Bottle feeding kittens is a fun and rewarding way to save lives, but it should only be done if absolutely necessary such as for orphaned/abandoned kittens that are not yet eating on their own.
Before you do any feedings with your kittens, make sure you have assessed them first to ensure safe feeding. You can learn about assessing kittens here.
step by step to bottle feeding
Thoroughly mix the powdered kitten formula with warm water according to product’s instructions and test the temperature on the inside of your wrist – it should be comfortably warm, made fresh every 1-2 feedings, and free of any clumps
Stimulate your kitten to make them potty. You can learn how here.
If using nipples that come in the bottle kit, cut a small hole into the nipple of the bottle to allow formula to flow. Invert the bottle and fill the nipple with formula. When properly cut, formula should drip out slightly. You can also use a Miracle Nipple Mini. These are easier for your kitten to latch on to as they feel more natural for them.
Hold your kitten in a natural position with the belly down on the table. Kittens should never ever be fed on their backs like a human child as this can lead to aspiration.
Hold the kitten’s head and body steady with your non-dominant hand, placing one finger on the throat to allow you to feel for swallowing. Gently introduce the tip of the nipple into the kitten’s mouth with your dominant hand.
Your kitten should roll her tongue like a taco and latch onto the tip of the nipple. Do not flood the mouth with formula – let your kitten drink at their own pace.
Allow the kitten to drink until she is full, or until she drinks an acceptable amount based on her weight.
tips for tricky eaters
Buy a Miracle Nipple! Seriously a miracle! Designed for newborn squirrels, these nipples are the perfect size for newborn kittens as well!
Make sure the flow is correct. If a nipple is too small or big, the kitten may not get a good latch
Make sure the formula is a comfortable temperature and has no clumps.
Try gently holding the head in place and covering one eye. This helps the kitten to focus and provides the comforting feeling of being nuzzles into their mother’s belly.
If a kitten is being fussy or spastic, you can try gently wrapping her in a blanket while feeding.
Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a while to become comfortable with bottle feeding – take it slow and remember to be patient with their tiny bodies.
write it down
After every feeding, keep a record of how much your kitten has taken in. This will help you work out whether he is drinking enough throughout the day and to help keep track of his development. If possible, weigh him at the same time every day, using a kitchen or small postage scale. A kitten that is doing well will put on between 10-20 grams a day. Keep a record of his weight so you can identify weight loss very quickly – timing and early detection is crucial when it comes to the tinies. The vet with also be glad that you took the time to keep these records, in case something happens down the road!
You’ll notice that as the kitten get older, the amount increases and frequency decreases. Use your judgement to adjust as necessary. For instance, if a kitten is eating less at each feeding, you may want to increase the frequency. All these weights are approximate. You might have a kitten that is slightly under or over these weights and still be perfectly healthy and that’s perfectly fine. Meet the kittens where they are. However, if you are ever concerned about your kitten, or he just doesn’t seem ‘right’, consult a veterinarian.
Keeping a log is key to keeping your kittens healthy. That way, if anything were to happen and your kitten has to go to the vet, you have all the information on hand such as weight gain/loss, amount eaten, last deworming and flea treatment, energy levels, etc.
Weaning is the phase of raising kittens that your babies begin to learn how to eat on their old. If your kitten is between 5 and 6 weeks old and healthy, they should be ready to start the weaning process. This is an amazing accomplishment and should be celebrated as your kittens are finally becoming the strong, independent kittens they're supposed to be!
Congratulations, you’re almost done bottle feeding!
step by step to weaning
Assess your kittens. Kittens, especially orphans, are very sensitive and must be weaned at the right age. Weaning prematurely can be very dangerous to your kitten. Between 4 and 5 weeks old, your kitten's premolars should be coming in, so this is a good time to begin the weaning process. Always remember that every kitten is different and some need more time than others depending on health, weight, and size. Assess your kitten before weaning and meet them where they are.
Make sure you have the right supplies. You want to feed your kitten the best diet possible. Kittens should always be weaned onto a wet food as they need the extra nutrition and hydration that it provides. Pick up a wet/canned kitten food. It must say "kitten" on it. Kitten food is higher in protein, calories, and fats that kittens need to grow healthy and strong. You will also want to pick up a shallow food dish about 1" in height so they can reach. Take a look at our supplies page for recommendations on food, bowls, and much more!
Make a slurry. Slurry is a blend of your what your kitten is eating now and what you are transitioning them on to. Mix together your kitten's formula as usual, then begin with a small teaspoon of canned kitten food mixed into your kitten's bottle. Do this for a day or two so your kitten's body has some time to acclimate to processing the new food. As your kitten get used to his/her new diet, slowly start adding more canned food and offer it in a shallow food dish. It should have an oatmeal consistency.
Every kitten is different and some need a little extra help. You may need to use a spoon or your finger to introduce them to the food and slowly lead them into the bowl. You know your kitten, so use your best judgement to figure out how to wean your kitten successfully. It may take some time, and lots of clean up, but your kitten will understand eventually.
Complete the transition! Once your kitten is eating on his/her own well enough, you can put the bottles away and complete their transition from formula to a high quality wet food. You can also introduce water in small, shallow bowl.
tips for weaning
Watch closely throughout weaning process. If you notice any negative changes in health or energy and behavior, immediately switch back to formula and a bottle.
I can't say this enough...weight is most important. While weaning you should be weighing your kitten at least once per day to ensure they are eating enough.
Offer a normal bottle at each feeding to ensure they get what they need. Sometimes, although a kitten is eating well on their own, they aren't eating enough, so by supplementing with a bottle of formula, you are making sure they are full and happy.
A weaned kitten is a kitten that is eating on their own, but needs to be watched closely. Although most kittens are fully weaned by the age of 7-8 weeks, they still require extra care.
Nutrition is everything
A kitten's diet should have more fat, calories, and protein than an adult cat's diet would. You must make sure that you are feeding your kitten a high quality food that is specifically formulated for kittens. Young kittens should always be given a wet food as they need the extra hydration it provides. Did you know that kittens receive about 90% of their hydration from their food, not from drinking water out of a dish?
Here ate The Little Lion Foundation, we believe in feeding all of our kittens the best diet possible. We prefer to use Nulo Turkey and Chicken wet food and kibble. Although it's a bit pricey, it is worth every penny as our kittens are happy, healthy. However, a more common, good quality food for weaning little kittens is Royal Canin Baby Cat Formula and Wellness Kitten Food. Check out our supplies page for recommendations!
Kittens should be given food often, no matter what. Kittens under 8 weeks should be eating a minimum of 4 filling meals per day. After 8 weeks, your kitten should be fed no less than 3 times a day. Your kitten should remain on a kitten meal routine until he or she is about 9 months old, then you can begin weaning over to an adult cat meal routine. Once he or she hits 1 year, they can officially transition onto an adult cat meal routine.
hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Once your kitten is eating on her own well and with no issues, they should have access to clean, fresh water at all times. Hydration is so important to your kitten's health. Dehydration can quickly become fatal in young kittens. This is why kittens require canned food mixed with a bit of water or formula as their main diet.
tips for caring for weaned kittens
There's no such thing as "tough love" for kittens. Kittens like to have variety and sometimes begin to crave different textures of food. Their only way of letting you know is by not eating, so watch them closely!
Weighing your kittens daily is an absolute must. This lets you know that your kitten is eating enough. If your kitten is not gaining weight or staying at the same weight for more than a day or two, you may need to reassess and supplement by bottle or syringe.
Add in supplements and vitamins such as an immune booster and a probiotic. You can find some great ones that our team uses on our supplies page!