Helping Mother Cats Take Care of Kittens

Most mother cats have the natural instinct to care for their kittens after birth. However, while the mother cat means well, sometimes she cannot handle all of her kittens or she is at a loss for how best to do it. This is where human intervention can be especially helpful. Because kittens are babies, they are not capable of taking care of themselves. If the mother either cannot or will not take care of them, it is imperative that a human step in and assist in the care of kittens.

Teaching Mother and Kittens How to Nurse

Although it may seem natural for a mother to want to nurse her kittens immediately after birth, not all mother cats have that maternal instinct. If the kittens are not nursed right after birth, it can have a devastating effect on their future well being.

Immediately after birth, the mother cat will not produce regular milk. During the first 24 hours after delivery, the milk will consist of colostrum. Colostrum is a naturally protective substance which boosts the immune system of the newborn kittens. Without colostrum, the newborn kittens have no defense against illness and infection.

If the mother cat will not nurse her kittens, or does not understand how to, you can show her what to do. Simply lay the mother cat on her side and place her kittens next to her belly. Although the kittens will not have their eyes open yet, they have the innate ability to smell the scent of their mother's milk. Newborn kittens will usually be able to find the nipple when directed by their scent.

If you have a scenario in which you cannot get the kittens to nurse or they don't understand how to nurse, you can help with that, as well. Simply place the kittens with their mouths facing their mother's nipple and gently rub the nipple against their mouth and the side of their face. As the kittens begin to open their mouth, gently place the nipple into their mouths. This should help induce the kitten's natural ability to suckle.

Keeping Kittens Warm and Nestled

Bonding is an important experience for kittens to have after their birth. The only thing a kitten can identify after birth is its mother's scent. So, making sure that they bond helps erase the fear and trauma of birth.

If the mother cat shows no interest in nestling her kittens and keeping them warm, you need to create a place for her to nest with her kittens. You can use a cardboard box, a large shoebox or a laundry basket. Place several blankets in the box and create a warm place for her to lie. After you have done that, gently place her kittens next to her.

Be sure to console the mother cat and make sure that she does not feel slighted by the new attention given to her kittens. Feeling left out can sometimes make her reject her kittens. So, it is vital that she feel as though she has an important role.