How To Care For Kittens After Mother Cat Has Given Birth

Posted: November 30, 2021 by Anita

how to care for kittens

Has your cat given birth, and you’re not sure how to care for kittens?

After your cat has given birth, she will (most likely) do the mother thing and provide plenty of warmth and baby kitten milk.

This article discusses how to care for newborn kittens after the Mother cat spits them out and hopefully addresses some questions you might have about the new litter.

In a previous article, I discussed how to support the mother cat after giving birth – click here to read.

How to care for kittens right after your cat gives birth

Mostly, you’ll be on stand-by when it comes to the newborn kittens’ care. Your role is to support the queen in caring for her kittens.

If there were no issues with the birth of the litter, your cat would do most of the initial care after giving birth to her newborn baby kittens. It would be best if you did not interfere in the care provided by your cat to her litter.

Check on the kittens frequently to make sure the queen is caring for them. It would be best to step in should there become problems with the birth of the kittens or your cat falls ill.

Here’s what you can expect:

1. Mother cat will keep the kittens warm

After the queen gives birth to her litter, she will make sure her kittens stay warm using her body heat. You can help out by providing a clean, warm, and dry place for her and the kittens – a nesting box.

Make sure the nesting box is tall enough to prevent the kittens from getting out but not too tall that your cat has to jump to get out.

Check out this cute playpen that could be a great nesting box by clicking here.

2. She will feed her newborn kittens

Within a few hours of birth, the mother produces colostrum or the first milk, full of exceptional antibodies and will help the kittens fight off infections.

She will begin to nurse the kittens 1-2 hours after birth. Even though the newborn kittens’ eyes will be closed, they will seek out their mother’s warm body to cuddle up to.

The queen will continue nursing her kittens for about four weeks until they are ready to be weaned.

Be sure to check in on the kittens to make sure that the queen is feeding them.

3. She will keep them clean and groomed

Your cat will stimulate her kittens to pee and poop (which she consumes – yuck) until four weeks old. At four weeks, you can introduce the kittens to a small litter box (I used disposable ones for Theo – click here), making sure to use the non-clay litter (because they will try to eat it). Click here to check out the one I used for Theo.

4. Can you touch newborn kittens? Is it safe?

Remember, keep your interaction with the kittens at a minimum. Sometimes mother cats reject their kittens once handled by human hands.

Also, newborn baby kittens are susceptible to illness and infections for the first month of life because their immune system hasn’t built up yet. Make sure to wash your hands before and after handling the kittens.

5. When can kittens leave their mother?

The new mother queen will spend most of her time with her newborn kittens after giving birth – especially in the first few days. In the wild, kittens stay with their mother until sexual maturity is reached, or the queen has another litter of kittens.

How long do kittens need to stay with their mother?

Separating kittens from mothers before they reach eight weeks robs them from learning how to act appropriately, in terms of behavior, around other cats and humans. The kittens learn proper cat behavior through imitating their mother. She will teach them basic skills that will help them become cute independent cats.

If you intend to eventually give away the kittens as pets, it is best to introduce humans to them at four weeks of age. However, the litter still needs their mother to learn how to act appropriately.

She will teach them basic skills and appropriate behavior to help them become cute socialized independent cats ready to be adopted by loving cat owners.

how to care for kittens

How to take care of a newborn kitten without a mother involved or present

Sometimes the mother cat isn’t available to provide the care needed for newborn kittens. In this instance, you would need to step in and take care of the kittens.

There are several reasons why you would need to take over the care of a newborn kitten:

  • your cat is unable to produce milk
  • your cat rejects the litter or part of the litter
  • her milk dries up early
  • the kitten or kittens are orphaned
  • mother cat becomes ill and is unable to care for kittens

If this should happen, you are now responsible for the lives of those precious newborn kittens – no pressure, right?

Here are some tips and answers to a few faqs regarding newborn kitten care.

1. What to feed newborn kittens

Baby kittens under four weeks old cannot eat solid food. Just like newborn babies, newborn kittens that the mother cannot feed must be fed kitten formula. The proper name for kitten formula is kitten milk replacer (KMR).

Click here to check out the brand of kitten milk replacer I purchased for Theo.

