Last updated: 20 Jan, 2021
Published on: 12 Jun, 2020
Caring for Neonatal kittens
As kitten seasons starts around September, rescue shelters and pounds are often flooded with kittens born to undesexed adult cats.
In 2020 alone, Hills Cat Rescue, one of our amazing member organisations, took in over 30 such kittens, most of whom, unfortunately, could not survive the weaning stage.
They recently applied for our PetRescue x Animals Australia emergency relief requesting a new incubator for foster carers caring for rescued neonatal kittens. We’re very lucky to have had a chance to help out this amazing group who were granted funds to purchase an incubator and save more kitten lives!
We got in touch with Colleen, who is part of the team, to gain some insights on neonatal kitten care:
What are some of the challenges that neonatal kittens face, particularly around winter?
Like any baby, the most important things for neonatal kittens are food, warmth and shelter. When kittens lose their mothers they are not able to provide for themselves. Neonatal kittens are not able to regulate their temperature and as such are very vulnerable to becoming cold very quickly. Kittens under two weeks of age require feeding every two hours and if they don’t have a mother they need a specialised formula to give them all the nutrients they need. Kittens are also vulnerable to disease, such as cat flu, if they are not getting immunity from their mother’s milk.
Can you explain briefly how this incubator can help the kittens in your care?
A kitten incubator will allow a constant warm temperature with set humidity to be provided to the kittens. It works in exactly the same way that a baby’s humidicrib works. It also allows for the distribution of nebulised medication to the kittens. Having a warm stable environment gives the kittens the opportunity to use their food for growth, not just keeping themselves warm.
What are the alternatives to an incubator and how are your foster carers currently caring for neonatal kittens?
Heat packs, heat lamps, hot water bottles and blankets are the alternatives for keeping a neonatal kitten warm. It is a challenge to keep them at the right temperature because none of these methods provide a consistent heat source. Our foster carers put the kittens on feeding, toileting, and medication (if needed) using special kitten feeding alternatives. Once they open their eyes we socialise them and teach them to be kittens, including eating solid food and using the litter tray. And when they are over eight weeks old and weigh over 1.2kg we have them desexed to stop the breeding cycle and then we pick them their perfect furever home.
You can also reach out and help Hills Cats Rescue save more lives by directly donating to their amazing cause!