I’m raising Theodore (Theo for short), my little orphaned kitten. As stated in another article that I wrote, it is a learning experience.
I’ve had cats before. However, what I’m quickly learning from Theo is that it takes a particular set of skills to raise a kitten.
Thank God there are plenty of articles on the internet about kittens. But my favorite go-to-book on kittens (and cats) has been Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide To Life With Your Cat by Jackson Galaxy. Total Cat Mojo has been an eye-opener.
Although very cute, kittens are not toys. Kittens are little balls of fire and energy. They are raw and wild little lions and tigers. They bite and scratch. So it’s essential to go into this relationship armed with lots of information, patience, and love.
Theo, my rescued kitten
He’s in full tiger mode – always stalking his prey (whether it be my toes or my hand). My job is to re-direct and divert his feline instinct to a more suitable object – not to punish him for his abilities.
Or worse yet, get rid of him.
That’s why raising a kitten takes a unique skill set. But I believe that with the right knowledge and expectations, anyone can develop the skill set to foster or adopt and raise a kitten.
In this article, I discuss:
- kittens 101
- preparing your space for kittens
- how to take care of kittens
- must-have kitten supplies
Newborn kittens come into this world helpless and dependent upon mama cat. If you come across a stray baby kitten, the best thing you can do for that kitten is to try reuniting it with its mother.
But sometimes, kittens are abandoned or become displaced for some reason from mom. When this happens, human intervention is necessary for the survival of the abandoned kitten.
Caring for kittens under eight weeks involve a lot of time and care. A lot of shelters lack the space and resources to care for kittens that young. So they will try to place newborn kittens with foster parents until their old enough to be adopted at eight weeks.
There is a massive need for kitten fosters, especially during kitten season. A kitten foster parent plays an essential role because they prepare kittens for adoption to what will hopefully become their forever home and family.
Preparing your space for kittens
Before I discuss kitten care and the stages, I want to talk about preparing your space for the kitten invasion. When you first bring your kitten home, I recommend setting up space for him to like decompress. It can be overwhelming for a kitten to be introduced to a new area. You don’t need a lot of space. You can etch out space in a closet, bathroom, or spare bedroom.
During the early stages, I recommend keeping the space small then expanding his environment as he gets to know the area. Theo started in a soft-sided crate in my spare bedroom. (Check out this crate from Chewy.com).
As you can see, he has now claimed the whole bedroom as his territory. This week I plan on opening the spare bedroom door so he can access the hallway that connects to my bedroom. Since we are upstairs, I’m purchasing a gate to keep him upstairs. I’m slowly introducing him to his new home.
If you plan on fostering kittens, the Kitten Lady (who has been a lifesaver for Theo and me) recommends keeping foster kittens separate from the rest of the household since they will only be staying with you for a few weeks. Check out her room set up for foster kittens in this video.
Stages of kittenhood
I will be discussing the stages of kittenhood that I have experienced with Theo, from birth to 8 weeks. Hopefully, you are considering adopting or fostering a kitten. Thank you for taking this fantastic step by giving a kitten a chance at a good life.
During the first eight weeks of a kitten life, a whole lot is going on. I have broken down the stages in the following way:
- 0 – 4 weeks
- 5-8 weeks
How to take care of kittens: birth – 4 weeks
Kittens from birth to 4 weeks are considered newborns. They are helpless at this age and really can’t do much on their own. These little wee ones can’t hear or see. They cannot regulate their temperature. They can’t even poop or pee on their own. And will spend most of their time asleep and being fed.
By the time they reach four weeks, kittens should be about 1 pound (16 ounces). Kittens will start exploring their environment. Coordination and motor skills are developing rapidly.
If you are caring for an abandoned kitten, look forward to being at your kitten’s beck and call 24-7. From 0-3 weeks, it is going to be important to keep your kitten warm. In your kitten’s space, make sure there is plenty of warm bedding for snuggling. To keep bedding warm, you might want to use a hot water bottle or a Snuggle Safe or even better a Snuggle Kitty (has a ticker for a heart and warming pack – pretty cool substitute for Mama Cat).
Kittens, at this stage, will need assistance with pooping and urinating. When Mama cat is present, she stimulates the genital and anal area, which causes the kitten to go. If your kitten is orphaned, you will have to assist him with this process until he’s ready for litter box training (about four weeks). Check out the Kitten Lady’s video on how this is done!
Along with assistance with bathroom duties, it will be your responsibility to keep your kitten clean. Kittens are a bit sloppy at this stage and don’t know how to keep themselves clean. So I recommend having baby wipes around to clean up your kitten after eating. I found that a good bath a couple of times a week was great at keeping Theo clean (and getting rid of his fleas). I was surprised at how he tolerated it (I wouldn’t say he was pleased, but he tolerated the baths).
Make sure your kitten is dry thoroughly after washing up. I found wrapping Theo in a big fluffy towel was something he liked, and it was a good time to snuggle with him.
