Caring for Stray Kittens

Caring for a stray kitten requires time and dedication. If at all possible, reunite kittens with their mom and provide them all safe, warm housing until the kittens are old enough to be adopted.

If the mother cat is nowhere to be found, you will need to provide the stray kitten with round-the-clock care. The older the kitten, the less work you'll have to do, but raising a kitten is always a time consuming commitment.

Shelters Rarely Accept Stray Kittens

Many shelters have strict policies against accepting stray kittens that are not at least a month old. With that, if you find a stray kitten, most shelters will tell you it's better for you to care for the kittens by yourself rather than risk exposing the kitten to diseases cats in the shelter may have.

Ask the shelter if they can provide you with donations to help you. Many are willing to help with the expense of kitten formula.

Creating a Warm Environment

Kittens cannot regulate their own body temperature. It's important to keep them in a warm, draft free area. Place a blanket over a hot water bottle for warmth. Close the door to prevent drafts and consider a plug-in heater to keep the room warm.

If you have other cats, keep them away from the stray kitten until a veterinarian clears the kitten of any contagious diseases.

Setting a Feeding Schedule for a Stray Kitten

Purchase kitten formula at many chain pet stores and some specialty pet supply stores. Use boiled water that has been cooled. Never use tap water because it may have bacteria harmful to the kitten's health.

If you cannot find kitten formula powder, goat milk is a suitable alternative. Cow's milk is unsafe for kittens because it causes diarrhea. If you cannot find goat milk, you can temporarily use a mixture of evaporated milk, mayonnaise, water, corn syrup and fish oil.

Use a bottle specially designed for kittens or a syringe to feed the stray kitten. You cannot burp a kitten, so it's important that the nipple of the bottle or syringe not be clogged. Most young kittens will eat two or three milliliters per feeding.

The best way to gauge how often to feed a stray kitten is by multiplying the kitten's age in weeks by one hour. A two-week old kitten may want to eat every two hours, some can go longer, but don't push it more than three to ensure the kitten is properly hydrated. By the time a kitten is six weeks old, you should be feeding him every six hours.

Stimulating Urination and Defecation

After nursing, a mother cat licks the kitten's bottom to stimulate bathroom urges. Do this by wiping a warm wet washcloth around the kitten's bottom. Once the kitten goes to the bathroom, clean him up and return him to the warm bed for a nap. Kittens do sleep most of the day, so don't expect much activity until the second month.

Weaning a kitten usually takes place during the fifth week. To get a kitten started, use canned food that is diluted with a little formula. Stick to the same feeding schedule used for the bottle feeding.