When are newborn kittens usually out of risk of dying?

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This topic contains 46 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  pussigato 2 years ago.

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    Hi! A stray mama cat gave birth to a litter of six in my house. We left our door open one hot day and she just walked in and gave birth in the laundry room lol. My boyfriend and I are cat people so we don’t mind taking care of mama and her babies. In fact I prefer it because it’ll make it easier to find them home (or keep em lol).

    But there were some issues. Initially, after giving birth, the mama was very attentive and protective but after about a week she just kind of stopped taking care of them. She was healthy, milk was flowing (we checked her daily), and she would sniff and acknowledge them occasionally, she just wouldn’t feed them.

    We didn’t want to give up on the Mama so we would usually hold her down for feeding and then I would clean the babies and stimulate them and all that. But then, she would start taking kittens and hiding them around the house. We found them behind the washer/dryer, two of them ended up under the couch, and one was under the sink. I don’t know what she was doing or why she moved them, but at this point I was just kind of fed up, so I decided to just start taking care of them myself.

    I used KMR formula and fed them, usually every 3 hours or so. I’d stimulate their little butts, groom them, kept them wrapped up in an electric blanket, but it’s 6 kittens. After about a week of this I was kind of overwhelmed, and the kittens were doing great, but they just would never settle down, would meow constantly, etc etc.

    So yesterday, out of frustration, I locked her in a box with them and kept her there. I checked on them after 10 minutes and she was laying with them, grooming them, feeding them. Since then, she has been taking care of them, and is as attentive as she was in the beginning.

    It seems to be going well, and they’re about 3 weeks old now. I was wondering when I can stop worrying about them… in my experience, newborn kittens can be healthy in the morning and then get sick and die by the evening for seemingly no reason. At what point do they stop being so fragile.

    I mean, I worry about everything. I wake up at night to check on them and make sure they’re not cold, and I was really worried the KMR would give them diarrhea or constipate them. I still kind of worry about her rolling over and crushing one :/

    Any advice or words of reassurance would be super appreciated!



    I understand your frustration. You have been on a roller coaster ride with kits of late but are lucky mama didn’t suffocate the kits when locked in the box.

    Please make sure to give mama extra food to keep up with her big family.

    Mama and kittens have roundworms, hookworms, and others are easily treated with medications that are very safe for kittens. Coccidia and Giardia are protozoa, and there are anti-parasitic medications and antibiotics to treat them.

    You’ve experienced “fading kitten syndrome.” Generally speaking, FKS happens within the first two weeks of life. Kittens are prone to “colds” because of their limited immunity at this age. It’s airborne and very common in kittens from shelters. It’s more a nuisance than fatal disease. For preventative measures, take mama and kittens for a checkup and all appropriate immunizations. Please get mama spayed. She’s at the point where she’ll get out and go in heat again. And then you have another litter on your hands. A cat that is spayed while she is nursing will continue to produce adequate milk for her kittens. However, if she decides she’s done you can supplement their diet with gruel and kitten food.

    Cats tend to be private animals, regardless of their living situation. They prefer to find a secure, safe place to keep their kittens. A cat will spend some time scoping out places to give birth, and sometimes the spot she ends up in is not her first choice. In such cases, or if mom feels the place has been compromised, she may move her brood. She wants her kittens in a quiet spot, free from interruptions. You should make sure she has plenty of food and fresh water nearby and watch her for signs of anxiousness. If she seems anxious, she could be feeling that her kittens are not secure. Give her space and time to relax in her surroundings with her new family.

    There’s a whole bunch of info for you.




    Awww Deanna, you have surely had your hands full. What PG said above is about all there is to know. There is no ‘safe time’ for kittens as sometimes things just happen with no apparent reason. I wish I could relieve your mind, but such is the life of the rescuer, LOL! You are very lucky though, that mama has resume her duties and seems to be taking care of them again. Just supervise closely and if she stop feeding them again, you know what to do. I had a cat that took her kittens and hid them, but I didn’t know it until it was too late, and I could only save one. That’s how I have my Leona with me now–I found her and brought her in to hand raise. We would like to save them all. Some things you just can’t prevent. Mother cat a lot of times was raised by a very young mother who didn’t have good mothering skills. I have seen some cats seek me out and give birth in my flower bed and get up and run leaving it behind. Those are the mostly ferals that someone has dumped pregnant, they are in pain giving birth, not understanding and when the kitten is born associate it with the pain they just felt and ran. 😥 I have had more successes than failures and that’s what keeps me doing it.