Kittens between 0-4 weeks must be bottled fed if the mother is not available. Do not feed your kitten cow’s milk. Instead, feed the kitten KMR (kitten milk replacer – which is kitten formula). It can be purchased at most pet supply stores. But it’s cheaper if purchased online at Amazon or my new go-to pet supply store, Chewy.com.
For Chewy.com, click here to check out pricing for Kitten Milk Replacer. Orders over $49 ships free; all other orders are a flat fee of $4.95.
I was clueless about feeding a kitten. But I got help from the Kitten Lady’s Youtube videos. If you have questions about kitten care, the Kitten Lady has answers. Click here to check out her website. She also shares a feeding chart that will guide you on how much and how often to feed your kitten – click here to be taken the Kitten Lady’s bottle-feeding page.
At about four weeks, you can start weaning your kitten off kitten formula and begin feeding kitten food. I started this process with Theo by blending Iams Proactive Health Kitten Dry Food with the Kitten Milk Replacer – creating a semi-thicken slurry. I then bottle-fed him the slurry.
Start a weight chart for your kitten.
It is vital to make sure that your kitten is well-fed during the weaning process. It was a little stressful for me, and I was always worried about Theo not getting enough to eat.
To make sure he was getting enough to eat, what I should have done was purchase a scale so I could keep up with his weight. To make keeping track of your kitten weight more manageable for you, I have provided a weight chart for you to use. Click here.
How to take care of kittens 5 – 8 weeks
Your kitten will become a lot more active, starting at five weeks old. You will want to start engaging your kitten in playtime. Playtime is a great way to socialize your kitten correctly. They are beginning to test out their hunting skills (which is normal), and you can help by engaging with them in pretend hunting play. Trust me when I tell you – you will benefit from this type of game also. Active play with your kitten will burn off a lot of their energy and makes them calmer.
It is important to spend as much time as possible with your kitten. Now is a good time to invest in a scratching post because they are starting to test out their claws. I got Theo the Pawz Road Cat Scratching Post which is the perfect height for a little guy like him!
By the time your kitten reaches five weeks, he’s a lot more equipped at regulating his body temperature. You still want to make sure there are some comfy blankets for him to snuggle up against in his space. Now is the time for you to expand his territory a bit by slowing letting him access to other parts of the house. But still, keep his original space intact, so your kitten can return to its comfort when things get a little overwhelming for him.
Time to introduce your kitten to the litterbox (if you haven’t done so by now). I placed a small disposable litterbox in Theo’s crate, and he took to using it well. (I used Nature’s Miracle Clumping Corn Cat Litter – which is a great and safe alternative to clay litter for kittens – was very impressed with this litter).
By the time he reached seven weeks, I had replaced his disposable one with a little bit larger litter box, which I had placed outside his crate. What is so amazing is how quickly he caught on to the concept of using the litter box. Now that he’s 8-9 weeks(?) and he’s slowly making his way downstairs, I’ve installed another cat litter box down there as well.
Theo is now able to groom himself (and has gotten good at keeping clean). I’m sure he’s not going to miss those baths!
At night, I prepare his food for the next day. I give him a ratio of 1/3 cup of Iams (recommended for his age) to 1/2 cup of kitten formula – stored in a shaker cup overnight in the refrigerator. By the morning the food is soft, mushy and has expanded – so 1/3 cup of Iams go along way. I then divide it into 3 meals – 2 meals go into 2 separate dishes for him to consume while I’m at work . I store the third meal for later (after work). I also make water available for him in another dish.
Now that he’s eight weeks or so, I’m starting to cut back on the amount of kitten formula used to moisten his Iams kitten food. I’m hoping to have him entirely off kitten formula by the time he’s ten weeks old.
On his last visit to the vet, he weighed 2 pounds – right on track, thank God!
In this article, I discuss how to take care of kittens and my experience with taking care of Theo. Although very cute, kittens are not toys. It’s imperative to go into this relationship armed with lots of information, patience, and love.
Looking back on Theo’s first few weeks, I laugh at the fact that I probably overcomplicated things. But I feel like my experience with Theo has prepared me for fostering and developing other kittens for their forever home.
Hopefully, you are considering adopting or fostering a kitten. Thank you for taking this fantastic step by giving a kitten a chance at a good life. I can tell you from my experience that taking care of Theo, my kitten, has been rewarding. Every day it seems like he’s discovering things about himself and me. And in turn, I’m learning things about him and me as his cat parent.
If you find yourself panicking about whether you’re doing the right thing for your kitten – relax, you’re probably are! Keep in mind; there are plenty of resources out there should you have any questions. And by the way, you can always reach out to me for support.
Read more from the Cat Mama:
- Things I Didn’t Know About Raising A Kitten
- What To Feed A Nursing Cat
- You Will Love These 4 Best Pet Cleaning Products
- The Benefits of Adopting a Cat during Coronavirus Pandemic
- Vomiting in Cats: When to Worry
- Why Do Cats Give Love Bites?
- What is my cat trying to tell me?
- What can I feed my cat to keep it healthy?
- The three best cat litter box for small apartments