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Caring for Newborn Kittens

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Delivering and caring for a new litter can be an overwhelming task for any mother. Even though your cat will probably do a great job caring for her babies, there are some things you can do to help maintain a litter and keep them healthy.

Warm Environment

In the first few weeks of life, kittens are unable to maintain their body temperature. Usually, they snuggle up to their mother to provide heat support. You can assist by keeping the queening box in an 85 to 90 degree Fahrenheit environment for the first 5 days of life. Electric bulbs suspended far away from curious noses of the babies or mother or well insulated heating pads work well.

From day 5 to 10, slowly reduce the temperature to around 80 F. Continue to slowly reduce the temperature until, by the end of the fourth week of life, the environmental temperature hovers around 75 F.

Keeping the babies warm is essential. Chilling can result in serious illness or even death.

Clean Environment

The queening box needs to be cleaned every day. Use newspapers or easily laundered towels or blankets. Change the bedding daily. The mother will try to keep the area clean but that can be a difficult chore, especially with large litter. She will also take care of the elimination needs of her babies by frequently cleaning and licking their genital areas.

Healthy Environment

Making sure the babies are healthy and growing can be difficult unless they are frequently monitored. During the first few weeks of life, weigh each baby once a day. Record their weights and make certain that each baby is steadily gaining weight. The weight changes will be in ounces so, although their growth won't be rapid, it should be steady.

After the kittens' eyes have opened and the kittens can stumble around, offer them small amounts of moistened kitten food. They will probably walk through the food and be a bit messy, so bathing may be required after each feeding.

Signs of Problems

Through daily monitoring, illness can be detected and treated early. Any kitten that is losing weight or is not consistently gaining weight needs medical attention. Continuous crying also indicates a problem. If the mother is neglecting selected babies, those babies need your help to survive – you may have to remove the neglected babies and hand raise them. Some mothers instinctively know if a baby is not thriving. She will not spend her energy caring for these babies and will abandon them. You should be aware that these babies may not survive, no matter how well you care for them.

If you notice any problems or abnormalities with the babies, a veterinary examination is strongly recommended. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of illness will give each baby the best chance at survival.

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