While lounging around at home, basking in the sunlight, I find myself thankful that I’m basically an “only-cat” in my house. I mean, I have my sister from another litter Madeline here but, we all know who the favorite is. So while, thankfully, I cannot relate to the idea of having a bunch of newborn kittens running around, I still think it’s important to let you guys know what to feed a newborn kitten safely, to ensure all of your new cute little additions get the best possible nutrition!
What to Feed a Newborn Kitten
I’ve put together basic tools a kitten caretaker needs in order to ensure proper growth past those first few crucial weeks! Learn when to feed your newborn kitten, what to feed them, and what to do if your newborn kittens are orphans.
A Mother’s Milk
Obviously, there is no equal substitute for healthy mother’s milk! Kittens will be able to get everything they need from their mother’s milk during those first four weeks. If absolutely necessary (i.e. the mother was injured), you can purchase man-made substitutes, but they won’t offer an equal level of nutrition.
If you wind up with newborn little ones that aren’t able to feed from their mother, consult a working professional (veterinarian, shelter caregiver). Research is a wonderful thing everyone should do, especially because you should not take any risks when it comes down to what to feed a newborn kitten.
Don’t offer cow’s milk; it isn’t always easily digestible and can lead to both diarrhea and dehydration. Dehydration might not be a huge problem for most adult cats, but it can be vitally serious with newborns.
Though this article doesn’t cover fleas, they can also pose a very deadly threat to a newborn that relies on heat/warmth and circulatory volume to survive. Dehydration means less circulatory volume, which can cause a wealth of serious problems.
Colostrum for a Newborn Kitten
Colostrum is a very special form of cat’s milk a mother will give to her little babies shortly after birth and can’t be adequately substituted. It is full of a mother cat’s antibodies. Kittens who aren’t able to receive this special colostrum will be more susceptible to disease or illness, and won’t stand the same chance for survival on to adulthood.
If your kittens are orphans and you aren’t sure what to feed a newborn kitten safely, consult a veterinarian or experienced shelter caretaker. They should be able to help you find ‘donated’ colostrum, and there are synthetic options available to you.
How Much Milk does a Newborn Kitten Need?
Believe it or not, newborn kittens will nurse a lot! (I believe it, kittens are neeeedy!) In fact, they might eat every 1-2 hours (some sources claim 2-3). Your kittens may feed around seven times daily. If possible, newborn kittens should always be given free access to their mother, be kept warm, and allowed to feed/nurse when necessary. The milk coming from a mother will be warm, so the bottle formula should always be warm (not hot) also!
Never feed a chilled bottle to a kitten. In fact, their well-being will depend on warmth and regulating their correct body temperature should be your main concern.
If bottle-feeding a newborn kitten is a must for you, a newborn kitten will consume around eight milliliters (ml) of formula per ounce of body weight daily. A 4-ounce kitten needs to get about 32 ml of formula, for example.
Kitten Feeding Chart by Age
Feeding a kitten is especially important at an early age since early development will create the foundations for your cat’s growth, both mental and physical, for years to come! As you can probably tell, I had an exceptional early feeding experience – its why I’m so amazing :-p
If the mother is present and available for nursing, you won’t need to wonder what to feed a newborn kitten! If you must bottle feed for the case of orphaned kittens, 8 milliliters of formula per ounce of body weight daily is recommended.
Young kittens will feed often, about every 1-3 hours! If the mother isn’t available, try to mimic this time frame yourself.
Around 4 weeks, kittens will begin to wean off mother’s milk, gradually moving to a diet of solid food. This change will reflect the nutrient requirements of their development.
For bottle formula feeders, experts recommend beginning the process of weaning to watered-down solid foods, or wet foods, around 4.5-5 weeks. You can begin with a mixture of formula and a wet food smoothie in a bottle, slowly moving to bowl feeding.
Your kitten is rapidly growing at this point and may need up to three times the caloric intake as an adult would. This could mean about 60 calories per pound.
Kittens older than 4-5 weeks might go for up to 6-8 hours in between meals, but should still be fed frequently in order to support small stomachs and growth.
Your kitten is growing fast and might need 250-280 calories daily, while some larger breeds may consume around 360! At around 8-10 weeks of age, your little one needs to be fully weaned and on a meat-based diet offering plenty of animal protein and other vital nutrients.
Many enormous pet food manufacturers will often pack their foods with inexpensive plant-based filler ingredients, especially when it comes to dogs. We cats can’t survive without animal protein because we won’t get the correct level of essential amino acids. Your cat’s development, and possibly survival, depends on quality kitten food.
Kitten Bottle Feeding Chart
Are you wondering what to feed a newborn kitten from a bottle? Follow the general chart below for a breakdown of time periods per age or weight. Remember, nursing from the mother cat is ideal, and the guide below is only for a substitute.
Age: 0-1 Weeks
Weight: 50-150 grams
Amount Per Feeding: 2-6 ml
Schedule: Every 2 Hours
Age: 1-2 Weeks
Weight: 150-250 grams
Amount Per Feeding: 6-10 ml
Schedule: Every 2-3 Hours
Age: 2-3 Weeks
Weight: 250-350 grams
Amount Per Feeding: 10-14 ml
Schedule: Every 3-4 Hours
Age: 3-4 Weeks
Weight: 350-450 grams
Amount Per Feeding: 14-18 ml
Schedule: Every 3-4 Hours
Age: 4-5 Weeks
Weight: 450-550 grams
Amount Per Feeding: Begin Weaning
Schedule: Every 5-6 Hours
Now that you have the tools you need to care for these wonderful little lives, the sky is the limit! If you’re still wondering what to feed a newborn kitten, check out some other great sources!