When kittens are first born, like all mammals, they nurse from their mother. If you are fostering newborn kittens with a mother cat, you’ll mostly be keeping the mom cat fed so she can take care of her babies.
Usually, a mom cat will be fed kitten food. Kitten food is more calorically dense, and nursing mothers need extra nutrition and energy while feeding a litter of kittens.
If you are feeding bottle babies who need milk but don’t have a mama, you’ll make up bottles of kitten formula. Just like human babies sometimes eat formula, kittens need a special kitten milk replacement formula.
Can kittens drink regular milk?
Sometimes, especially if someone finds a stray kitten unexpectedly, the question will arise if the kitten can be fed regular cow milk from the grocery store. After all, we see cats drinking milk in cartoons and comics, right?
Unfortunately the pasteurization process that our milk goes through makes it unsuitable for cats, especially young kittens. It can cause tummy aches and diarrhea. This can result in dehydration and a medical emergency very quickly in a tiny kitten.
What kind of food should I be feeding kittens?
Cats are carnivores who, living in the wild, would stay healthy eating a diet of whole, fresh prey. However, this is not likely going to be your food of choice. And if you are fostering kittens with a local shelter, a raw food diet is likely going to be frowned upon for a number of practical reasons.
There are many great store-bought kitten food options available. Wet food is good for feeding kittens because they typically love it, and the moisture keeps them hydrated. It’s also easy for them to eat if they have sore gums due to teething.
A high quality dry kitten food is a good practical choice to feed kittens. Dry food can remain available to them throughout the day without getting crusty and dry like wet food might. Be sure to choose a kitten food rather than an adult food to make sure that the kittens are fed enough calories and nutrients.
How often do I need to be feeding kittens?
Kitten feeding schedules depends on age. For kittens who are bottle fed, feeding should occur every 2 or 3 hours around the clock. If kittens are eating solid food, free-feeding is best until about 6 months of age.
Cats are great at self-regulating their food intake. The first 6 months is a period of time that a healthy kitten will learn to eat only what she needs and not more if she has consistent access to food. Replenish wet food when you see that it’s gone. Leave enough dry food to last until you can check on the kittens again. After about 6 months of age, it’s fine to feed kittens on a 2- or 3-times-a-day schedule.
How much do you feed kittens?
Newborn kittens will eat about 8 milliliters (mls) of formula per ounce of body weight per day. For a 4 oz kitten, this means approximately 4mls of formula per feeding (for a total of 32 oz over 8 feedings for the day). Kittens who have weaned onto wet and/or dry kitten food should be allowed to self-regulate food intake. In other words, feed older kittens as much as they want unless there is a medical indication to do otherwise.
If you’re interested in a whole range of topics relevant to fostering kittens in addition to feeding kittens, check out our ebook that covers how to foster kittens!