Ask Dr. Anna: proper care for orphaned kittens

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I can tell that spring is approaching, as we are starting to see abandoned puppies and kittens.  In fact, I have three dachshund, terrier mixes at the clinic that are about 6 weeks old that need to be adopted.  So this week I will review proper care for orphaned kittens.

Anna Coffin is the Veterinarian at Guthrie Pet Hospital and can be contacted at (405) 282-8796.
Anna Coffin is the Veterinarian at Guthrie Pet Hospital and can be contacted at (405) 282-8796.

Another nursing cat is the best option for feeding orphaned kittens as they can provide ideal nutrition along with maternal care.  If that is not available, then hand raising is your only other option.  Kittens with a good suck reflex can be bottle fed and most kittens due best on commercially available kitten mild replacers.  Spoons and eye droppers should be avoided as aspiration of milk into the lungs can occur.  It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s directions on reconstitution and storage of the replacer milk. Diarrhea is a common problem in kittens fed milk replacer due to over feeding.  This can be treated by reducing the amount fed and diluting the formula by 50% with water or oral electrolytes for a few feedings.  Diarrhea can cause dehydration and is another leading cause of death in kittens.

Kittens up to four weeks of age are unable to regulate their temperature and low body temperature is a primary cause of death in neonates.  Optimal temperature for one week old kittens is around 90 degrees and gradually decreasing by about 10 degrees every week at which time 75 degrees is reached around 4 weeks of age.

Kittens less than three weeks of age are unable to eliminate voluntarily.  Defecation and urination are usually stimulated by the mother by via licking.  Therefore, kittens of this age or younger will need to be stimulated to go to the bathroom after each feeding

Orphaned kittens should be weaned as soon as possible.  Kittens around three or four weeks can be taught to drink milk replacer from a shallow saucer.  Solid foods should be slowly introduced by mixing with milk replacer.  The milk replacer should then be slowly decreased until solid food is being digested.

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