How to Take Care of Newborn Kittens: Week by Week

Updated on August 1, 2019
wordscribe43 profile image

Elsie lives with three cats and is an experienced pet sitter.

Kitten care can be overwhelming, but by following the instructions in this article, you too can raise a healthy, successful litter.
Kitten care can be overwhelming, but by following the instructions in this article, you too can raise a healthy, successful litter. | Source

If you're wondering how to take care of kittens, firstly, I want to congratulate you! You are in for an exciting experience . . . After providing my own personal experience raising kittens, I will provide the necessary instructions to raise your own!

Kittens cuddle together for warmth and a sense of security.
Kittens cuddle together for warmth and a sense of security. | Source


Part of kitten care involves getting the right supplies.

Your first stop should be your veterinarian. I knew very little about newborn kitten care (but a lot about cat care), so a visit to my local veterinarian was the first thing on my list. Don't be afraid to ask plenty of questions or for recommendations.

Your primary concern in caring for your newborn kitten is temperature regulation. Newborn kittens get cold very easily. A kitten with a low body temperature is in danger, feeding that kitten can actually be dangerous. You will want to make sure he or she is stable first and given a once over by a doctor.

  • Warm Bed, Water Bottle, and Towel: If you are unable to get into the vet that day, you must make a comfortable and warm bed for the kitten(s). Take care that it's not in a drafty location. Preferably, it will be a bit secluded. Gather towels and place the kittens in a box, a cat bed, or anything that's an open-top container. Putting a hot water bottle in will help keep the kittens warm and provide a sense of security (like the heat they'd get from their mother). Don't EVER microwave the water bottle, as this poses the threat of a scald! Place it in a pan of hot water to warm it up. Then put towels over the hot water bottle in the bed. Make sure the bed is large enough for a kitten who's overheating to move away from this heat source.
  • Milk Replacement: My vet explained to me I'd have to feed them milk replacement, a formula called KMR by Pet-Ag. Do not use cow's or goat's milk, kittens need milk that approximates what they'd receive from their mothers in terms of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals.
  • A Bottle or Syringe: You will obviously need some sort of bottle or syringe. I used a syringe, found this to be the easiest method, the one my kittens seemed to get the hang of most readily. The tip is roughly the same size as a mother's nipple. Don't use an eyedropper—they can't suckle them and are not a very efficient method of feeding. Plus, liquid can quickly be expelled from the dropper resulting in too much fluid in the kitten's mouth. This can cause choking.

How to Take Care of a Kitten

Kitten Feeding

One of the most important bits of knowledge you'll need in learning how to take care of a kitten is feeding him or her.

Frequency of Feeding

Like a human baby, a newborn kitten will need to be fed frequently, approximately every two to three hours. As a rule of thumb, for every ounce of kitten body weight, he or she needs 8 ccs of formula. So, a kitten weighing 3 ounces will need about 24 ounces of milk replacement every 24 hours. To assist you in your kitten care, you can picture the correct amount if you know one teaspoon is just about 5 cc. You will also want to check the feeding guidelines on your particular brand of milk replacement as the guides can vary from brand to brand. Again, it's imperative you speak to your veterinarian for assistance. A newborn kitten is less able to give you clues when he or she is full. But, a little later in kitten development, she will be capable of turning her head away from the “nipple," even pushing it away.

Materials Necessary

Gather towels (it can be messy) and find a comfortable spot where you will be relaxed. Warm up the fresh formula (only as much as you need for this feeding) in a pan of warm water. Again, DO NOT microwave the formula since it can scald the kitten. Test the temperature on your wrist before you attempt to feed.

Feeding Position

Don't try to feed the kitten while she's lying down. Not only is it easier for her to swallow when she's upright, but she will be more awake and ready to feed this way. Hold her in the palm of your hand and gently begin to insert the syringe (or bottle) into her mouth. Many kittens will immediately begin suckling. The runt of the litter I had didn't readily feed, so I had to squeeze out a couple of small drops onto her lips to get her going. If you find your kitten has a poor suckling response and isn't eating, she may need tube-feeding. You need to take this kitten to the vet as soon as possible.

Be sure to feed your kitten upright, not on their back.
Be sure to feed your kitten upright, not on their back. | Source

Kitten Development

Even though I took my three kittens to the vet and thought I had all the information needed for kitten care, I noticed pretty quickly that they weren't urinating or having bowel movements. I was somewhat perplexed and worried, so I gave him a call. Turns out he'd miscalculated their age, thought they were three weeks old, and that they would be able to urinate and defecate on their own. Apparently, they were a bit younger. He told me cats under three weeks can't eliminate on their own and need their mothers to stimulate this reflex for them. I had to get a warm wet washcloth or cotton ball and gently rub under the cat's tails. Voila! All three cats did their business immediately. I did this after every feeding.

