If you have been around my blog then you know that I have recently rescued and fostered an orphaned kitten. We estimate that we got her around three weeks and had a big awakening throughout the process. I wanted to walk you through the information that I gathered for each of the different weeks of a new kittens life
I want this to be a complete guide for caring for a kitten week by week. If you find a kitten, you want to try your hardest to keep with them with their mothers. Their mothers will be able to nurse them, keep them warm, and protect them. Mothers know how to care for their babies so if they can be left with their mothers, they should for at least 8 weeks.
Orphaned 3 Week Old Kittens
If you find a kitten who has no mother nearby, then you have just found an orphaned kitten. This kitten now needs you to be their mother. They will need to be fed, kept warm, and protected by you, the human. . We have already talked about caring for a two-week-old kitten. So, if you have read that article, that means that you are now caring for a three-week-old kitten. Or, you have just found a kitten are thinking it is about three weeks, though we will mention how to be sure in a little. Three-week-old kittens need you to bottle feed them, sometimes help stimulate them to go to the bathroom and make sure they are still gaining weight they need to.
How to Tell a Kitten is 3 Weeks Olds
First, let’s talk about how to tell if a kitten is three weeks old. A three-week-old kitten will have their eyes open. Their eye sight will be getting better each day and their hearing They respond better to sounds and can start to understand their name. Their ears are turning outwards more than at two weeks.
One fun fact about kittens is that they will all start out with baby blue eyes! As they get older, their eyes will change into their true colors. Kittens will also have a little bit of teeth at three weeks and their claws will still not retract. The indication of teeth does not mean they are ready for food yet.
Their weight at this age should be between 350-450 grams depending on the kitten and should continue to steadily gain weight each day. If you notice your kitten is not gaining weight for a few days, make sure you are feeding them enough, and speak to your vet about possible other reasons for delayed weight gain.
At three weeks, they still require some form of heat source as they cannot create heat on their own. I know some people will place a heating pad under a blanket to help keep the kittens warms, and some will use heat lamps. The biggest thing with this to call out is that they need a spot to keep warm, but also areas that aren’t directly in the line of heat in case they get too hot. You want the kittens to be comfortable so providing them both heat, and indirect heat is always recommended at this age.. At this age, sometimes a blanket or warm article of clothing can suffice for heat sources but you want to watch the kitten and make sure they don’t get too cold. Multiple kittens can sometimes use each other to keep warm as well. So watch your kitten, if they seem chilly, add a heat source. If they seem uninterested in the heat source, may start to work towards taking it away.
Feeding a Three-Week-Old Kitten
I talked about feeding a little bit in my article about two-week-old kittens. So if you have read that and are continuing on with the three-week-mark, this may be some similar information. If you found your cat at about three weeks, buckle up buttercup and let’s talk feeding.
Ive said it before and I will say it again, this is probably one of the most important things to understand when caring for an orphaned kitten and what a lot of people tend to have issues on. You will probably have guessed that a newborn kitten will need to be bottle-fed. And you are correct. Kittens need to be bottle-fed until anywhere from 6-8 weeks. You do not want to try to ween the kittens off the bottle before they are ready. Even at three weeks, you do not want to even try it just yet. Let them get nice and strong a little while longer!
When will they be ready? Like it said before, not yet. But trust me, you will know when they are getting ready to start weening. It will be obvious and persistence.
For now, you need to get used to actually feeding the kittens. A three-week-old kitten needs to be fed at least 14-18 MLS of formula and water combination every 4-5 hours, even at night. Yes, I know the idea of waking up every 4-5 hours to feed the kitten sounds exhausting, but it is what they need in order to get the nutrients to grow. And if you have been with the cat for at least a week now, chances are you have been doing the 3-4 hour feedings for a two-week-old kitten are where hoping to catch up on some z’s. Unfortunately, that time is not just yet, though you can see you are starting to be able to go a little in the time in which they need to be fed.
Again, these kittens still require formula during their feedings. (Pst! Two-Week-Kitten readers, this section is pretty much the same for you. Just keep doing what you’re doing!) This formula can be bought at a pet store, or on Amazon. You want to make sure it is a kitten formula for newborns to 4 weeks. Giving the kitten the wrong formula could be disastrous for them.
When feeding a kitten, you want to read the instructions on the formula to determine the proportions of water to formula to get the minimum amount that the kitten needs. Notice I say the minimum, but I will touch on that more later. You should never heat up the formula itself. Instead, heat up water, either on the stove or however else you choose to do so. Measure out the water and add the corresponding formula amount to the warmed water.
From there, the formula mixture can be placed in a bottle. Again, you can get a bottle either at a pet store or on Amazon if you do not want to leave your little one alone for too long. It is also important that you test out the heat of the formula mixture before giving it to them. You don’t want to be giving them a formula mixture that is too hot or too cold. Usually, it is recommended to do a similar test as you would a baby. Testing the heat out on your wrist.
