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Hand Rearing A Kitten

The best person (?) to rear a kitten is it's mother, failing that, a lactating mother with kittens of her own that the abandoned kitten could be added to would maybe work, as long as you introduced it carefully - covering it in the smell of the other kittens and the mother would help. And I've even heard of lactating dogs taking on the rearing of a stray kitten.

BUT, sometimes it's necessary for us humans to step in and hand rear a kitten, or a litter of kittens. The challenges involved depend very much on the age of the kittens and their state of health when found so a trip to the vet is a must. They will be able to advise you of age and do a health check.

The chart below is a guide to feeding times and amounts dependent on age. Even though it sounds counter-intuitive, it's better to underfeed rather than overfeed a kitten. Keep a chart and weigh each kitten daily to check that they're putting on weight – they should put on about 10g a day at first and even more later.


Very young kittens can be difficult to feed. A bottle with a very small teat is preferable and will come in a kit when you buy kitten formula from the vet. It's also possible to use an eye dropper or a syringe, but this is much more difficult.

Be very careful not to ‘push’ milk into the kitten as you could accidentally get it into their lungs, causing all sorts of serious problems.


Emergency milk replacement recipe:

Don't use regular milk as it contains too much lactose and not enough nutrients. It'll bloat the kittens and give them diarrhea. If you don't have any kitten milk on hand, you'll need to make up some emergency milk. Below is one such recipe:

1 can condensed milk

2 cans water

1 small container cream

3 egg yolks

2 tablespoons honey

Also in an emergency use Lactose-free milk (you can buy it in Mercadona) and add some egg.

After feeding

Kittens need burping just like babies when they've had a bottle. Also they need help with pees and poos. You need to stimulate by gently rubbing their bottom area, use loo roll or a damp flannel. Keep the area clean and watch for chafing which might indicate that you're rubbing too hard or not cleaning well enough.

It's also a good idea to wrap a hot water bottle in a blanket or towel and let the kitten sleep on this - after all, normally they would have a nice warm mum to sleep against.

This advice has been written by Alison and Hilary Shand who have years of experience weaning and hand rearing kittens.