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post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
The stray momma cat that we had on our farm disappeared tonight. We think maybe a coyote got her but we aren't sure. She's been gone for 6 hours and she had never stayed away this long. Her kittens are hungry and I have no idea what to give them! Can I give them vitamin D milk until I can get to a store to get them the kitten milk. And how often do I have to feed them? My husband...doesn't too much care for cats other than our house cat but he's been driving around for the last 2 hours looking for this momma cat. So I think deep down he has a soft heart...that or he doesn't want me bringing any kittens in the house. So anyway back to the problem!! What do I do?
post #2 of 15
Hello Sparkycat: Here are some guidelines in "fostering kittens"

The first thing to do when you bring the kittens in is to put them in a warm, clean and safe environment. Kittens should never come in
contact with other animals at this point. They can catch chills very easily so it is imperative that you first stabilize the kittens and get them
nice and toasty. Although your first instinct may be to feed the kittens, you must warm and stabilize them first. Kittens should be kept in an environment (you can use a large cardboard box as a makeshift nest) that is between 85-90 degrees, extremely clean, draft-free and at a high
humidity. You will probably want to set a corner of the box over a heating pad or cover a corner of the box with towels. This way, there is
a gradient of heat that the kittens can go to depending on whether they're feeling a little cold or warm. And don't be afraid to rub your
hands over them (very gently) to warm them--your body heat is one of the best ways to warm kittens!

Once the kittens feel warm and are calm you will probably want to call your vet and make an appointment. The kittens should be checked for
worms (bring a stool sample to the vet if you have one), fleas, mites,dehydration and other illnesses. Kittens have very weak immune
systems, and even the slightest case of fleas or illness can kill them very quickly, so it is best to have them see a vet and get any medical
attention that they need as soon as possible. Your vet can also give you an idea of how old the kittens are. See Kitten Development Stages
to find out what your kittens should be doing at each stage during the first 12 weeks of life. Your vet should be able to give you loads of advice on caring for them, and he may even know of another mother cat who just had kittens that may be able to foster these kittens. Your vet should
also give you a schedule for dewormings, and vaccinations (FVRCP and rabies) both of which are very important for the health and safety of your
kittens. And if at any time point you notice the kittens not eating, acting lethargic or behaving oddly call your vet immediately as the kitten(s)
may be ill.

If you can't find a foster mother and the kittens have been released to you with a clean bill of health, the next step will be to bring them back
home, feed them, and take care of the little ones as they grow.

Bedding and Sleeping
For the first 6 weeks of life, kittens spend most of the time sleeping and eating, so the security of their nesting area is very important. The
nesting box that you have already set up should suffice. After 6 weeks of age, kittens, although they still sleep quite a bit, will start to explore and play. So make sure the entire room they are in is clean, warm and draft-free. Again, you may want to keep a heating pad under their
bedding for extra warmth, or even use your own body heat to warm the little ones (they will be very grateful for the bonding and attention!)

Love and Attention
Remember that these are babies and that they need lots of nurturing! Had they been with their mother, they would be getting a great amount
of grooming, cuddling, touching and love. So as a surrogate mom, that role falls upon you! Don't be afraid to pet, snuggle with and hold the little
ones and smother them with attention. Talk to them a lot as well, and they will get used to your voice. If you start calling them by their
names, they will get used to their names as well. Kittens who are raised by you from such a young age will have a very special and deep bond with you.

Once the kittens get to be around 6 weeks of age you can also start actively playing with them (you can play with them at anytime but this is
the time period during which they will be old enough to really get into play and learn from it). Playing is a very important part of growing up for
a kitten, because it teaches them how to be social, how to fight, how to hunt, how to be balanced, and how to jump. It also expands their
minds, motor skills and mental faculties. So allow them to bap things, chase balls, and anything else you can think of that they won't be too likely to swallow accidentally.

Cats who do not receive enough attention and playtime during this period are considered poorly socialized. These are the kittens and cats
who are timid, skiddish, afraid of all humans and other animals alike, and those who are too aggressive, biters, or scratchers. The best way to
raise a well-socialized cat is to work with that cat from the kitten stage so make sure to devote enough time and attention to the little ones.

Feeding is probably the trickiest thing you will encounter when foster caring for kittens. First, make sure they have a proper formula. If the
kittens are not weaned yet (generally 6 weeks old or less) you will need to feed them formula. You can find kitten nursing kits (containing
bottles, nipples, a brush for cleaning, and directions!) and kitten formula at your local pet store. Don't simply feed the kittens regular milk. It doesn't have the nutrients that a kitten needs, and kittens solely fed on regular milk will starve due to lack of nutrients.

