Caring for Newborn Kittens

Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 146 Posts
July 29, 2011

Caring For Newborn Kittens - newborn kitten being fed from a bottleIf you find yourself in the position of playing "mama" to newborn kittens, here are a couple of things we learned over the years. They need to be fed about every 2-3 hours to begin with. If you are unable to find or buy kitten formula, you may have to make it yourself in an emergency.


We've made up formula for newborn kittens several times over the years and have been very successful using this "formula". We've never ever lost a kitten, thankfully. If you are raising more than one, then make up enough to last one day, but no more. Refrigerate it, and only take out what you're going to need each time. Bring it to a temperature of 98-100 degrees F.

We always keep brand new eye-water droppers in our medicine cabinet. They work for many different things and are just the best for feeding baby kittens or baby squirrels. (They probably would work for many different newborn baby animals). I buy several of the eye-water droppers at one time and always keep some glass ones and one or two of the plastic ones. The little animals take to the plastic ones best, as it's not so hard.

After washing the eye-water dropper, drop it in a pan of warm water (100 degrees F) and after using it, drop it right back into that pan of water to make it easier to clean between feedings.


Have some old socks ready to place the baby kitten in. It will act as a bib and will also help keep those tiny little nails from clawing your hands to bits and pieces. They are incredibly sharp and baby kittens (as helpless as they really are) are also quite strong. Without that sock pulled up to its little chin, you're going to have milk all over you, the kitten, and anything else close by, but very little inside the kitten.

Making The Formula:


The syrup is to keep the baby kitten from becoming constipated and also acts as part of the nutrition.


This is for one kitten being fed every two hours who will take about 1/2 oz. per feeding, more or less, depending on size and age. Do not try to overfeed, but keep them awake for as long as possible to make sure they are not going to sleep hungry. You will need to make up this amount of formula at one time.


  1. Put 2 oz. Carnation milk in a clean jar which has a good lid.
  2. Add 3 oz. boiled water which has been cooled slightly.
  3. Add 1 tsp. dark Karo syrup.
  4. Stir up these 3 ingredients really well, making sure the formula isn't too warm to give to the kitten.
  5. Put about 1/2 oz in a cup and set the cup in a pan of warm water. NOT HOT. Warm.

Put the little kitty in the sock, and hold it together under the chin. Don't choke the baby. Fill the eye-water dropper with formula and very gently offer it to the kitty. If it gets a taste of it, it will hunt the source, so just let it find the end of the dropper and begin to suck. Gently squeeze the rubber part of the dropper, but be careful not to drown the little fella. Feel its little tummy. You can tell when it's full. It'll want to go to sleep too.


If the kitty has or develops loose bowels, don't use the Karo syrup. If the loose bowels continue, boil some rice: 1/2 cup of rice in 4-5 cups of water for about an hour and just pour off the water. Use that water to add to the Carnation milk. Rice water will help stop the loose bowels for kittens, squirrels, and human children. It's an old-time remedy.

Once the kitty has started growing, it will not require such frequent feedings. You'll be able to tell when it's hungry. You'll hear it crying a lot. Then feed it.

We always washed their faces and eyes with just regular milk. Why, I'm not sure, but it worked. On the farm, we used just plain old whole milk from the cow, but I've used homogenized milk too.

Many things like this, we learned from my grandmother, but we also added a few things over the years as we learned. (like using the socks, for instance).


Source: My grandmother taught us to do these things, so we always did them, and they work. I would use this today if I were raising a baby kitten and unable to get to a vet or buy baby kitten formula

By Julia from Boca Raton, FL

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More Solutions

This page contains the following solutions.

November 12, 2004

Some kitten formula recipes and advice on hand feeding kittens by Robyn.


June 2, 2017

I used 5.5 foot long Ace bandage and wrapped and tucked it around my wrist. The kittens have something to grab onto when being given meds or other forms of care.


This bandage calms them down during holding sessions and nail clipping for the wild ones.

An Ace bandage wrapped around an arm for kittens to cling to.

12 Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

July 21, 2020

I have a feral cat that had kittens 8 weeks ago. The day she had them, she brought me to them to show me (I have always fed her, she is 1 year old). She had them in a very unsafe place, no shelter from weather, etc. My husband and I trapped her and moved her and the kittens to our basement. She was grateful.

I cared for her and earned her trust throughout the entire thing. She is now a very sweet, loving cat but she does not enjoy being inside very long. I had her spayed and vaccinated a couple weeks ago. Her babies, cute as the dickens are very healthy and energetic and I would love to send them outside with her during the day and bring them all in at night. I am concerned the babies may run off. When can I send the precious little cord chewers outside with their mother.


Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 140 Posts
July 21, 20201 found this helpful
Best Answer

Ideally it's not safe for kittens to venture outside, until they have had there shots, when they are around 13- 14 weeks old!


Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
July 26, 20200 found this helpful
Best Answer

If the mother cat is going in and out (and you have a safe yard) then most likely you could maybe start letting them outside - under your watchful eye - for just a few minutes a day until they seem to be adjusting to the outdoor terrain.
The mother will probably keep them around her so if she returns inside then they would follow her.
I'm glad to hear you have adopted her and her babies - she trusted you in the beginning or she would not have showed you her babies.

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May 25, 2006

I wanted to update you in regards to my previous request "Caring for a kitten". Unfortunately I have some very sad news. My baby "George" passed last evening around 11 pm. He really gave a valiant effort with his will to survive, along with the tender loving care he received from me the past few days.

One of the guest posts, "susanna" made a very important suggestion to me as to bathe George ASAP for there was a fatal anemia contracted from fleas. Well I took your advice and bathed him in baby shampoo and much to my horror he was infested with them. He began a spiral downhill from there. He was gone within hours.

My boyfriend was so kind to step in as he saw my grief well up. He sweetly talked to him, encouraged the little guy, and insured him he was loved very much. We will have a small burial for him this evening. I can honestly say that we did all we could for him. He was blessed in a way that many kittens never are that were in his same situation. He had a few beautiful days full of love and affection, along with good eating's that was provided for him.

The Wal-mart kitten bottle and kitten powdered milk worked wonderfully. Again. I want to thank all of those who were kind enough to help us in this time of need. Many blessings to you and yours. Oh yea, you may wonder about the name George. Well we have an older kitten we named Gracie. So here we had George Burns and Gracie Allen as so it seemed. Bye for now.

LorisZoo from AZ


By Hannah Wilson (Guest Post)
May 25, 20060 found this helpful

I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of little George. I know he had a wonderful life with you. If you believe in a rainbow bridge he will be waiting for you healthy and happy. Sending hugs your way. Hannah

May 26, 20060 found this helpful

Oh, so sorry about little George. You did your best and know that the poor little guy is not in pain or anything. It is so difficult and I just want you to know I'm thinking about you both. ~ Holly in Ga.


Bronze Request Medal for All Time! 53 Requests
May 26, 20060 found this helpful

I am so sorry about George. I cried, I love animals. Prayers for you during your time of grief.

By (Guest Post)
May 26, 20060 found this helpful

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I know only too well of the devastating emotional effects taking care of and losing a little one you tried so hard to help. I truly believe those little ones who die so soon after, are brought to us because God knows that the last few days or weeks with us will be good ones and they will go out better then they came in. God bless you for your effort and comfort.

By Karen (Guest Post)
May 26, 20060 found this helpful

I'm so sorry for your loss. It is very hard to lose an animal when you were trying so hard to save them. I will keep you in my prayers

May 26, 20060 found this helpful

Loriszoo - I am so sorry to hear about George's passing. I hope that you find comfort in know that you did all you could for him. You might want to print out this page for the next time, and it will happen, another "George" decides to adopt you.

Take care. Hugs from Texas.

May 27, 20060 found this helpful

I'm so sorry about George's passing. Please know that he knew he was loved very much during his short time on earth.

God bless you for rescuing him

take care, claudia

June 1, 20060 found this helpful

Do not feed a kitten cows milk.

They tend to be lactose intolerent to cows milk,
and it will give them stomach cramps, and
the poos.

I know some vets rip people off, and that they are
expensive, but they can give the kitten fluids if
it is dehydrated. If they get dehydrated it can cause
brain damage. So better a few dollars short, than
a dying kitty. Good luck.

By Tammy (Guest Post)
June 18, 20060 found this helpful

My best friend told me tonight about the butt rub thing and it worked great. My kitten is only 13 days old and we bottle feed her. she is eating great and growing and now pooping, whew!

By Mary (Guest Post)
July 7, 20070 found this helpful

Just to let you know. We had a cat that had 3 kittens and then got ill. We took her to the vet and on day three she passed away. The vet sent us home with tiny bottles, a recipe for kitty formula and the three orphaned kittens....that was nearly 17 years ago and my cat, Callie had lived a long and full life. Aside from arthritis, she is very loving, normaly and heathy. I am currently in the process of resueing a kitten from a friend. Her neighbor had tons of Cats, dozens of kittens and this baby is being pushed out of the nest as Mommy Kitty probably hasn't enough milk for all four. Will let you know how it goes. I also have an 8 year old.

