So you’ve found a stray kitten … but the next step isn’t just taking it home with you. What do you feed a stray kitten? Where should you take stray kittens if you cannot take care of them yourself? And how do you find out if the kittens are strays at all?
Examine – does the stray kitten have a mother?
In order to help orphaned kittens, detective work is required first. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they find stray kittens is taking them away from their mother. Newborn kittens are still breastfeeding and need to be fed frequently. They should therefore be kept with their mother if possible.
This is how you assess the situation:
- Do the kittens sleep comfortably? The mother will probably be back.
- If you check again, will any of them be missing? The mother moves them.
- If they sleep often, the mother takes care of them.
- Just to be on the safe side, sprinkle some flour around where the kittens are and look for paw prints on your return. If the mother is in the picture, let her be. In about eight weeks you will go back and TNR (trap / neuter / return) the whole family.
What to do if the stray kitten does not have a mother
Once you’ve established that the stray kitten (or kittens!) Doesn’t have a mother, its greatest chance of survival begins with you. The first thing to do is catch the stray kitten. For some kittens, this is as easy as reaching out and picking up. For others, you may need to contact a local animal society or shelter for the humane traps commonly used in TNR. Just put the trap out with some food and wait nearby. The kitten should walk in and trigger the trap to close the door. Kittens will not be hurt!
Next, take the stray kitten to a veterinarian for an examination as soon as possible. If the veterinarian’s office is closed, you must start caring for it immediately. Even if you can’t nurture a stray kitten in the long run, you will be a lifeline during this first phase of rescue.
If you are unable to care for the stray kitten for an extended period of time, find a shelter without killing it. The No Kill Network has a list of organizations by state and Adopt-A-Pet lists cat rescues.
Containing and monitoring the ex-stray kitten is key to its health and wellbeing. A dog crate is perfect. To keep him warm, put a covered heating pad in his box and keep the room temperature at 75 degrees. The heating pad should only cover half of the box so he can get away from it. Watch out for gasps – you don’t want him to overheat either. A cold or flaccid kitten indicates a medical emergency.
Kitten feeding schedule by weight and age
It is imperative to determine the age of the stray kitten immediately. His age determines what he will eat and how much and how often.
Here is a quick guide to using a postal scale:
- Under 1 week old: kitten weighs less than 4 ounces. Feed formula: every two to three hours.
- 7 to 10 days old: kitten weighs 4 to 6 ounces. Feed formula: every two to three hours.
- 10 to 14 days old: kitten weighs 6 to 8 ounces. Feed formula: every three hours.
- 14 to 21 days old: kitten weighs 8 to 12 ounces. Feed formula: every four hours.
- 4 to 5 weeks old: kitten weighs 12 ounces to 1 pound. Mash / formula / kitten feed mix: every four hours.
- 6 to 7 weeks old: kitten weighs 1 pound to 1 pound and 8 ounces. Feed a mixture of kittens and wet food four times a day.
- 8 weeks old: kitten weighs one and a half to 2 pounds. Fully weaned.
Pro tips for proper kitten care
Kittens start weaning at one month. Until then he has to be bottle-fed. In a pinch, you can only use goat milk for a short time.
Pet stores and many grocery stores have everything you need:
- Kitten formula
- Rubber nipple
- cleaning supplies
Bottle-feed the kitten only with its belly touching the table (never on its back). Experts recommend letting the kitten eat the warmed-up formula until it is full. It usually takes less than 15 minutes.
Kittens need help clearing urine and feces until they are approximately a month old. After each feed, use a warm, damp washcloth to gently rub his anus until he goes. You can introduce a litter box filled with non-clumping garbage by 3 weeks.
Find a home for the stray kitten
At 8 weeks, the kitten is ready to be neutered or neutered and brought to a loving home. There are many ways to find a home for the stray kitten – you can find a guide to best practices on bestfriends.org. Unless, of course, he or she is already home. Kittens are irresistible, after all!
Thumbnail: Photography © ConstantinCornel | Thinkstock.
This article was originally published in 2017.