Before feeding, make sure to properly sterilize the bottle and nipple and warm the formula. If the nipple doesn't already have a hole in it, cut a
small hole in the top, and make sure this hole isn't too large (you can always make it bigger later) or the formula will flow out too fast and the kittens will choke. Similar to what you would do for a baby, you can either warm the formula in the microwave for a few seconds or place the
bottle in warm water. Either way, the formula should be body temperature (99 - 101 degrees).

Once the formula is ready, you can get the kitten in position for feeding. There are two positions you can take. One is to wrap the kitten in a
towel and hold him or her like a baby. If the kittens are older, or if they aren't comfortable with being confined, you can use a second method.
This is to let the kitten be on his or her stomach (the kitten may lie down or stand up- whichever he or she prefers) similar to how the kitten would feed from the mother. In this position, the kitten will 'knead' your leg, blanket or whatever is under his or her front paws. This is
instinctual behavior for kittens--they do this as they nurse from the mother to pump more milk out of the nipple. In either case, make sure to hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle to minimize air and gas in the kitten's stomach. (if the kitten does get formula in his/her lungs and starts choking, simply hold the kitten upside down until the choking subsides).

Most kittens will instinctively take the nipple and start feeding; however, if the kitten doesn't seem to want to eat, here are a few things you can
try (if you have tried all of these and the kitten still seems uninterested in eating he/she probably is ill and should be taken to the vet ASAP):

Switch nipples (there are two types - long and short). Your kitten may just be fussy. Rub the kitten on the forehead or rub/stroke his/her back. Mother cats will groom kittens to get them to eat and this simulates the mother's grooming. Place a little Karo Syrup on the kittens lips to stimulate their hunger.

So how much do you feed? A kitten should be eating about 8-9 cc's of formula for each ounce that they weigh per day. You may want to keep
a journal each day of how much the kitten has eaten and the kittens' weights. So a kitten who is 5 ounces should be eating 40-45 cc's per day. Kittens should weigh about 3-4 oz. at birth and should gain 3-5 oz. a week after that. You should weigh each kitten daily (you can use a
kitchen scale). If the kittens are underweight, are losing weight, or are not gaining weight appropriately then you should contact your vet
ASAP. When the kitten is full, you will notice that his mouth will 'bubble' with a little formula that he or she is too full to eat and his/her
belly will be very full. After the kitten is done eating, just like a baby, you can burp him! To burp, simply hold the kitten against your shoulder
and gently burp him or her. You can also hold the kitten so his or her back is against your chest and gently cuddle the kitten under your neck
while rubbing the tummy.

So how often do you feed? (note that these are approximate times--let your kittens and their hunger be the ultimate determinant of how often to

Under 1 week of age: every 3-4 hours 2 weeks old: every 4-6 hours 3 weeks old to weaning (around 5th or 6th week): every 6-8 hours. Kittens usually wean around the 4th week of age. Usually the mother will start to wean the kittens when they start to bite her nipples (this is painful for her and thus instinctually she starts to show them how to eat regular food). If you notice the kitten biting at the nipple, it is safe to start weaning. You can start off by placing some formula in a spoon or on your finger and seeing if the kitten can lick it. If he or she can, then start putting formula in a bowl and getting the kitten to eat that way. You may need to have the kitten lick your finger and then lead the kitten with your finger to the bowl. Once the kitten is
comfortable with bowl eating you can start mixing the formula with baby food or kitten food. The food at this point should be soft and slightly
liquidy and easy for the kitten to lap up. As the kitten gets more and more comfortable with eating from a bowl, you can start mixing less and
less formula in with the food until the kittens are eating regular food! Make sure that the kittens are getting enough nutrition and are still
gaining weight. If the kittens are not getting enough food from the bowl, you may need to continue bottle feeding until the kitten gets the hang of it. Some kittens take weeks to wean, while others get the hang of it in a
few days. What is important is that the kitten gets enough food, so be patient if you have a late bloomer.

One last thing to consider is dehydration. Kittens can get dehydrated very easily. The best way to tell is to do the pinch test. Grab a bit of the skin and pull it upwards. If the skin rebounds instantaneously then the kitten is fine, however, if the skin takes a second or two to fall back into its normal place he or she is probably dehydrated. Depending on how dehydrated your kitten is, he or she may need to receive
subcutaneous fluids from your vet.