    @PG Thanks for all the information! I’ve seen Fading Kitten Syndrome before, so I’m keeping an eye on these ones, but I’m pretty sure they’re a little over 3 weeks old. I figure I’ll worry a little less when they have teeth and can start being weaned. I also don’t think she was hiding the babies out of privacy or seclusion. This morning I woke up with two kittens on my bedroom floor screaming. I don’t think they could climb out of their nest, so my only idea is that she was bringing them to me to be fed. I don’t think she knows where she wants the kittens to be honest.

    @kittyzee Mama cat has seemed to only resumed some of her duties half of the time, so I’ve started calling her “Nanny cat” instead lol. Last night, she didnt want anything to do with them, and I checked her teats and they seemed dry. My boyfriend said that it could be because she’s got 6 kittens and not enough milk. I don’t know how the whole milk thing works, but I always had it in my head that they like always had milk in them. If only somebody invented fake breastfeeding implant teats for cats!

    Last night, I had to bottle feed the babies, and two of them seem to be refusing the bottle but the rest have all learned to suck on it. One of the two that refuses to be bottle fed seems to be crying out in pain a lot. Could it be a poop or something? He otherwise seems health, warm, and he’ll go to sleep usually if he’s next to the mama.

    She’ll usually resume her duties AFTER I’ve done all the work. Basically I will have to feed all 6 kittens and then place them to lay with her so they can purr, cuddle, and fall asleep. In other words, I do all the work and she gets all the reward lol.



    That’s the rewards of being a foster mom!

    Feeding six is bound to take a lot from a mama. Goats’ milk is the closest to mama’s milk and doesn’t upset to their tummies or cause diarrhea or constipation. To get him to take the nipple gently open his mouth and put the nipple in. You may have to give it a little squeeze to start the milk flowing. He’ll figure it out.

    Unless mama hasn’t helped him poop is there a reason you mention poop? You can try helping him if you’re not sure.



    I usually will start with trying the bottle, but after a few minutes of him constantly spitting it out and looking somewhere else for a teat, I’ll switch to a syringe. I just don’t like using the syringe ’cause i feel like it hurts him more. He seems fine now, sleeping well. From what I’ve seen, the mama does help stimulate but most of them are doing it on their own. I watched him take a poop around 6 last night. I may have over reacted, the meow was just loud and kind of sad sounding.

    I have a question about another cat: His one eye is still closed. It doesn’t seem crusted and doesn’t tear… it just seems shut tight. It looks like he legit only has one eye lol. I know I shouldn’t force it open, but is there a way I can help him open it?

    That’s a picture of him. This one I call “Splash” because his face looks like somebody splashed white paint on him.



    You can take a warm, damp wash cloth and gently work on the eye, they love the warmth and will usually let you do this. You can just keep working on the eye as the warm wet cloth dissolves the crust you can try to gently pull the eye open. You really need to get some drops from the vet to put in the eye. Most times the infection goes away, sometimes in rare cases a cat can lose the eye. That doesn’t mean they still can’t be wonderful pets, because they are! And, your kitten looks like a calico (as the fur looks orange, white and black) which usually means it’s a female! Congratulations!



    I’m sad to say that that kitten in the photo died yesterday of unknown causes. 2 hours before I found him dead, he was in my arms purring after eating, so I really don’t know where I went wrong. It’s possible he got crushed under the weight of his 5 siblings.

    Currently I’m struggling with two of them… both won’t eat from the bottle, and one of them has diarrhea. I can syringe them both enough food for sustenance, and I’m currently diluting the formula with more water for the little guy with diarrhea but I’m very worried about him.

    Their mama hasn’t taken care of them at all in the past two days. She won’t feed them or groom them, and we have to force her to let them suckle on her, although I’m pretty sure they get no milk. The only reason I haven’t thrown her out is because I would feel bad separating her from her babies and she helps them sleep.

    Their vet appt is for Thursday in four days, so I’m really nervous until then.



    Deanna the links that we posted a while back will help with kittens with diarrhea. But you can add some (human grade) pedialyte found in the grocery with their formula. It will replace electrolytes lost during diarrhea. You can rub honey or karo syrup on their gums too if you think they are fading. But often times they give you no signs, they are here one minute and the next they are just gone. I’m so sorry you are having such a hard experience. You are not at fault, remember that–raising kittens is very hard.



    I’m sorry the wee one is gone. Mama has been a bit lazy since you’ve taken over. I guess that’s not unusual but it does put a lot of the emotional burden on you. Yes, pedialyte is excellent for bringing up energy levels. Mix it with the Goats’ milk for extra nutrients. We are with you 100%.

    Please reconsider putting mama out without getting her spayed. She will continue to have litter after litter.



    Nah, mama cat will stay with us until these babies are grown. We usually get them spayed or neutered when they show up here (we’ve done 3 so far).

    I’ll have to get pedialyte from the store today. Two of the babies are looking for teats, trying to suck on each other but when I give them the bottle they’ll refuse it. Neither of them had previously refused this before, which is why it bothers me.