By joe (Guest Post)
July 31, 20070 found this helpful

they are 2 weeks old. Only 1 of them has one eye that is still close, i was wondering what to use on him,to help get the eye to open.

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November 25, 2009

My beautiful, but young, cat named Dinah just gave birth to 5 equally beautiful kittens this morning. Dinah was a stray that my boyfriend and I accepted in our home in October, and weren't very surprised to learn of her pregnancy.

Anyway, I know at this point, none of them can see, hear, or smell, so I've been worried about them finding the nipples to feed. Even when I get them to the nipple, they turn away and whine. They have been eating, some more than others.

I guess I'm just wondering if this is normal, and also nervous that if it comes time for me to feed them, I won't know exactly when to do so. Please help. Thank you.

By Sarah from NY


November 26, 20090 found this helpful

Good Morning,
How wonderful for that cat that you and your boyfriend are helping her. I worked for may years as a vet assistant, so my advice comes with knowledge you can trust. This may sound simplistic to you but the best thing for the next week is to just leave mom and babies alone. They know what they are doing and will find the way to the teeth. The best thing is to make sure mom feels safe and secure.

So I don't know where they are now but a nice box with blankets in it in a quiet spot in the house, like a spare room,, where there aren't people coming and going or other pets. Make sure mom has access to fresh clean water and lots of it, and start feeding mom kitten food. She will need the extra calories. If you notice a kitten going downhill fast you can get milk re placer and a bottle from your vet to feed the little one. Don't be surprised though if one does die or mom refuses to feed the sickly one. Somehow they seem to know when a baby is not going to live. It has been my experience that the ones that mom refuses are sick for a reason. For example I had a litter of kittens and mom refused 2 of them, I tried my guts out trying to keep the little ones going and as it turned out they had malformed stomachs, so no matter what I did they were not going to live. So mom really does know best!

So give mom good food lots of water and let her do her thing,try not to interfere too much. Last but not least, enjoy the experience, watching babies grow is a lot of fun and is very rewarding! If you are able, mom and babies should go for a vet check at 2 weeks old. And by 12 weeks all the babies should be in new homes or ready to go to new homes! Cats can be hard to find homes for so you may want to start looking now! Also, until babies and mom are older say 3 to 4 weeks old don'00t let strangers come and handle the babies. Anyway have fun and let me know how it goes!
vb37714 AT

November 27, 20090 found this helpful

Thank you so much for replying back! It really means a lot to me, even after all of the reading I've done, I'm still nervous, and your advice has helped a great deal.

Dinah had given birth in the living room, on a few towels. After a few hours when we felt she would be comfortable with it, we lined our big box with towels and placed the kittens in there, and she jumped right in. Then last night, she started picking them up, one by one, and moved them into the back of our closet. So, trying to follow her orders, we emptied the closet and put the big box of kittens in there. She seems a lot more comfortable, and I've been trying to keep my distance! Hahaha.

There is one small black kitten that isn't being refused, but doesn't seem as strong as the others. I help when I can, getting it to a nipple, but it just isn't as forceful as the other four. I knew that it's not uncommon for that to happen, I just wish they could all be happy and healthy, just like any other person would.

Now, I know that she needs her own time, and will leave the box to do her own thing, but how long is long enough? Sometimes she'll just wander around the house, and I get nervous that the kittens won't be warm enough. Is that just another step I need to take back? I know I need to let her be mom.

Anyway, here is a picture of them when they were just a few hours old. :)


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 846 Posts
November 29, 20090 found this helpful

Leave it all up to mommy now and Bless you for posting a picture! Please don't worry and those babies will be wandering around on their own soon enough :-) They do need to be completely weaned (about 10 weeks) before finding them homes though!

Answer this Question

June 22, 2015

So our cat had kittens about 2 weeks ago and just today one of them started acting a bit strange. She's not eating well and is very weak/limp. She was perfectly fine yesterday though :( Her body temp is low too. She's not as warm or chubby like the other 3.

I don't know what to do as I have no way of taking her to the vet :( Any advice from anybody? Also all 4 kitties have some sort of boogery pus in their eyes why is this?


June 22, 20150 found this helpful

Maybe you could try bottle feeding her? Or hand feeding her? Also you could call your local animal shelter or humane society, they might be able to give you some vet advice? Good luck!


