Caring for Orphaned Kittens

Caring for Orphaned Kittens

PLEASE NOTE: This advice is not  meant to replace the advice of your veterinarian. PLEASE consult your veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the best care for your orphaned kitten!


First, determine the age of the kitten to see if she needs to be bottle fed or can go directly to soft food
– Eyes closed, ears folded over: kitten is 1-14 days old
– Eyes open, kitten moves but is wobbly: kitten is 2-3 weeks old
– Eyes open, ears up, can walk around: kitten is 3 weeks or older, you can offer soft food but you may still need to bottle feed.

If the kitten is cold, warm her slowly by holding her against your bare skin and let her absorb your body heat. Do not submerge her in water or take any other drastic warming measures. Simply wrapping the kitten up in a blanket or towel is not sufficient: the kitten cannot generate her own heat – she must get it from you. Do not attempt to feed a cold kitten – wait until she warms up.

selective focus photography of cat
animal pet cute kitten

Make a kitten box: put a heating pad in a box big enough to accommodate the heating pad plus more room so the kitten can crawl off if she gets too warm. Cover the heating pad with several towels – DO NOT LAY THE KITTEN DIRECTLY ON THE HEATING PAD. Set the temperature to LOW.

close up photo of person feeding a kitten


KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) or JUST BORN is the best formula to feed. Call your veterinarian or pet store for these formulas. DO NOT GIVE COW’S MILK. Use the following EMERGENCY RECIPE for up o 24 hours only.

2/3 cup homogenized whole milk
3 raw egg yolks
1 tablespoon corn oil
1 dropper pediatric liquid vitamins

Warm the formula in a nursing bottle or medicine dropper. Test it on your wrist to check temperature. If it feels too warm or too cold on your wrist, is the same for the kitten.

Place the kitten on her stomach (just as she would nurse from her own mother) and let her nurse until she turns her head. Do not squeeze the bottle while nursing – but place a drop on her mouth to get her started. DO NOT PLACE THE KITTEN ON HER BACK as you would a human baby. The kitten can aspirate formula into her lungs and suffocate.

After the kitten is full, it is necessary to stimulate her to help her eliminate. They do not have the ability to do this on their own until they are three weeks old. Take a washcloth or paper towel and gently massage the anal region in a circular or back and forth motion.

adorable animal blur cat


This is a general guideline. Some kittens will eat more or less often. If a kitten cries, she is either cold or hungry. A contented kitten sleeps quietly.
Age in weeks and feedings per day
1 – 2 week, 6 feedings per day
3 weeks, 4 feedings per day
4 weeks, 3 feedings per day

At five weeks you can begin weaning with baby food or canned cat food mixed with KMR. WARNING: Never use baby food that contains onion – found to cause heinz body anemia.


– The greatest danger to a kitten is chilling. Keep them warm in a draft free area.
– Don’t hold them on their backs to feed them. It’s cute – but dangerous!
– Don’t force formula into the kitten unless they are in crisis and must be tube fed. If it gets to this point, seek veterinary assistance. This is very risky if done by an untrained individual. If done improperly, esophageal, stomach damage or death is possible.
– Don’t bathe them unless absolutely necessary. If they have fleas, use a flea comb. If they must be bathed, use clear warm water and a flea comb, and call the vet.  Flea shampoo is too harsh for kittens. Put them directly back on the towel covered heating pad after towel drying them as much as possible. Do not use a hairdryer.
– Avoid getting air into kitten’s tummy. Hold the bottle at an angle to keep liquid toward the nipple.
– Don’t panic if the kitten does not eat for the first day. She may have just come off the mother, whose milk is quite rich and can sustain her for a longer time than replacement formulas.