If you have been reading my blog for a while, then you know I have been doing a newborn kitten series. As an extension of that newborn kitten series, I figured it would do an entire post on bottle feeding a kitten.
This process can be confusing, frustrating, and at first overwhelming. So I am here to help. I am here to help make this process less overwhelming. Because I remember. When I fostered my kitten Binx, I remember the first night trying to feed her. Exhausting. But in time, it became easier! And it will become easier for you too!
When To Bottle Feed a Kitten
Let’s start with the very basics. When do you need to bottle feed a kitten? Kitten needs to be bottle fed if they do not have their mothers and are between 0 and 5 weeks old.
One very important call out is that you should only bottle feed a kitten if they do not have their mother or a nursing mother to give them milk. When possible, you want newborn kittens to have mothers milk because it provides so many nutrients and vitamins that kittens need to grow healthy and strong.
A kitten without her mother needs to be fed from a bottle. If you’re not sure if you should bottle feed a kitten, first try to figure out how old the kitten is. You can use my guides on two week old kittens all the way to eight week old kittens to help figure out how old they are.
From there, you can decide if bottle feeding is necessary. Their age will decide how often and how much they need fed.
Preparing the Formula
Now that you know that you should be bottle feeding a kitten and how often. You need to know how to prepare the formula. Preparing kitten formula is very similar to preparing a bottle for a baby.
There are a number of ways in which you can prepare the bottle. You can warm the water first either in a microwave or the stove. You want to make sure it doesn’t get too hot, but it is warm enough for the kitten.
Once the water is warm, you combine the formula and mix it. When I had Binx, we used a measuring cup and a small whisk. We had measured out a few days of formula planned out so all we had to do was warm the water and add it to the bottle.
The other option is to prepare room temperature water with the formula and then place it is a saucer or a mug of warmed water.
Once the mixture has been created. You want to put it in the bottle and test it before giving it to the kitten. Similar to a baby, you want to test the formula on your wrist to make sure the formula is the write temperature for a kitten. You don’t want it too hot or too cold.
How to Bottle Feed
Once the bottle is prepared, then you are ready to feed your kitten. It is important that kittens are fed on their feed with their belly on the ground and head up. You want to make sure that your kitten is in the proper position.
The opposite of babies, you don’t want to feed your kitten on their back. That is the equivalent to hold a baby on their ankles and trying to the feed them.
It is helpful to place the kitten on the ground. Gently but firmly place their head upwards towards the bottle. You want to make sure they are swallowing the bottle. You can tell they are consuming the bottle by watching their ears start to wiggle.
Another important call out that I almost forgot to mention in the tilt of the bottle. The reason you want to tilt the kittens head up is so you can tilt the bottle. In order for them to get the formula from the bottle, it needs to be turned at a pretty high angle. Almost upside down, and sometimes completely upside down as the bottle draws to an end. Finding just the right angle can be challenging so you want to test it out on your wrist first, and see what angle your kitten is comfortable with.
This will be clunky at first. They may not get it the first time. They may push it away the first few times or get frustrated with it. That part is very similar to having a baby. It won’t always be easy. But once you get the hang of it, it all comes together.
I recommend never trying to bottle feed a kitten the first few days in a hurry. That will lead to you being stressed, and the kitten sensing your stress and pushing away. Keep calm and know that it will come with time and practice.
Bottle Feeding a Difficult Kitten
Sometimes, you can have a difficult kitten to bottle feed. Fear not. That does not mean that your feeding will be forever difficult. That just means that you will need to find some new techniques for caring for the kitten.
One thing that people can do when they have a difficult kitten to bottle feed is to do a ‘barber shop’ technique. Basically, this involves wrapping a towel or small blanket around the kitten similar to a bib or a barber shop cape. This helps prevent the kitten from using their legs to push away the bottle while still keeping your hands available to hold their head up and tilt the bottle.
Binx, our foster kitten, was a difficult kitten to bottle feed at first. We later found out it was because she was absolutely starving. But we had tried the barber shop technique unsuccessfully, we had also tried having one person hold her while the other fed her. And both were unsuccessful.
What we later had figured out was what was best for her was proximity. She didn’t have a mother, or siblings. She only has us. And being as close to use as possible while feeding provided her a lot of comfort. So what we would do was cross our legs, sit her on our legs, or knees or thighs. Let her grab onto the bottle with her mouth and tilt it upwards once she had a grip.
She would also hold the bottle with her hands. It was adorable and we figured it also provided her a certain level of comfort and control to “hold” the bottle while she was eating so we stopped with the barber shop technique and let her legs go as they needed.
Once we figured out what she needed, she became an easy kitten to bottle feed, until she was ready to ween off of course. But that is another blog post.
It is important to know the basics when bottle feeding a kitten. When, how often, how much, and how to feed them. And that is what the intent of this post is about. If you find a newborn kitten and find out that it needs to be bottle fed, follow these simple tips.
First, use the different age guides to help you decide how old they are. This will help you figure out how much they should be eating and how often. This will also provide a weight gauge to ensure your kitten is gaining weight as they should for their age group.
Next, use this post to figure out preparing the bottle and the actual bottle feeding process for kittens age 0 to 5 weeks.
You will want to find your own techniques for feeding the kitten because while some things works for some kittens, they may not work for all. Listen to your kitten and work to figure out what he or she needs. Do they need to be on the floor with just a bottle? Do they need to be wrapped up for comfort? Or do they need to be on your lap while you feed them.
Each kitten is different and will have their own unique challenges to bottle feeding. Which leads me to my final tip.
Be Patient. I cannot stress this enough. Be patient. As someone who cared for a newborn kitten, I know the stress that accompanies a newborn kitten. Even me! Someone who enjoys researching cats in my free time. I was overwhelmed. I had plenty of meltdowns and scary moments.
But I made it through it. One day at a time. And guess what?! You can too. You can do it! It is one short part of your life that will be uncomfortable for a few days. And that will lead to a lifetime of happiness for your kitten and hopefully for you.