Do not feed kittens cow’s milk because it could make them sick.

I go further into details on bottle-feeding newborn kittens in my article, “What Can Kittens Eat? A Great Guide To Feeding Baby Kittens,” by clicking here.

2. What to feed newborn kittens in an emergency?

If for some reason, you can’t get your hand on KMR, you might have to feed the kittens’ cow’s milk. I found an interesting post by a LA kitten rescue on making homemade kitten formula; click here to read it.

Please note: homemade formula should only be used in an emergency. The nutrition present in Kitten Milk Replacer is essential to the growth and development of kittens. When you can, please feed the kittens KMR – it is the best replacement for mother’s milk.

3. How long can newborn kittens go without eating?

Kittens under two weeks of age should be fed every two hours. Kittens 2-4 weeks of age should be fed every 3-4 hours.

Guidelines for bottle-feeding newborn kittens:

  • Make sure the kittens are warm when bottle-feeding them. It’s the only way they can properly digest kitten formula
  • Make sure the Kitten Milk Replacer is warm (not too warm – test before bottle feeding)
  • Weigh the kittens before bottle feeding to ensure you’re feeding them the proper amount (follow the feeding guideline instructions on the KMR can) and to make sure they are gaining weight.
  • Kittens should be flat on their tummies or in a nursing position similar to being fed by mother. Never feed kitten while on their back because they can aspirate the formula in that position
  • It takes a bit of practice but eventually you and the kittens will get the hang of it. Check out this video below from Maddie’s Institute.

4. How to keep kittens warm

Kittens under four weeks are not capable of regulating their body temperature. So, it is imperative to make sure they are warm at all times. The kittens’ environment should be clean, warm, and draft-free – room temperature should be around 85 degrees.

Provide them a little bed – it doesn’t have to be fancy – the bottom part of a cage or a cardboard box will do perfectly.

Kittens are very messy. Make sure you line the bottom with a blanket. I like to line the kitten’s little bed with puppy pads also for easy cleanup.

It’s a good idea to have a heating source available to keep the kittens warm and comfortable. I recommend the Snuggle Safe heating disk pad that comes with a washable cover – click here to check out the price on Amazon.

Be sure to closely monitor the warmth of the heating disk so that the kittens don’t get overheated.

5. How to groom the kittens

I realized just how clueless I was about taking care of orphaned kittens when it came to grooming. I had no idea.

You see, newborn kittens can’t go poop or and pee by themselves – they have to be stimulated to do this. The mother cat usually does this, but it will become your job if she’s not available.

After feeding, take a wet cotton ball or very soft gauze and rub the lower belly, the anal and genital area of the kittens. I suggest wearing gloves. Try not to overstimulate the area because it can become irritated and red.

Kittens should urinate after each feeding and poop at least once a day. Below is a video from Maddie Institute on how to get the kittens to pee and poop.

In case of an emergency – taking care of newborn kittens

The health of a newborn kitten can go left so quickly. It’s essential to keep an eye out on baby kittens even if the mother cat is involved in the care.

The big thing to remember is to keep the kittens warm and make sure they are getting adequately fed.

Take them to the Veterinarian if the kittens appear to be ill – here’s what to look for:

  • frequent crying
  • weakness
  • turning blue (check their gums for this)
  • blood in urine
  • trouble breathing

And again, keep them warm!

Conclusion

After your cat has given birth, she will (most likely) do the mother thing and provide plenty of warmth and baby kitten milk. But you might be wondering what’s your job when it comes to caring for both mother and kittens.

In a previous article, I discussed how to support the mother cat after giving birth – click here to read.

This article discusses how to care for newborn kittens after the Mother cat spits them out and hopefully addresses some questions you might have had about the new litter.

Mostly, you’ll be on stand-by when it comes to the newborn kittens’ care. Your role is to support the queen in caring for her kittens.

But if the mother cat is absent or ill for some reason, your role becomes even more critical. In this instance, you would need to step in and take care of the kittens.

The health of a newborn kitten can go left so quickly. It’s essential to keep an eye out on baby kittens even if the mother cat is involved in the care.

Keep the kittens warm and fed. And take them to the Veterinarian if the kittens appear to be ill.



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