First of all, congratulations on becoming a parent to kittens! Having kittens joining the household might be the happiest thing that could ever happen, they are active, playful and fun to play with. While looking at the fun side of it, having kittens on hands for the first time can be a stressful thing sometimes. Here are some guides to help you out on handling your either newborn or adopted kittens.
When the kittens are newly born, the mommy cat will be in charge of the kittens until they are 4 weeks old. Your responsibility as a for the period of time is to provide the cat family a warm and cosy place and make sure the kittens are getting fed by the mother.
A cat mother can give birth to 4 - 8 kittens per litter, one thing to be aware of is if there is a weaker kitten. When the cat mother realises that there is a weaker kitten, they will abandon the kitten if they feel it will jeopardise the other kitten's health. In this case, you would want to step in to take care of the kitten, keep them warm and feed them. Here are some ways on how to take care of new born kittens.
01 Keep the kittens warm
In the first week of birth, the kittens are very fragile. They are blind and deaf, they cannot regulate their body temperature, and as the owner of the kittens you need to make sure to cover them up with blankets and heating pads if needed.
02 Feed the kittens
Feed the kittens powder cat milk as the mother’s milk replacement with a syringe or a small milk bottle that fits the kitten's size. New born kittens need to be fed every 2-3 hours, you will know when they are hungry, they will be crying and wiggling around. Powder cat milk can be purchased from pet shops or even vet clinics. Do not feed kittens cow milk, kittens do not have the enzyme to process the lactose in cow milk, it may lead to diarrhea and cause dehydration. Burp the kittens every meal, hold the kitten back facing you and gently pet their back until they burp.
03 Check on the kittens’ health
New born kittens need help in elimination. Before and after each meal, rub the kitten’s bottom gently, in one direction, with a cotton ball soaked in water. Pay attention to the kitten’s urine and stool, urine should be yellowish and odourless, stool should be yellowish-brown and in a tiny log form, if the stool is slightly green, it may be the cause of overfeeding. If the situation of the kitten concerns you, bring the kitten to the vet for a check-up.
04 Changing from milk to solid food
The weaning process starts around the 4th week. You can leave out more kitten food for the kittens as the mother would slowly spend time apart from the kittens. You can start by mixing up milk replacement with some mash up solid food and thicken the mixture time by time until they are capable and happily eating the solid food.
05 Provide water
Kittens do not need water before they start weaning. When the weaning process starts, make sure the kittens have access to a bowl of clean water. Check in the water constantly to make sure it is kept clean as the kitten tends to poop and step into the water and make the water dirty.
06 Potty training
Kitten litter products should be non-clumping, non-fragrance, and do not contain harsh chemicals. Pick a place for the litter box carefully, after they get used to it, it is very hard to change the place of the litter box. To train the kittens in using the litter box, place the kitten in the litter box after meal or when you realise they start to crouch and scratch the floor to prepare for pooping. The litter box should be low enough for the kittens to access easily. Clean the litter box at least once a day for the hygiene.
07 Socialising and vaccinations
Around the 3rd to 4th week, you can start teaching the kittens about the things around them. Showing them around the house little by little and introducing them things that might make sounds, such as the vacuum and hair dryer to make them familiar with it and not be afraid of it. Cat toys, balls, and strings can be very helpful in this phase, it entertains the kittens and makes them happy healthy cats. The kittens should start taking vaccine shots between 6-8 weeks. Consultations with your vet are important, make sure to refer to the vets when you have questions on vaccines. After they are all fully vaccinated and the vets allow it, they can start exploring the outside world. Small tips on calling the kittens home, letting them out when they are a little bit hungry, calling them back by calling their name while showing them food, reminds them that the final destination will always be home.
At the 8th week, the kittens start to have the ability to explore on their own, make sure to keep your electrical cables and breakable things away from the reach of kittens. At this point you can start bathing your kittens, gently put them in to the bathing water minimise the shock that can happen to the kittens. Bathing water should be warm and shallow, not over the body of the kittens. Bath the kittens once every 3 days, until they are 1 year old and it can be decrease to once a few months. Kittens should be having body check-ups at the vets once every 3-4 weeks before the age of one. Beware of what your kittens are eating, since they are freer and more active than before, make sure they do not mis-consume anything harmful to them, such as chocolate, grapes, onion, garlic, and raw meat. Last and foremost, give lots of love to your kittens, just like you need them in your life, they need you the same way too.