    Their appointment with the vet is on Friday, but I worry about the diarrhea and I especially worry about the fleas. I’ve seen an entire litter die of anemia before because of fleas. Is there any safe way to de-flea the babies?



    Yes, you can get Frontline spray, or Advantage II spray and spray it on a washcloth and go over their fur with it. Now don’t spray it directly on the babies as they are too small yet, but the fur contact should be enough to kill a lot of fleas. Another way would be to comb them off with a flea comb/and give them a bath in Dawn dish soap. Make sure the water is warm, don’t get the water or soap in their ears or eyes, use a cloth to clean their heads, then rinse them well, towel them off and dry them with a blow dryer until they are completely dry. You don’t want them catching a chill.
    Try feeding them with an eye dropper or a syringe instead of the bottle. They have to get food into their stomachs for nourishment or they won’t last until Friday.



    I think the kittens were just being brats because when I mixed them some goats milk, they damn near ATTACKED the bottle lol. Is it possible that they are teething and that’s making them not want to suckle?

    I haven’t seen any more diarrhea from either of the babies, but I do have pedialyte and goats milk (i wish somebody would have told me how disgusting it tasted before i taste tested it!), but the diarrhea was squirty and brown.



    I don’t know why they don’t want to suckle. Lots of times they are sleepy and it’s hard to get them to wake up enough to eat. But just keep trying to get food into their tummies. Goat’s milk would be so good for them and you could prevent so many digestive issues if you give it to them. How old are these kittens now?



    That’s why we don’t recommend taste testing. 😆

    To remove the fleas:

    Separate the kitten from it’s Mother and isolate Mom until she can be treated as well. Make sure all bedding or other nesting materials are put into a securely sealed plastic bag or plastic storage tote and taken completely out of the house. Do not reuse the bedding, the plastic bag or the plastic tote if used. Get a bowl of hot water and add a drop or two of Dawn dishwashing liquid detergent. Swish it around to make a very thin layer of suds on the top of the water. Get plenty of papertowels and a fine tooth comb — a lice nit comb is perfect on small kittens. With a DRY comb, run the teeth over the kittens and physically remove the fleas, quickly dip the comb in the soapy water, completely submersing it. Swish it around to dislodge all of the insects. Thoroughly DRY the comb with a clean paper towel each time (seal used paper towels into a plastic zip-lock type bag until you are ready to dispose of them away from the house) and repeat until there is no sign of fleas at all on the baby.

    Repeat this process with the Mother cat and do not place the kitten back in with her until both have been treated, the bedding completely replaced and surrounding areas thoroughly vacuumed or mopped and dry.



    Babies are sleeping, warm, and clean for the night so I’ll see about flea treating them tomorrow. They absolutely love the goat milk and are now refusing their regular formula. Can goats milk be used as permanent replacement?

    The kittens are 3 weeks old today.



    TWO LAST QUESTIONS, because you guys are kind of my life line right now.

    1) at one point can i sleep through the night without having to wake up and feed them. The past few nights I have been feeding them right before bed (around 10 p.m) and then waking up at 4 am to feed them again. I mean, I really don’t mind waking up for them it’s definitely worth it, but at what point do i have the option to sleep a little later lol?

    and 2) as far as the vet goes, if something starts to happen to one of the babies before then… would they refuse me? I mean, if I showed up with a dying kitten they’d help me take care of it right?




    No worries. We are here for you so ask/rant/whatever.

    Goats’ Milk as a substitute for formula is as close to Mama’s milk. It’s high in probiotics and nutrients and low in lactose which eases any tummy problems. You feed them Goats’ milk up to 7-8 weeks old. In a few more days, mix wet kitten food with the Goats’ milk and make a gruel. They should be able to eat wet food at 5-6 weeks, supplemented by 1 or 2 “servings” of Goats’ milk. At 7 weeks they should be eating wet food.

    At four weeks, you can start sleeping until 6-7 am.

    Any respectable vet. should help you out.




    You guys helped me save a kitty cat!!! Last night I noticed that one of the babies was very weak, his skin was stretchier, and he wasn’t as enthusiastic about feeding time as usual. He’d usually purr as soon as I picked him up and nuzzle aroudn for the bottle. I’ve seen this before- he woudln’t eat, cried out in pain if i offered him the bottle. I made a mixture of goatsmilk and pedialyte and gave him a little bit (barely any, because I didn’t want to force him too much) and then I wrapped him up and put him on the heating blanket for the night. I woke up at four in the morning expecting a dead kitten, but he was actually out of his nest, looking for me, and as soon as I got him he went crazy for a bottle. I am so happy/relieved and hopefully I can keep this up at least until their vet appointment. Thank you everybody!



    You and this wee guy are fighters!

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