Using the Litterbox
Up to four weeks of age, the mother stimulates the kitten to go to the bathroom by licking and rubbing the kitten's genitals and rectum.
Without a mother you will be left to that job (don't worry it isn't as bad as it sounds!). After feeding, rub the genitals and rectum with a cotton pad or Q-tip that is moistened with warm water. Don't rub hard enough to irritate the area, just enough to give the kitten the idea of what comes
next. Kittens up to 4 weeks should have a couple of firm, yellowish stools each day. After about 4 weeks of age, the kitten can start to learn the rules of the litterbox. After each feeding, place the kitten in the box. You can even take the kitten's paw and 'show' him or her how to
scratch. Usually this is enough to give the kitten the idea on what to do. Remember to be gentle, because kittens that are scared in the litterbox
will grow up going to the bathroom outside the litterbox!

Cleaning and Care
Kittens can get themselves pretty dirty during a feeding, and even if they don't, it's a good idea to groom them after each meal. This simulates
what the mother would normally do, and helps them learn what grooming is all about! To do this, take a slightly dampened wash cloth and, using
short small strokes, go over the kitten's entire body. You can also give him or her baths in the sink. You can use a washcloth, warm water,
and baby shampoo. Make sure to never submerge the kittens or get their heads completely wet, because kittens can choke, get water in their ears or drown very easily so never leave a kitten alone in a bath even for a few seconds. As you can imagine, kittens need to stay very clean to stay healthy. Urine can burn their skin, and caked feces can lead to infection, so make sure to clean them a few times a day. After you bathe them, make sure you thoroughly dry off the kitten. You can either do this with a towel or with a blow dryer. If you do use a dryer, take great care--never blow air into their faces, and make sure to not burn the kittens. Kittens can catch chills very easily also, and the last thing you want to do is to have kitty get a little cold! And always remember to wash your hands with antibacterial soap before and after handling each kitten. Cleanliness is a must around newborns, as even the slightest bit of bacteria can cause a kitten great grief.

Good luck you are doing a wonderful thing!!
post #3 of 15
We took in a 4 week old kitten 4 weeks ago. I bought the kitten formula that the vet suggested, but she wouldn't eat it. And I was terrified at that age that she would dehydrate. Finally, the vet said it is a little harsher on their digestive system, but it worked and she ate it happily.

Mix 1 cup whole milk with 2 tbsp corn syrup and 2 egg yolks. Keep it in the fridge. I heated it as needed in the microwave, just so that it was lukewarm, and fed her with an eyedropper. She seeked me out when she was hungry and made it very known if I was late with a feeding. (She crawled up my leg and then would bat at my face...) She ate 8 times a day - usually 8-10 droppers at a feeding.

Now at 8 weeks she is finally starting to work her way from canned foods to a mix of canned and dry. She is happy, healthy and the bonding we did has definitely made her MY cat. She comes to me more readily than anyone else - so if you are going to be sharing... you may want to split up the feedings.
post #4 of 15
Please don't use whole milk, use goats milk or PET evaporated milk instead. You can find goat's milk in the baking section of your grocery store, it is in a can. The kits should be fed every two hours and massaged afterwards their bums and tummies so they can eliminate the waste products. Also using a human heating pad can prove to be dangerous as it doesn't distribute the heat acurately. It is best to get a pet heating pad, or take some hot water bottles wrapped in towels and place them near the kits. Good luck!
post #5 of 15
Actually, my vet said that the evap or goat's milk was just as harsh on their system and more expensive...

But our kitten was already 4 weeks old, so he knew she could be weaned in 2 weeks time - hence his approval of whole milk.

The best bet would have been the kitten milk replacement - any vet has it - but I couldn't get our kitten to drink it - so we had to find an alternative.
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Here's another twist to throw into the scenario. The mother cat showed up this morning at 7am. She wasn't hurt, she didn't seem like she had been trapped anywhere(if she had been trapped somewhere she wouldn't have showed up until 8 when the farmhands show up to work). She just nonchalant as could be came walking up this morning and rubbed on my legs. I know she wasn't home last night because I went and checked at 2am and again at 4 and then 5:30. In my thinking she was away from her kittens too long. She only nursed once today and disappeared again about 2pm and it's 11pm now and she still hasn't been back yet. Do I take the kittens in and start playing mom or do I let it be and see what happens? I am really concerned about the little ones...so what do I do?
post #7 of 15
Are you opposed to bringing momma cat and her kittens indoors for awhile? Also, I would suggest getting her spayed before she has another litter. I know she's a stray farm cat, but as it seems you've somewhat "adopted" her, it would certainly be a great thing to do!

good luck!
post #8 of 15
How old are the kittens? It does seem to me that momma cat is leaving the babies for too long, but I'm not an expert. I think the *best* option would be to bring mom and babies inside.
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Actually the cat adopted me, I wasn't really paying any attention to her at first, I thought she'd eventually move on but she started haging around the house more and more. She also brought me some dead mice, left them on my back stoop as friendly gestures, so I started to feed her and she's been here ever since.

