Please help the little pussies
July 20, 2009 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I have searched previous questions, as well as Google and can't find the answer to this question. My friend rescued five kittens, estimated to be 2 1/2 weeks old. She is at a loss as far as feeding. Her efforts with bottles, milk, canned foot, etc. are not working. Can you help? Anyone with experience?
posted by wv kay in ga to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
That's weird. Canned foot is usually a ringer.

Could you call a vet? Any vet?
posted by Askr at 7:16 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Where did she rescue the kittens from?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:17 PM on July 20, 2009

Ok, I have experience with nursing/raising tiny kittens but honestly it's too much info to type in here. I strongly recommend that you contact a local cat rescue group (the local shelter might be able to point you in the right direction if you can't find one online). Also try googling "hand raising kittens" "bottle feeding kittens" --I just gave it a shot and found some good links.

They are too little for canned food! Here's the basics, you need a tiny bottle from a pet store (punch hole in the nipple with a hot needle) and KMS kitten formula. Feed them about every 4 hours. Keep them on their stomacks while feeding (not upright like a human baby).

Also, they can't go to the bathroom by themselves yet, so... after every feeding, gently massage the anus and urinary orifice with a cotton ball moistened with warm water until they urinate and defecate. (fun, eh?)

Good luck!!!
posted by mkuhnell at 7:21 PM on July 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

What is the basis for the age estimation? Are the eyes open? what color are they (the eyes, that is)? how big are the kittens?

What is their behavior, are they in distress?

One important thing - kittens that young need encouragement to urinate/defecate. Use a slightly damp cotton ball, stroked at the anus area, to express. The momma cat would normally lick them there and eat whatever they produce, at least up to four weeks of age.

If the bottles don't work, try a dampened cloth. Don't use milk - a vet will sell you a milk replacement formula that you mix with water. Again, try a bottle first, then try soaking a corner of a (clean) cloth in the formula. Wipe it around on the kittens' mouths if they aren't picking up on it.

Also, realistically, you should be ready for 3 or more of these kittens not to make it, if that 2.5 weeks estimate is accurate.

Your local humane society should be willing to help, especially if your friend is willing to take care of these kittens.
posted by yesster at 7:24 PM on July 20, 2009

First thing to do is make sure they're warm. A heating pad is best. A hot water bottle will work, but only if you keep it warm. They can't digest the food if they're cold. They're too young for canned food. They need a cat's milk replacement. KMR isn't the best, but it's readily available at most pet stores. Esbilac is better. It needs to be warmed - not hot - just like formula for a baby. Small doses - a little bit several time an hour is the best. And they have to be fed around the clock, just like babies. If she can't get them to eat - they need to go to a no-kill shelter. And this needs to be done right away. If they're not eating, they're starving to death.

Oh - and she might need to wipe their butts with a warm, damp cloth to simulate their mother's licking and trigger bowel movements.
posted by clarkstonian at 7:27 PM on July 20, 2009

Agreed with yesster on the kitten's survival rate...I had to help my grandma care for some kittens after the mom died in the birthing. Out of the five kittens the cat delivered, only two made it, even though we were giving them our all 24/7. Give your local vets a call; some vets will be willing to give you good advice on what you can do to feed them without requiring you to go to their office.
posted by cobain_angel at 7:31 PM on July 20, 2009

When my kitten was younger, we washed her butt with a warm cotton ball because she wasn't cleaning back there and it was gross.

Now I know why she peed on me when we did it. Mystery solved!
posted by elder18 at 7:50 PM on July 20, 2009

We raised two kittens from 3.5 weeks. We got formula and bottles from the pet store. I had to make a big hole in the nipples and they lapped up drips at first - it took a few days for them to get the hang of it. We had to feed them this way every two to three hours. At six to seven weeks we offered them dry food soaked in kitten formula. They were by then lapping up their formula in saucers. Around 5 to 6 weeks we offered water as needed.

Then warm washcloth to the butt to help them eliminate. It was an intense few weeks, but now they are beautiful cats who are looking at me type this.

Memail with any specific quesyions and it will jog my memory.
posted by readery at 8:13 PM on July 20, 2009

A cat shelter -- don't worry about no-kill for tiny kittens like that, kittens are adoptable and no shelter is going to euthanize healthy kittens (by 8 weeks, the kittens who survive will be healthy) -- may also be able to hook the kittens up with a nursing mother. As people have mentioned, this is a full time job, feeding 5 kittens. Keep them in a small area. Keep them very warm. Feed them warm kitten milk replacement. Kittens eat a lot, and all the time.

As people have mentioned, you need to stimulate them to eliminate.
posted by jeather at 8:28 PM on July 20, 2009

I've fed kitten with pablum with a bit of warm water. I would put a dab of food in their mouths and then lightly but firmly stroke the throats, down from chin to chest. This stimulates the swallow reflex. Gentle is the word.
If you feel up to it you can try to place the food further back in the mouth and then do the stroke, as it makes it more likely the food will go down, but be more cautious about their airway.

Also the butt-wiping as others have said.
posted by Billegible at 8:33 PM on July 20, 2009

If you cannot get kitten milk at this time of day, you can give them -- temporarily, overnight only -- pureed chicken for babies, thinned out with more water. Again, warmed.
posted by jeather at 9:03 PM on July 20, 2009

I have an ex-roommate who accidentally killed a kitten by feeding it too forcefully with a syringe. (FWIW, the syringes were provided by the kitten rescue people with the instruction to press ever so gently until a single drop of formula came out into the kitten's mouth, wait for kitten to swallow, then repeat). She pushed a little too hard and the kitten ended up aspirating the formula. So: use bottles, avoid syringes or anything that will force milk into the kittens mouth/throat.

That being said, another technique I've seen used is to use a pipette (something very narrow and long, like a hollow coffee stirrer) to feed kittens/tiny baby mammals. Fill pipette with milk, put finger over end, put other end in kitten's mouth, allow kitten to drink milk drop by drop by drop.
posted by anastasiav at 9:37 PM on July 20, 2009

This page offer a recipe for emergency kitten formula until you can get real kitten formula:
Do not feed your kitten milk from a cow. It causes diarrhea and upsets the stomach. If your vet or pet store is closed and a kitten needs feeding urgently, use this mixture:

* 1 ounce condensed milk
* 1 ounce water
* 1 ounce plain yogurt
* 1 egg yolk

Microwave this mixture for a minute and allow it to cool to the proper temperature before feeding kittens. Only use this emergency formula until you have the kitten formula powder.
They also have other tips. This page has a variety of other tips about care of very young kittens.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:22 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have done this. The cats grew up healthy and lived for 15+ years. You have to take care of them around the clock, and feed them at night. I would get up in the middle of the night to feed the kittens. It was time consuming, but worth it.
posted by fifilaru at 11:18 PM on July 20, 2009

Response by poster: Follow Up: Thanks for all of your thoughtful responses. My friend is very appreciative. She gave me the good news that the mother cat was found this afternoon and the kittens are very, very happy.
posted by wv kay in ga at 3:49 PM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

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