I thought I knew a lot about cats and how to care for them. Then enters Theodore (Theo for short), a month old (I think) kitten that my daughter rescued from the rain and death by auto.
What I’ve learned is that raising a kitten is a unique skill set. Sure, I know the basics of cat care – cat food, water, litter box, and a scratching post, and you’re good to go.
But kittens are a challenge – cute but challenging. They are on a whole ‘other level. In this article, I will discuss:
- my decision to become a cat parent again
- Theo, my rescue kitten
- what I didn’t know about raising a kitten
- what this experience taught me
Am I ready to become a cat parent again?
I’ve been mourning the loss of my cats, Shrek and Jessica, for about 18 months. It wasn’t a loss from death but a loss due to a change in my finances. I ended up having to live with a relative for a few months, and I wasn’t able to bring my cats with me.
I was able to successfully re-home them, but the experience of having to give them up was earth-shattering.
And how was it possible that me – a person who writes about being a responsible cat owner ends up having to give up her cats? I felt so unworthy (and a hypocrite). I stepped away from this blog for over a year – I just couldn’t bring myself to write anymore.
But things changed. I was able to get back on my feet. I slowly started writing again for Cat Mama. I knew I wanted to be a cat parent; still, I was procrastinating about taking that next step.
Theodore, my little rescue kitten
I would be lying if I said it was love at first sight when I first laid eyes on Theo. Theo was a pretty sick kitten when my daughter rescued him. He looked like hell, and he was so tiny.
I took one look at him and thought I’d take him to the animal shelter, and maybe I might foster him. I’ve never taken care of a kitten this young, so in my mind, I was coming up with tons of excuses:
- I don’t have the time (I work, and I run a blog about cats)
- Did I already mention that I’ve never taken care of a kitten this young?
- I’m not ready yet – I’ve just moved into a townhouse (actually it’s been a year).
- I’m too old and set in my ways – yeah, this excuse was a stretch.
- I’m not worthy.
Well, after driving around and being told no, we don’t take cats here (hello – aren’t you a humane society?). And ” wrong shelter….you need to go to the shelter in your county” (even though I lived closer to the “wrong shelter”). I ended up taking Theo to the nearest random vet that I found on google.
And he’s now mine.
I am raising a kitten named Theo.
Five things I didn’t know about raising a kitten
Don’t get me wrong I’ve taken care of kittens before – but not this young. Theo is an orphaned kitten that should still be with his mother. I’m talking…kitten-that-should-be-fed-by-it’s-mother…not by me.
I had tons of questions after leaving the vet…I mean he did tell me I had to give Theo kitten milk replacement formula (and his meds – he had an upper respiratory infection, fleas and one of his eyes looked crazy). But yeah, that was all of the instructions I got regarding taking care of a tiny kitten.
Here’s a list of things I didn’t know about taking care of a kitten so young (I estimated that Theo is about a month old). You do everything for a kitten this young :
1. You have to bottle feed kittens – when kittens are orphaned right after birth, they have to be bottle-fed until about 4-6 weeks. Contrary to popular belief, you can not feed a kitten cow’s milk. Instead, you have to give them Kitten Milk Replacement (KMR). Click here to see how much I paid for KMR at Chewy.com.
Just like human babies, it can take some coaxing before they latch on to the nipple of the bottle. You can also use a syringe. Theo and I struggled with the syringe-feeding – I would recommend using a bottle. Click here to see the bottle I purchased from Amazon.
Once kittens start getting their teeth, you might want to switch from a rubber nipple to a hard plastic nipple. Theo bit off the tip of the nipple, and I panicked – eventually, he did pass it on through. Click here for the miracle nipple I ordered from Amazon.
Check out the Kitten Lady’s video on how to bottle feed a kitten.
2. They can’t urinate or defecate without assistance – when 24 hours had passed, and Theo hadn’t pooped or peed, I started to worry. After a bit of research and a Youtube video from the Kitten Lady, I realized I had to help Theo with this process. I won’t go into the gory details, but you can check out the Kitten Lady’s video here.
After a week, Theo taught himself how to use the litter box (smart kitty). I used Nature’s Miracle Odor Control Corn Cob Clumping Cat Litter which is a safer option for little kittens in training – toilet training that is.
3. You gotta keep them warm – when kittens are born; they cannot regulate their temperature. I ended up getting tons of pet blankets for Theo. There are other options, such as heating pads or incubators that can be used. For more information, check out recommendations from the Kitten Lady.
4. Kittens are messy. They step in their poo. They step in their food. Milk stains their little chest. They don’t know how to clean themselves. Baby wipes have become my best friend. Theo hates it when I clean him off. However, he tolerates the process by patiently taking it like a champ.
5. You gotta constantly keep an eye on them. They wobble around like a drunk but take your eye off of them and you will lose them. Under a bed, in a closet, behind a door, in a shoe – kittens can be in a constant state of danger. I got a soft-sided kennel from Amazon for the times when I have to leave Theo by himself. Click here to check out the kennel I purchased from Amazon.
I was just reading an article from the Washington Post, “A kitten nursery saves tiny lives in a city aiming to become no-kill,” about kitten nurseries that have sprung up in L.A. These nurseries raise kittens to an age where they can be adopted. Before kitten nurseries, very young kittens were euthanized in L.A. because regular shelters just didn’t have the resources to raise them to an age where they can be adopted (eight weeks old).
Becoming Theo’s cat parent has given me the push I needed to take the next step. The next step for me is to start fostering cats (maybe specializing in fostering kittens).
I want to prepare rescue cats for their forever home. And I want to inspire other cat lovers to do the same (foster a rescue cat).
Read more from the Cat Mama:
- 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