During the first few weeks of life, a kitten’s primary concerns are feeding, keeping warm, developing social skills and learning how to excrete on his own. In most cases, humans will simply watch the mother cat perform her duties.

Kittens who are with their mother should not be over-handled, especially not during their first week of life—this may upset the mother. If the kitten in your care is younger than one week old, please consult your veterinarian. In order to properly socialize a young feline to humans, start to handle him from the second week on through the seventh week—this is considered an important time for socialization. It is also important to try to socialize the kittens with other cats. Any socialization with other cats should be monitored.

Please note, kittens are prone to injury if handled roughly—anyone who handles the little ones in your care will need to be very gentle. Young children in particular should be supervised

Feeding a Newborn Kitten
A mother cat’s milk provides everything a kitten needs during the first four weeks of life.

The following is a general eating schedule for newborns who have been separated from their mothers and young cats:

Newborn kittens may nurse about every 1-2 hours with Kitten Milk Replacer.

At about three to four weeks old, they can be offered milk replacer from a bowl and then small amounts of moistened kitten food four to six times a day.

*Make sure when bottle feeding kittens that they are held sternal and not on their backs. Holding kittens on their backs while nursing can cause them to aspirate on the formula.

Kittens from 6 to 12 weeks old should be fed four times a day as you gradually decrease their access to milk replacer.

Kittens from three to six months old should be fed three times a day.

*Please do not offer regular cow’s milk to cats of any age. It is not easily digestible and can cause diarrhea.

When the orphaned kittens are three to four weeks old, begin to offer milk replacer in a shallow bowl, then introduce a moist, easily chewable diet. You can make gruel from warmed milk replacer and a high-quality dry or canned kitten food. Serve it in a shallow bowl and feed the kittens several times each day. By five weeks old, they should be getting used to their new diet. By six to seven weeks old, they should be able to chew dry food and you’ll no longer need to moisten it.

Kittens need large amounts of energy—about two to three times that of an adult cat. About 30 percent of their total energy should come from protein. Make sure the food you offer is specifically formulated for kittens.

Keeping a Newborn Kitten Warm
If the kitten in your care has been orphaned, it is essential that you keep the young one warm. A heating pad or a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel works well. The heat source should be positioned so that the kitten can move away from it at will. Please consult your veterinarian about ideal temperatures, and do take care to monitor the heating pad, if you are using one, to ensure it is functioning properly.

An average birth weight for kittens is about 3 1/2 ounces, depending on breed and litter size. During the first weeks of life, a kitten’s body weight may double or even triple. Gaining 1/4 to half an ounce daily until they are weaned is considered healthy. Kittens who don’t gain adequate weight during this early period may not survive.

Teaching a Kitten to go the Bathroom
After feeding, a mother cat will groom her babies, paying special attention to the anal area. This stimulates excretion, which kittens can’t do on their own until their second or third week. If your kitten is no longer with her mother, dip a soft washcloth or a piece of gauze in warm water and gently massage the anal and urinary regions. The warmth, texture and movement mimic a mother cat’s tongue.

When the kittens are 4 weeks old, you can teach them to use a litter box by placing them in the box after their meals. Cutting one side down will make it easier for the kittens to go in and out.

Other Resources

Download & View: Palability Info Sheet
Download & View: ASPCA Hazardous Foods Sheet
Download & View: Proper Ear Cleaning Sheet

Contact Us

Anderson Veterinary Clinic


3100 West Center St. Anderson, CA 96007

Clinic Hours

Monday- Friday: 7:30am – 6:00 pm
Saturday: 8:00am – 4:00pm, Sunday: Closed