likely it's just his personality. 


As for the counters- I read somewhere once that cats tend to fall into two primal groups: ground dwellers and tree dwellers. Those that are ground dwellers are generally content to climb on the furniture and that's it, but tree dwellers are constantly looking for new ways to get up high. I don't know the truth behind it but the philosophy makes sense to me. I've heard people trying lots of techniques to keep their cats off of the counters. Some of the more successful: putting a tall cat tree next to the counter so he can get up high without being in your space, putting sticky tape (they sell this double sided tape at most pet stores in a roll) on the edges of the counter. When he jumps up he won't like the feeling on his paws. If you do it long enough he may start to associate the counter with the unpleasant feeling and stop trying. Along those lines, plastic that has the sharp points on one side (used to use a rolling chair on carpet) on the counter can serve as a good deterrent (flip it so the plastic points stick up).  Note you may have to try more than one method and, in all actuality, it's a battle you will probably lose for all the reasons stated by previous posters. It just depends on the cat and how determined they are to get up there! 

post #23 of 23
Thread Starter 

Well our first vet visit went really well, Pepsi and Koopa are healthy, no parasites, no mites, no fleas, they're just incredibly small.  Pepsi weighs 12 ounces and Koopa weighs 8 ounces.  The vet figured they are 4-5 weeks old now, which means they could have been as young as 3 weeks old when my son brought them home.  We have to feed soft food now and try dry food next week.  It's kind of crazy how much we love these little guys and it's only been a week.  We're not out of the woods yet, but it's definitely looking a lot more positive for them.

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