From there you are ready to start bottle feeding.
Bottle Feeding a 3 Week Old Kitten
Two-week-old kitten readers, again this will be along the same lines for right now. Hopefully you know how to bottle-feed at this point, but if you just want a refresher, listen in. Everyone else, do you know how to bottle feed a kitten? This is by far the hardest part of caring for an orphaned kitten. At three weeks they are able to suckle a bottle on their own. In the previous section, I talked about how to prepare the bottle.
One call out that I do want to add is this. I know there are certain amounts they say your kitten needs every few hours. If they are a small underweight orphaned cat, use those guidelines as minimums. If they are willing to eat more, let them. When I fostered my kitten, we would make double the sizing needed and make sure she ate at least half. Most of the time, she actually ate it all! She was hungry and needed all those nutrients from the formula. She was so underweight that it took us a while to figure out that she needed to be gaining much faster than she was. Learn that lesson from us, you can’t really over-feed a kitten when they are wanting the bottle.
So if your kitten suckles down that entire bottle, give her more. Don’t make her starve until the next 4-5 hours. Especially if they are underweight and need to gain quickly. Or if they have not been gaining weight as they should.
Now, back to bottle feeding. I promise I will write and entire article on how to bottle feed a kitten but the most simple way to do it is to place them on the ground. Gently, but firmly, hold their heads up with their feed on the ground and let them find the bottle.
This will be clunky at first. I know some people will wrap the kittens in a towel to prevent them from trying to rip the bottle from you. Some will have troubles finding the bottle. Be patient. This first few times feeding them will be the hardest. Once you get into a swing of things in will get better.
You also want to make sure the bottle is tilted upside and upside enough that they can get the liquid inside. When we were feeding Binx, this was one thing I struggled with the most. I would get the bottle into her mouth but she would get so mad at me. I found out that was because she wasn’t actually even getting the formula until I tipped it nearly upside down.
My biggest piece of advice when it comes to bottle feeding is to just be patient. Understand that they first 5-10 times doing it will be frustrating. You are not alone on this. When I was first learning this, I remember sitting in my bedroom just crying. It was so out of my comfort zone. And I LOVE animals.
Additional care information
Kittens at three weeks old will be will walking, although it will still be a little clumsy at times. They will not be fast, but they will start to get into a little rhythm when they walk as they are starting to get the hang of this whole moving thing.
They will still not be able to use the bathroom completely on their own, but you may start to see them having accidents here and there. You could start to introduce a litter box, though they will still probably have the accidents until about 4 weeks. The litter box should be small enough for them to walk in and out of, but still enough room for them to move around. For Binx, we used the box that the canned cat food comes is. This was small enough that our other cats didn’t have a desire to use it, but big enough for her to feel like it was her little litter box.
Another IMPORTANT! IMPORTANT! thing you should know about the litter box is that kittens cannot use clumping litter at this point. Kittens are like babies where they want to put nearly everything in their mouth. If your kitten eats clumping litter, it could cause bowel obstructions and serious harms to your already sensitive kitten. You want to get a non-clumping litter, like this one that I use. You will want to change this out a little more often than clumping litter to keep if clean, but I think your kitten’s health is worth it.
As I mentioned before, they could start having accidents. This does not mean they do not need stimulated anymore. You still want to stimulate your kitten to use the bathroom by at least a half hour after they are done eating. You will still want to use a warm cloth to stimulate their bottoms to prevent diaper rash. Since this will be the second week you are stimulating you may notice their bottoms being a little more sensitive that the first week. If for some reason their bottoms do start to get raw, you can you a little bit of diaper rash cream on their bottoms, you just want to watch and make sure they don’t try and lick it off.
Finally, and maybe the most important is you want them to have a safe space. Often people that have multiple kittens will keep them in a room to themselves, or a large bin. You want the space to be large enough to where they can move around if they get warm, but not so big that they can’t get to the heat when they want it. And depending on how many orphaned kittens you have, the size may vary. When we had a Binx, we used a bin like this. She was about 3 weeks old, so she was moving around, but we still wanted to keep her safe and warm while we were sleeping. We kept her in a box for at least another 2 weeks or so before we started transitioning her into bigger places for her to roam, but that’s another post.
If you find a three-week-old kitten, try your best to find the mother. Kittens this young desperately need their mother to help them get big and strong. However, if no mother is found, that is not a death sentence to your kitty. Educate yourself, get the supplies you need, and become the kitty mother of the world!
Remember to have patience throughout this whole process, especially if this is your first time handling orphaned kittens. Everything will come with time and getting frustrated won’t help anyone. The most important things for them right now are warmth, shelter, and food. If they have that and are starting to gain weight as they should then you doing good! And that means in a few days you will move onto week four. Are you guys ready for that one?!