Feeding newborn kittens
Newborn kittens should get all of their nutrition from their mother. This will continue until they gradually transition to solid foods when they are around four weeks old (weaning).
The first milk produced, called colostrum, is rich in antibodies and will help protect kittens against diseases. These antibodies last for six weeks or more. Kittens can only absorb colostrum during their first 16 to 24 hours of life and they should feed within two hours of birth. It is essential that kittens receive colostrum to protect them against disease. If any kittens do not receive the first milk, contact your vet.
Newborn kittens need to feed every two to three hours. Kittens suckling well from their queen will sleep between feeds and do not need additional nutrition until three to four weeks of age. Kittens not receiving adequate nutrition from the queen may cry and constantly seek the teats. Contact your vet if you think a kitten is not getting enough milk.
Distressed newborn kittens may be restless, cry excessively, stay awake for long periods, leave the queen and kittening area, appear neglected by the queen or stop feeding and have a reduced sucking reflex.
If the queen is relaxed, you can gently weigh the kittens at birth and then weigh them daily to ensure they are gaining around 10-15g each day, doubling their birth weight by two weeks of age. Kittens typically weigh between 90 and 110g at birth.
If kittens are rejected by their mother for any reason, or if the queen is unable to feed her kittens, you may need to hand feed them.
At Cats Protection we nurture hundreds of newborn and young kittens every year. You can help us continue to do so by leaving a gift in your will, making a donation, or even taking part in an event.
See also: Kitten care, Hand rearing