Written by Alysa Tarrant
Cats are one of the most popular house companions in the world and it’s estimated that there could be as many as 600 million cats alive today. With that many cats, there are bound to be kittens and sometimes they need a little more human help than usual. If the mother cat is not around and a kitten needs to be fed, what do you do?
Keep reading to learn the answers to all of your bottle-feeding kitten questions.
What kinds of milk can kittens drink?
Cats are lactose intolerant, just like most humans! If a cat drinks milk with lactose in it, like cow’s milk, for example, the lactose won’t pass through their intestines and will cause stomach issues only a few hours later.
The best milk option for a kitten is its mother’s milk but if the mother, or an adopted mother who is still producing milk, isn’t around, it’s recommended that you purchase a mother’s milk substitute. Talking to a veterinarian can help you find the right replacement, but if you’re in a pinch, many pet stores will have a replacement. Just make sure that it’s specifically designed for kittens.
How much milk does a newborn kitten need?
The amount of milk that a newborn kitten needs depends on the kitten’s size and age. The best way to know is to consult with a vet, but you can also consult this chart. Expect to be feeding the kitten at least six to seven times per day, including through the night. The younger a kitten is, the more frequently they will need to be fed, sometimes as often as every two hours. Just like human babies, kittens need lots of love, attention, and feeding to stay healthy.
Can I feed the kitten with a baby bottle?
When you feed a kitten, you should make sure that they are laying on their bellies or sitting up. Unlike human babies which are typically fed while in a reclined position, kittens should be placed as if they were nursing from their mother. If kittens are placed on their backs and held, they might be unable to wriggle away if they are being fed too much or too quickly and risk drowning.
You should purchase a bottle specifically designed for feeding kittens. Human nipples and cat nipples vary widely in size and so a human baby bottle nipple will be much too large for a kitten.
There are plenty of kitten feeding bottles and nipples available for purchase online and at pet stores. Be aware that with some nipples you may need to cut a hole yourself. Make sure that the hole is very small and drips out slowly or you risk the kitten drowning in the formula.
Do kittens stop eating when they’re full?
In general, kittens should stop eating when they’re full. This is one reason it’s very important to feed the kitten on its stomach so that when they do feel full, they can move away.
Kittens should have a full tummy once fed but it shouldn’t be stretched taught. You can gently massage the lower part of their belly to encourage urination and bowel movements. If the kitten is experiencing diarrhea, they’re likely being overfed. Be sure to consult with a vet to make sure the kitten is healthy.
When should I give the kitten water?
All kittens and full-grown cats should have water available to them. Cats don’t typically get enough water in their diets and they don’t always drink water when they should. This can lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs) which cause extreme discomfort for your feline friend.
Many cats prefer moving water, which also keeps it fresh. Consider investing in a small drinking fountain to entice your kitten into drinking more water. It can also double as a fun toy for playful cats.
Because kittens who are without their mother will be bottle-fed, having water in a dish or a fountain is a great way to help the kitten learn how to lap up liquid from a dish. This will be a very useful skill for them to have when they are weaned off of the bottle.
When can you stop bottle feeding kittens?
Be very careful about when you choose to wean.
At about five to six weeks old, a kitten’s teeth will begin to emerge and they can begin to be weaned off of bottle feeding and can be transitioned to wet food. However, if the kitten is still underweight for their age, continue with bottle feeding for a week or so and check in with their weight daily.
When they are ready to transition to wet food, purchase kitten food. This food is specifically created for kittens, containing more calories and packed with nutrients that kittens need.
According to the Kitten Lady, start with a slurry. Mix a small teaspoon of the kitten food with the formula so that the kitten can become acclimated to the new digestion that will take place. You will likely need to supplement with bottle feeding until the kitten can successfully eat the slurry on their own from a dish. Continue adding more and more kitten food until you’ve fully transitioned them away from formula.
Is there anything that kittens should NOT eat?
Here’s a quick list of things to NOT feed your kitten:
There are a lot of DIY recipes out there for kitten formula, but you wouldn’t feed your own baby raw egg blended with cow’s milk and multivitamins so why in the world would you feed that to a furry baby?
Learn more about Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary
Now that you know all about bottle feeding kittens, check out our sponsor an animal page to see how you can help our rescue cats. They need lots of love and are looking for their forever homes.
If you aren’t in the area or you can’t commit to caring for another being at the moment, please check out our volunteer opportunities. We have remote and in-person opportunities. If you volunteer in person you’ll also have the opportunity to take some amazing classes.
Finally, we can always use your donations! They help us pay the vet bills, rescue more animals, and keep the ones already at Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary fed and sheltered.