As we approach spring/summer, we enter "kitten season." Around April, May and June, veterinary service locations see an influx of cats in their infancy. Sadly, the world doesn't work the way we want it to, as hundreds to thousands of kittens are turned in to animal shelters all across the United States. And, while we do check for microchips and potential owners, most have no home to return to. Each season, shelters strive to adopt out a high volume of incoming kittens. Some offer promotions that encourage adopting out bonded siblings or a mother with her baby/babies.
Newborn kittens resemble a pink potato and are about as self-sufficient; they are born blind, hairless and with their ears closed.
Kittens should stay with momma cat for as long as possible, so that the kittens receives colostrum after birth - the extra nutritious milk that helps make little kitty immune systems strong. Kittens should stay with momma cat until they have completed their socialization and weaning periods.
If you do find yourself with a newborn kitten, an exam is recommended as soon as possible to make certain he or she is healthy. Although it may be tempting, don't rely too heavily on google-ing!! "Dr. Google" is not a valuable resource in most situations, as not all information on the internet is accurate or from reliable sources. A veterinarian is your best resource in the pursuit of a happy, healthy kitty.
Taking on a newborn cat is comparable to caring for a human infant and involves consistent feedings of specific amounts, daily weight management and more. Your veterinarian can provide feeding instructions and techniques, as well as offer advice regarding your new foster. Newborns must be fed every hour or so and require a proper environmental temperature. Kittens also must be stimulated in order to urinate and defecate. No one ever said taking on a baby kitten would be easy!
Kittens grow at an incredible rate-changes can be seen from day to day, as opposed to week to week like their canine counterparts. The first 5 weeks are crucial for building feline physical and social abilities, skills typically taught by momma cat. Unfortunately, human improvisation is sometimes required. Eyes open at two weeks, revealing the smoky, glassy blue eyes that help make infants so endearing. At one month, kittens gain the ability to hear, teeth grow in, and they learn how to walk! At this point, kittens should be eating every 4-6 hours. Kittens are typically fully weaned by 6-8 weeks and are able to eat commercial kitten food. Seven weeks in is where things get even trickier. At this point, you'll find you have quite the curious creature on your hands. And to a kitten…everything is a toy!
Your kitten is now dedicated to exploring the world around it. It can be difficult to maintain a controlled, kitten-safe environment when your tiny creature has the whole world to discover! They will play with and chew on anything- that's one way they learn about the world. Provide multiple different toys for your little nugget, lest they turn your hand or foot into a toy!
At six months, a kitten should be emerging from his or her teenager testing phase, in which kittens may push your limits and see how they can best manipulate you. Any age cat can bond with a new owner, but it's six months to one year of age when the bond truly cements and grows.
Kittens only have so much blood, so flea and tick control is crucial. Kittens are tiny-squishy-squishy, and as a result typical flea treatments are too concentrated to use on younger kitties. Your veterinarian can help you find the best flea regimen for your new fuzzy family.
Taking on a kitten is hard but heavily rewarding. You watch this little creature grow and transform before your eyes day by day. If you are up to the challenge of raising a kitten or two, contact your local animal shelter and ask to foster kittens. Help is always needed at shelters and they greatly appreciate the public lending a hand. You may even have the option of keeping your newly bonded kitten!
For any questions regarding kitten infancy care,
please call us at 415.776.6122 for information and resources.