Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What to do with orphaned newborn kittens!

One of our farm cats had kittens last week but was spooked away from them. We believe she took one with her, but she never came back for the remaining three. After multiple attempts to reunite mother and kittens, we had to take the kittens in.

Talk about a crash course in kitten care! A neighbor is a retired veterinary technician, so she came over with an eye dropper to show us the basics of infant kitten feeding, burping, cleaning and elimination. It was Sunday and the only place in town that sells kitten formula was not open, so we had to make due with evaporated milk and sugar. Monday morning we found the savior of orphaned kittens everywhere: KMR.

KMR is "kitten milk replacement" made by Pet Ag and sold at pet stores and feed stores, even in the feed store of our tiny town, population around 900. KMR is a wondrous thing. The kittens took to it immediately. Kitten bottles are also available! Isn't the 21st century amazing? We buy the liquid form of KMR, as it is not easy to prepare formula from a powder with three mewing kittens demanding food. They suck the stuff down. We are very lucky that this is available. However, from what we read in our crash course on nursing kittens, there is still no guarantee they will survive. We estimate they were about three days old when mom abandoned them. We, and they, are lucky if mom fed them for three full days, for we read that a minimum of 72 hours worth of mother's milk is necessary to establish good immunity in kittens.

The kittens must be fed about every two hours. Then the must be burped by rubbing their tummies. Then their little rectums must be stimulated with a cotton ball or q-tip to promote elimination. They apparently cannot quite eliminate without this stimulation for the first week or two. Their mother usually licks them to stimulate defecation. Then they must be cleaned up and put back into their "nest", a box with a warm blanket or towel inside, and the box rests on top of a heating pad. The heating pad should be at a low setting, and it should only warm half the box so that the kittens can move off it if they get too hot. We did not feel much warmth with the heating pad on low, so we set it to medium. The kittens slept a lot more once the heating pad was in place.

That is the cycle for the first few weeks of life. We cross our fingers that nothing goes wrong, or that they do not catch anything, as just about anything they could catch would be life-threatening at this stage.

Here's a photograph that shows the kittens inside their box and gives a better sense of their size. Mr. Aelurophile takes the kittens to his office every day so that he can feed them every two hours, and this photo was taken there.

No comments: