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Advice for Someone with No Experience?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
This is a bit of a strange question....but here goes.

When someone with no experience is thrust into this situation, what do you think is the best course of action for them? Learn as they go? Try to find a mentor with experience (even if it is just online, although obviously the best scenario would be a veterinarian)? If they can't find a personal mentor, is there enough information out there online and in books, such as your Kittens for Dummies, to guide them through the process of hand-rearing kittens? Or would it be better for them to hand over the kittens to a rescue group, vet or shelter?

I haven't had this situation come up personally, but I am part of two rescue resource websites and we do get emails from people requesting assistance.
post #2 of 5
When I've placed cats, kittens, dogs or puppies with people who have no experience I usually give them lots of information about what to expect up front (likely to much info) then check with them on a regular basis to see how it's going. I also give them my contact info, just in case. I've also given them Kittens for Dummies or some other similar book. The books seem to be extremely helpful. In particular, one kitten I placed with a family that has never had a cat. The kitten was for the 10 year old girl, who is the primary care giver (she has 3 brothers - this was something special for her since she's been asking for a cat for years.) The little girl and I talked for a long time about things to expect and what she needs to do. These are good friends of ours, and it's going great.

post #3 of 5
Hello Heidi,

Don't be ashamed to ask a question. In fact, it's an excellent question.

I don't know about your area, but here in Dallas there are way more kittens than volunteers to care for them. Before someone drops a kitten off at ANY shelter, she/he should make sure they have a foster home available. It's not uncommon for a group to have to euthanize kittens because there simply aren't people WILLING to care for them.

Some vets are very knowlegable about tiny orphans, but surprisingly most are not. Vet schools don't really spend any time on post-natal kittens. Ask your vet if he works with many orphans. If he doesn't, you might want to make some more calls. You can't imagine some of the stupid recommendations I've heard for inexperienced vets. However, a new nursemaid's best source of information will likely come from someone who shows and breeds cats or a rescue voluteer who works with orphans. Ask the vet if he's worked with many. Or call some breeders and ask which vet they use. Breeders' vets should have more experience.

Learning as you go is a dangerous option because there are so many life threatening errors that have nothing to do with common sense, for example-feeding only a kitten formula, not human milk; stimulating the kitten to pee; how deadly diarrhea can be. I raised my first kitten several years after reading a short article about an orphan puppy in a humane society newsletter. All I remembered was that you have to stimulate it to pee and give a special formula. It can be done. But you don't have to go it alone.

I hate to sound like the opportunist, but I wrote the chapters about handraising kitten in Kittens For Dummies in order to walk an inexperienced person through the process. I don't want someone having to make the same mistakes I made. It's really not that hard.

Bottom line, the more information you can get--the better.
post #4 of 5
Sarah's mom (Sarah is the little 10 year old girl who got one of our rescued kittens) told me she stayed up nights reading that book cover to cover. They had to make her go to sleep. Heidi (the kitten) sleeps with her and the two are deeply attached. Sarah has shown great responsibility and her mom couldn't be more pleased. (It was her mom that wanted me to sit with her and talk about all the important things in caring for a kitten.) It's a great reference for the new cat owner, thanks for writing it.

post #5 of 5

I agree. The way it is written so simply yet so directly, and the photographs are just wonderful makes it an excellent book to have around, no matter what! You never know when you may need it. I would advise anyone reading this forum to pick a copy up and put it on the shelf until the day they are presented with an orphaned baby kitten.

Thank you Dusty for sharing your experiences of raising all the orphans you have raised and writing about it so proficiently!
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