At the same time your kitten is learning to eat from a dish, she can also learn to drink water from a dish. Use a sturdy ceramic bowl and place it where the kitten can find it easily. You may have to dabble your fingers in the water at first to show the kitten what it is. Don't be surprised if there is a little splashing and water fun before kitty discovers it is to be taken internally.
Nurturing consists of the various tasks the mother kitten would perform, and also includes bonding with the kitten.
- Elimination - Newborns need help in moving their bowels and flushing their kidneys. The mother cat does this by washing their little butts with her tongue. You can accomplish the same by holding the kitty (put a towel over your lap first) and gently stroking its body with a rough towel or wash cloth. Do the same thing with its abdomen and little butt. You should be rewarded with a bowel movement after every meal and soon will not need to give this assistance.
- Kitty Massage - Same thing, only lightly stroke the kitty's whole body, starting with its head, around the cheeks and chin, shoulders, limbs, and finally back and belly. Massage is a good way to bond with your baby, and will prepare him for adapting more easily to a new home, if that is in his future.
- Grooming - The mother cat combines grooming with massage by using the rough tongue given her by nature. You can use a soft brush to brush your kitten's hair - another tool for bonding. Also, if very young kittens have fleas, use a flea comb to gently comb them out. (Be sure to put a towel or newspaper under the kitten to catch the fleas and flea dirt.
The Litter Thing
Kittens will normally take to the litterbox as quickly as ducks to water. Use a low-sided box for training - the lid to a shoe box would work. A pellet-type litter is generally recommended, but not the clumping style. Kittens will experiment with eating litter and the clumping type is murder on the intestines. Once the kitten starts eating on its own, just put her in the box around 15 minutes after eating. Scratch the litter a bit with your finger to show her what it's all about. If she hops out, put her back in again a couple times, then leave her alone. If she makes a mistake and poops on the floor, pick a small amount up and put it in the box to show her where it belongs. She'll get the idea sooner or later, and more likely sooner.
Don't Forget the Vet
Newborns should be examined by your veterinarian at the earliest possible time. Litters from ferals or of unknown parentage often suffer from fleas and other parasites, and do not have the normal natural immunity passed on in early weeks from vaccinated mother cats. While kittens nursing a protected queen get their first "shots" around six to eight weeks, orphaned/feral kittens may be immunized at two to three weeks. Of course, kittens showing signs of distress, such as prolonged chilling, watery eyes or running nose, lethargy or failure to eat, should be seen immediately by a veterinarian.
This is the final part of the Kitten Care series. I have only touched on the basics of raising newborns, in the hopes that someone who wants to take on this challenge as an advocate will be encouraged to research further. There are a number of wonderful sites and articles on the Net covering the subject, written by caring, nurturing cat lovers who are doing their part to help the lost kittens of the world.
The New Kitten Series