Kitten Development

Developmental Milestone
Can lift head
at birth
Can maintain upright posture
at 2-3 weeks after birth
Eyes begin to open
5-14 days after birth
Eyes will remain blue
approx. 2 weeks; true color within 3 months
Ears begin to function
6-17 days after birth
Startle reflex to noise
as early as day 3
Depth perception
by 4 weeks of age
Tooth development
by 4 weeks of age
Forelimb support
at 1-10 days after birth
Rearlimb support
at 14 days after birth
Start to play/interact
at 2 weeks after birth
Can voluntarily eliminate
at 3 weeks after birth
Kittens may fight the weening process, but just be patient, it's a natural part of growing up.
Kittens may fight the weening process, but just be patient, it's a natural part of growing up. | Source

Weaning Kittens and Kitten Feeding

Weaning kittens is a natural process the kittens and mother alike will begin around four weeks. So, around the four-week mark is a good time to begin the gradual introduction of food into her diet. Weaning kittens is a process to be accomplished slowly over a period of about four to six weeks (from week 4, to week 8 or 10).

Teaching the Kitten to Eat From a Bowl

Your kitten will need to learn how to eat from a dish, so you will first put the warm milk replacement into a flat and shallow bowl. Dip the tip of the bottle or syringe (choose whatever you've been delivering the milk with) into the milk and let her lick it off. Guide her with the syringe (or your finger dipped into the milk) to the bowl. Eventually (and usually very quickly) she will learn to lap out of the bowl. NEVER force the kitten by pushing down or holding her head in the milk bowl. She can easily inhale the liquid and choke.

Mixing in the Kitten Food

After she's readily drinking the milk replacement from the bowl, you will be mixing the milk replacement with some high-quality kitten food. Innova kitten food is excellent, palatable kitten food. After it's properly mixed, it should have the consistency of oatmeal. Over the next few weeks, you will gradually reduce the amount of liquid to the mixture. You will be adding more and more cat food. Around the 5 to 6-week mark, the kitten will be eating food only very slightly moistened and you will be able to leave it out for her to free feed. By week 8 to 10, the kitten will be completely done with the addition of milk replacement.

Warning: Kittens love to play in their food bowls! All three of my kittens would walk in it, rub in it, roll in it. It's just part of the process for them. You'll be cleaning them up quite a lot.

My Story

When I was working at a VA hospital in the mid-'90s, I heard some commotion out in the hall and overheard a co-worker saying, “We'll call Animal Aid and have them euthanized.” Naturally, my interest peaked, since the words “euthanasia” and “animals” in the same sentence compel me to take action. I discovered a feral cat had given birth to six kittens in the scorching Midwestern heat and that she'd abandoned them. All six of them had been placed in a box. They were the cutest, tiniest kittens I'd ever seen. Mama had fled the scene, and they were starving. The gentleman who finally brought them inside was furiously trying to get the number of Animal Aid, seemingly disinterested in attempting to discover if anyone would be willing to care for these poor felines. I came racing down the hall, yelling: “Wait, wait . . . What are you doing with the cats?” Granted, it was a hospital and they couldn't hang out there for long, but I found it disappointing that no effort was put in to find a few willing caretakers. Fortunately, a couple of doctors had already claimed three, so only three were left. Minutes later, I was the proud new mother for these three little lives. I don't use the word “mother” lightly here, either. This was a big job, with multiple feedings daily and through the night.

You Too Can Enjoy the Experience of Raising Kittens

Overall, it was a very rewarding experience, but I suggest that you don't enter into it lightly. It's a whole different ballgame in comparison to adult cat care! That being said, enjoy the process! It's a lot of work, but raising kittens has a huge payoff in the end.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    5 years ago

    Very well researched article. I love cats, and am considering getting a new kitten. Will revert back to this hub for future advice.

  • DearBandit profile image


    7 years ago

    Thank you for this info, my little guy is having a hard time going to the washroom, I gave it a try with the washcloth, and it did work, Thank you soo soo much!

  • arusho profile image


    8 years ago from University Place, Wa.

    What a precious hub. My daughter and I would like to adopt a kitten someday to care for. You did a great job with three!

  • laughing loon profile image

    Lynda -Bailey 

    9 years ago from South Los Angeles

    You did good! I have taken in kittens for years and sometimes I feel like the grim reaper with kitten dying but the last few times I fell so in love, I ended up keeping a couple of them. Cool Hub!!

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Went ahead and allowed one of the many ugly comments made to me by the above individual who's now back under a different alias. Just so people can see who is really being threatened and attacked here.

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Sage, I completely know how you feel. When I found homes for two of my three kittens you'd think I was running an adoption agency with all the questions I asked. I MOURNED for them, but kept in touch with the owners and found they were happy, healthy and very loved. Such a great gift you give, I would do it more often if my husband didn't want to wring my neck. hehehe.

  • Sage Williams profile image

    Sage Williams 

    9 years ago

    wordscribe - you're taking me back with this truly amazing hub. I could have used this information two years ago.

    Two years ago I had to put down my cat, "Frisky" of 18 years. Although, the mourning process started 3 months prior to having to put my beloved friend to rest.

    It was still devastating, I was at a loss. For the last 3 months of my best friends life I was spoon feeding him and carrying him around in a baby sling cause he just wanted to be held all the time.

    I didn't know what to do with myself. In my mourning I still felt the need to give. To give back to the cat world in memory of the 18 years of devotion that my beloved, "Frisky" had given to me.

    I went to a cat shelter that needed help and ended up taking home 4 neonatal kittens. I cared for them around the clock for the next 6-8 weeks.

    It was an incredible way to continue mourning and working through my grief. Needless to say, I ended up keeping two of the kittens. It was very difficult parting with the other two.

    Thanks for writing such a valuable hub.



This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)