Bronze Answer Medal for All Time! 220 Answers
June 22, 20151 found this helpful

Please take your kittens to your vet immediately-it is clear that the first one is ill and needs help and the others may have an infection also. Please do not delay as kittens as young as yours do not have much immunity.

June 23, 20150 found this helpful

All of your kittens have eye infections. They can pick it up from bacteria in the birth canal.
The sick kitten is losing its battle against the infection. It is dying.
The kittens need medical care and they are too young to remove from their mother.
You will need to surrender all the cats, including the mother, to a no-kill rescue or the Humane Society to get them the help they need.
In the future, don't keep any pets that aren't spayed or neutered since you can't afford veterinary care for all the babies.

June 30, 20150 found this helpful

Keeping kittens alive when they are so young is not easy. I go to the Dollar General and get the triple antibiotic ointment (not the cream, the ointment) and it always works on 6 week or so old kittens, but not sure if it would harm the mom since she would be licking it off the baby kittens eyes all the time. It is so easy to lose kittens at that age. It is not fair, but kittens who are not strong and healthy wont make it.

Don't worry about others opinions you just do your best. Now, I would probabky wipe their eyes with a warm cotton ball each morning and put just a little ointment in their eyes. Then I would probably give them KMR from a bottle which has a 'x' cut in it that makes one drop of formula come out at a time when held upside down.

After feeding they need to be burped and toileted. I take a warm, wet cottin ball and gently pat their little bottoms where the pee and poo. (I hold mine over a trash can with a piece of plastic trash on top... I can hear the wee wee drops. Then they have to be kept warm, a heating pad under half their box or bed. I will ad a link with more information. Anyone who gets involved with any kind of regular kitten rescue will have to experience loss from time to time. Bless you for caring and trying to help these little ones.

June 30, 20150 found this helpful

Upper Respiratory Infections (Common Kitty Cold, Feline Herpes Virus et)

This is the most common ailment that affects cats and kittens. It is estimated 90% or more of kitties have been exposed at one time or another to the Feline Herpes Virus. Most of the time cats are exposed to the virus within the first few weeks of life. Since they are not vaccinated until apx 8 weeks old, many times it is too late for vaccine to do any good.

If you should notice your kitty experiencing eye discharge, runny or clogged up nose and/or especially a green or yellow discharge, you should begin treatment immediately!

The first line of defense is L-Lysine, an essential Amino Acid. The way L-Lysine works is to halt replication of the virus. It is perfectly safe to give to kitties and even yourself to help with the human common cold!

For kittens the dose is 250mg sprinkled on their food twice per day; Adults, 500mg twice per day. You may keep your kitties on L-Lysine indefinitely as it is a great immune system booster. Maintenance dosage is 250-500mg per day.
You may purchase L-Lysine capsules at any health food store and drug store. There are also many online sites who sell it drastically cheaper than you can go to the store and buy. Here is a link to one good site: VitaCost.

If you happen to have a kitty who chronically suffers from FHV I urge you to join this Yahoo Group where you may glean tons of info the members have gathered over the years to help your precious babe! Yahoo Group Site:

To treat the congestion almost always associated with this, there are a number of things you can try.

Try simply placing kitty in the bathroom and run hot water through the shower to get a good steam going and leave kitty in there until steam is gone. When this is not enough, I prefer to use good old chlorpheniramine (Chlortrimeton). You may give a kitten up to 4lbs, 1/8 of a 4mg Chlortrimeton tablet twice per day; a kitty weighing 4-7lbs ¼ tablet twice per day and adult kitties weighing 7-10lbs receive ½ Chlortrimeton tablet twice per day
You can buy generic Chlortrimeton 4mg tablets at just about any store such as Wal-Mart for a very low cost. You can also use Clariton & Zyrtec; same dosages.

If Kittys nose is clogged up, I find by just mixing a pinch salt in 2oz warm water and dropping into their nose causes them to sneeze a lot of the junk from their nose so they can breathe better. If congestions is extreme, you may flush the nostrils with the saline solution by doing this: Wrap kitty tightly in a towel so they dont get away from you as you are treating them. Position them face up towards you but with head hung down towards the floor. Fill each nostril up with saline, wait 30 seconds then turn the kitty over with head still down so that the liquid drains out the nose and not into the lungsthis is VERY important!

If doing this does not seem to help enough, you may use a drop or two of regular (short acting non menthol) 4Way Nasal Spray in each nostril once or twice per day. As with humans, do not exceed 3 days using the nasal spray as it causes a rebound effect. You may also prefer to just treat one side of nostrils, alternating each day, which seems to lessen the chance of rebound from the nasal spray.

