The world can sometimes appear to be a very cruel and harsh place. And that is partly true. The kill or be killed, fight or flight lifestyles most living things on this planet live are just brutal. It is therefore, not all too uncommon to happen upon a small kitten alone out in the wild. There are many reasons it may have been abandoned; from something happening to its mother to the mother simply having left it because it couldn’t care for it.
But that doesn’t have to be the end for our hapless little kitty. You’ve happened upon our new friend! Call it luck, fate, divine intervention, whatever you feel like. The important part is that the kitten may have been given a second chance at life under your wing. So you decide to take the little fella home. What next? For people inexperienced with looking after animals, especially young ones, the initial rush of affection for the helpless kitten may now be developing into a feeling of hopelessness. Fear not, for looking after a newborn kitten isn’t as difficult as it may sound at first.
Taking the Kitten Home
First thing’s first, you have to actually take the kitten home before you can start to look after it. Depending on how young the kitten is, the difficulty of this step varies. If the kitten is extremely young, to the point of not even being able to move by itself, it is a simple case of gently and carefully picking it up. If you’re going to be walking home, keep your hands steady and cupped around the kitten to keep it warm. If you’re going to be driving instead, try and see if you could put some small cloth over the kitten as a blanket. A small basket would be ideal of course, but the important thing is that the kitten is safely secured so it doesn’t rock around too much in the car.
If the kitten is slightly older however, it might be a bit trickier to get it to come along willingly. Try to befriend it, especially if it appears frightened. See if you can coerce it out with tiny scraps of food. Feeding it directly from your hand is the perfect case scenario, because it then associates your hands with safety and comfort, allowing you to pick it up later. If the kitten refuses to come to you, and you are determined to rescue it, you may have to pick it up against its will. Don’t worry, it will grow to love you later on when it grows used to you.
Making the Kitten Feel at Home
When you finally get back home, proceed to carefully carry the kitten into the house and then prepare a little private corner for it. This step is important if your kitten is very young. Again, a basket is ideal, though a box or even the corner of your bed will do. Make a little pillow fortress so that the kitten doesn’t fall off when it rolls around, and give it a blanket to snuggle up to if it’s cold.
For a few weeks, this will the permanent place your kitten stays at. Picking it up and putting it on the floor to walk around a bit when it’s awake is fine, but the majority of its time will be spent inside your pillow border. You will have to feed it regularly, especially if it starts meowing loudly. What you’re allowed to feed it is a bit more complicated, especially if it’s so young it can’t feed itself.
Feeding and Caring for the Kitten
Now comes the trickiest bit. If you’re certain the kitten is warm and safe, it’s time to feed it. And by feeding, we mean only milk for now. Newborn kittens only require milk, and trying to feed them solid foods is just asking for a disaster. To feed a kitten milk, you’re going to need a small baby bottle. However, be aware that cow milk is bad for cats, and almost lethal for kittens. Even adult cats’ stomachs have problems with dairy products. So instead, you will have to buy some replacement milk tailored towards kittens from your local pet store.
It is highly recommended that you buy a bottle from the pet store as well, as its shape would be more suited for kittens. Before every feeding, you need to sterilize the bottle and nips by putting them in to boiling water. The milk that you’re going to be feeding the kitten should be warm too, but never hot. It is also recommended that you wash your hands before and after feeding sessions, to keep both of you safe from germ transmission.
For feeding the kitten, first place it in a position it will feed in. Most typically, this position will involve the kitten laying on its stomach. The nip of the bottle should then be presented to the kitten in hopes of enticing it to drink. Be sure to keep the bottle at a slight angle to prevent air bubbles from being sucked by the kitten. If the kitten doesn’t seem to want to nurse, try stroking its head and back. This is how mother cats stimulate their young to nurse. It should hopefully start nursing by then.
If the kitten refuses to nurse no matter what you do, it might be sick. And if that is the case, bringing it to a vet is the next big priority and should be done so immediately. The kitten also has to be stimulated to urinate or excrement feces after each feeding session. This can be done by gently stroking it with a wet, warm cloth. Be ready for a few very busy weeks, as newborn kittens need to be fed every couple of hours until they are at least four weeks old. Also remember to regularly clean their eyes with a damp cloth, as they will often be sealed shut with pus.
When a kitten has crossed the 4-month threshold and has started gaining some strength, you can begin to feed it milk from a bowl instead of a bottle. Around 6 to 8 months of age, kitten food (kitten and cat food are separate and provide differing amounts of nutrition) can be softened up by moistening it and then fed to kittens. It will take at least 4 months before the kitten is a happy springy cat that runs around all day chasing marbles.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully saved a kitten and given it a new chance at life. You should be proud of yourself. Now take your new friend to the vet to get it spayed / neutered and also vaccinated. If you plan to keep the kitten for yourself, best of luck to you both. If not, be sure to find it a loving home soon so it can grow used to its new family quickly.