As I understand it from the people who farm the land out here this is her second litter of kittens. Some of the thoughts I had gotten back in a previous thread was maybe she was tired of raising little ones. She's been acting kind of strangely since she had them, only nursing when she wants to, not staying in the box with them, not being protective of the kittens. And now she's pulling her disappearing act.

My mom seemed to think that this momma cat is leaving for long periods of time because she knows I'm there to take care of her babies. I watched the entire birth process and have been a constant part of it ever since. So has she left me in charge as a surrogate mom?

I am uncertain of what it would do to bring the cat and her kittens in the house. The main reason being I know they have fleas and I know the momma cat has tape worms. The day she had her babies was the day I got the okay from the vet to worm her....then we started having kittens so he told me to wait until the kittens were 8 weeks old and do them all. We have a house cat and she has been the only cat in the house for the last year, I don't know how she'd react with other cats in the house. Also I don't want her getting fleas especially if they are living on a cat that has tapeworms already.

The kittens are two weeks old and still need to be fed at 3-4 hour intrevals. I guess the momma cat being gone for over twelve hours at a stretch really concerns me. If I do bring them in the house is there anyway to confine the fleas? Or am I going to have to treat my cat and the house when the kittens are old enough?
post #10 of 15
How about bringing momma & kittens into a garage, or some other area shut off from the rest of the house (play room, etc.)?

Does your vet know that momma and kittens all have fleas? Fleas can actually kill kittens that young, depending on how infested they are. Surely you can do something now to get rid of the fleas, even with them being so young and with momma nursing. Even if you don't bring them inside, something very worth considering from a health standpoint.
post #11 of 15
I'll say again, I don't have any experience with this, but I think that young they have to be fed more than this momma cat is doing. I do understand your not wanting to bring them in with the fleas and all, but I think they definitely need some help. I think SummerMH's idea is a good one - bring them into a garage or outbuilding at the very least, so they are out of the elements. I'm not sure what to make of momma cat's behaviour, but I don't think that these kittens will survive without your intervention.
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 
The momma started having her kittens in the window well in front of our house and I moved her and her kittens into the garage. So they have been in the garage since right after they were born, actually the last two were born in the garage. I really want to do the right thing so I will call the vet and find out what I can do about the fleas on the babies, and also find out if I can do anything about the worms. I am totally amazed and happy that my husband has agreed to let me bring the kittens in the house to nurse them and teach them what they need to know to survive. The only stipulation is I have to find homes for them when they are old enough to leave. Next question....do I just take in the kittens and let the mom do her thing or do I take in all of them momma included? My thinking right now is that she isn't really interested in being the caregiver...but will she wonder what happened to her babies? So many questions....I'm sorry. I just really want to do the right thing like I said before.
post #13 of 15
If it were me, I would at least try to keep momma in the garage with the kittens (of course, providing plenty of food and water for her), and perhaps taking her outside (supervised) from time to time, if she seems to be losing her mind due to not having the fresh air she's so used to. My thought on this is that if she's forced to be with the kittens all the time, they'll have a much better chance of nursing more often. Only time and patience will tell! Keep us posted!

post #14 of 15
On two week old kittens with fleas, the safest thing to do is use a flea comb. It takes time, but does work. Keep a bowl of soapy water next to you to dunk the caught fleas in. If you just use plain water, the fleas will swim and climb out of the bowl. You also need to change out the bedding frequently as the fleas and flea eggs will be on it.

If the mother cat is not nursing frequently and tending to her kittens it likely would be best for you to take over. They are supposed to be eating every three or four hours. You do know that kittens under 4 weeks old cannot urinate or defecate without having their butts stimulated? The mother cat licks it, but you can just use a wet washcloth.

Maybe the mother cat is in heat again and has been off looking to mate. Or maybe she did mate and is pregnant again. Or maybe she never had a loving, attentive mother cat to emulate. Or maybe she is sick. If you are going to become the new mother cat, you may as well then take her in to be spayed and wormed.
post #15 of 15
What a lot of work to become a mother to these kittens--I have heard that sometimes in the animal kingdom, some mothers abandon their cats just like some human mothers do. Never have heard why--I'm sure the reasons are many. Those kittens are sure lucky to have you around.
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