If the discharge coming from your kittys nose is green//yellow, this indicates infection and kitty will need antibiotics. Clavamox oral suspension is an excellent antibiotic for kitties and you may obtain it without a prescription from this online drug store:

Be sure to buy the oral suspension: 50/12.5mg/ml. Kittens receive ¼ ml twice per day. Kitties 5-7lbs receive 1/2 ml twice per day. Over 7lbs receive 1ml twice per day.

If there is no time to wait for a shipment of meds to come in, you can go to most pet and aquarium stores and buy Fish Mox, in the fish section, which is Amoxicillin.
Important mixing instructions: You will need a small bottle to mix & keep the medication in. If you buy the 250mg Fish Mox, crush the pill, then dilute it with 5ml of water in the bottle & mix well. For the 500mg crush the pill then mix it with 10ml of water. This dilutes the Fish Mox (Amoxicillin) to 50mg per 1ml which is the same dosage one gets from the vet. Kittens under 5lbs receive .25ml 2 x per day & kitties over 5lbs receive .50ml 2 x per day. Large kitties apx 10lbs receive 1ml

Many times cats will slow down and/or completely stop eating and drinking when they have URI. It is imperative you watch your kitty closely as dehydration sets in very quickly and can kill them if not treated immediately!

One way to tell if your kitty is dehydrated is to pull up the nap of skin between the shoulder blades. If when you turn it loose, it snaps right back into place, then your kitty is probably not dehydrated. However if the skin is slow falling back into place your kitty is more than likely dehydrated and steps must be taken to rehydrate the kitty immediately!
The wonderful thing about cats is it is easy to rehydrate them by giving them Subcutaneous Injections of IV Fluid. Simply put, you draw up Lactated Ringers IV solution into a syringe, gently inject the needle just under the skin between the shoulder blades and slowly inject the solution until you form a small ball of solution under the skin. This looks horrible at first, but rest assured your kittys body will immediately begin to absorb this IV fluid and within mere minutes, the ball of solution will disappear!

You can purchase Lactated Ringers IV solution without a prescription from this online store: Atlantic Medical Supply

For the kitty who has stopped eating there is a wonderful product called Nutrical which comes in a large tube. Many a kittys life has been saved using this product! You can purchase Nutrical without prescription at most pet supply stores such as PetsMart & Petsco. Just follow the directions on the label. NOTE: if kitty has completely stopped eating then give it dobs of Nutrical several times per day.

Try making slurry out of some baby chicken food & water and hand feed through dropper or syringe. Strong smelling foods such as tuna have been shown to help a congested kitty want to eat. Bottom line is if they cannot smell their food they usually will not eat it.

For eyes with a discharge or crusting, wash the eye gently with water, then smear a dab Triple Antibiotic Ointment directly into the eye taking care not to scratch the eye. This must be done 3-4 times daily until the eyes are clear. Triple Antibiotic Ointment is available at all drug stores or places such as Wal-Mart. Generic will do just as well as the major brands. NOTE: make sure you purchase the ointment and NOT the cream!

Sometimes these eye infections take something a bit stronger to get rid of it. An ointment called Terramycin will almost always do the trick. You apply it the same way as the other, 3-4 times daily. You may purchase Terramycin eye ointment without prescription for a fraction of the cost your vet would charge on good old eBay! On eBay, simply type in the search bar Terramycin and you will find many selling it. You may also purchase Terramycin eye ointment without prescription at this online store: Entirely Pets."

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May 10, 2017

How do I care for a newborn motherless kitten? What do I do for it? Please reply immediately.

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June 28, 2016

My male cat brought a surprise home to me 2 days ago, a newborn kitten. I am assuming it is only about a week or 2 old, its eyes are just opening. I have been feeding it kitten formula with an eye dropper, to hopefully keep it alive. I have seen no other cats around my home. I have no idea where this little one came from.

I have contacted my local vet office to see if they can direct me to a foster mom for this baby as I can not stay home from work any longer to care for it, and bringing it to work with me is not an option. The vet suggested I call the local ASPCA and of course they can not help me either.
Any suggestions?

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Check out these photos.

March 22, 2007

These are my new baby kittens. They are regular neighborhood Tom Cat short hairs. These cute little characters were born yesterday when one of my two look alike sister black cats gave birth.

Photo of newborn kittens.


April 12, 2016

This is a page about mother cat ignoring her kittens. Owner's of cats with a new litter worry if the mom doesn't seem to be caring for them.

Adult cat walking away from newborn kitten


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