Switching to Kitten Milk Replacer

A mother cat provides a number of important things to her offspring through kitten milk. In addition to containing the nutrients that the kittens need in order to grow and sustain themselves, the milk has helpful antibodies that protect them against certain diseases. During the feeding process, the mother helps her young to learn how to eat and how to evacuate their bowels. Without a mother cat present, or if the mother is unable to provide milk for some reason, kittens need special and frequent attention. Without your careful and attentive treatment, a baby kitten may die.

Feeding a Kitten

If you have an orphaned kitten or one that was separated from its mother, your first task is learning how to feed him. There are a few proper substitutes for a mother's milk, and it is important that you select wisely for your kitten's health. Kittens do not digest cow's milk, goat's milk or human baby formula well. In fact, these substances are too rich for your kitten and may cause diarrhea or indigestion, which can be fatal.

Rather, select a veterinarian-approved kitten milk replacer. There are a variety of adequate products on the market today, most of which are available at pet stores or at a vet's office. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian for advice about which particular milk substitute is right for your pet. Ensure that the milk replacer you feed to your cat is fresh, as some products have a definite shelf life and may go bad if left for too long.

Transitioning to Milk Replacer

If your cat has previously fed from his mother, it is especially important that you emulate this feeding experience as closely as possible in order to encourage him to eat properly. Sterilize both the bottle and the nipple that you plan to use for feeding by letting them soak in hot water for a few minutes, then fill the bottle and warm the milk replacer slightly in the microwave. Kittens are used to warm milk, and a cold substance can trigger indigestion and vomiting.

In order to help your kitten transition to feeding from a bottle, sit him in your lap with his paws on your legs. Hold the bottle slightly above him and tilt the nipple down to his face. Gently cup his head and guide it toward the bottle. This closely mimics the position that he would be in if he were to feed from his mother directly. Your kitten should automatically begin to drink milk replacer from the bottle, and he will stop drinking when he is full.

As a mother cat would do, gently hold your pet's stomach and pat his back in order to burp him. Next, turn your pet onto his back and, using a wet washcloth, gently rub at his genital area and anus in order to stimulate evacuation of his bowels. This is an important process that all mother cats do in order to teach their kittens how to evacuate. It can also help with litter box training.

It is also crucial that you work with a veterinarian to determine which vaccinations and other shots your kitten might need if he doesn't have access to his mother's protective antibodies. If your pet experiences any unusual physical symptoms, or if he refuses to eat, take him to a veterinarian for examination as well.