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What can I do to care for a newly orphaned kitten?

Very young, gray kitten held in a human hand.

(Photo: Flickr/Jennifer Pountney)

What can I do to care for a newly orphaned kitten?

July 03, 2013

Q: I have a kitten I just found outside that the mother left. I do not have mother's milk, but I do have bottles. The kitten still has the sack with a cord. What should I do?

A: We see this a lot in the spring and summer. Usually we'll recommend leaving the kitten where you found it. It's possible that mom left it to go hunt vs. truly abandoning it. Many times a cat will go out hunting and then come back to a litter that has been taken by well-meaning people.

If you do want to care for it, then you'll have a lot of work on your hands. This is a commitment that you will have to be ready for. You have to nurse the kitten every 1-2 hours for the first few days, and then every 2-4 hours thereafter. You will need to pick up a kitten milk replacer from a vet or pet store, along with kitten bottles. You'll also have to stimulate the kitten to urinate and defecate after each feeding. Once the kitten is 4-6 weeks of age, you can start weaning it.

Here is a good handout on how to care for orphaned kittens.

-- Answer from Dr. Gary Ryder, a veterinarian on JustAnswer.

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