The best one to raise kittens is their mother, but sometimes she dies, abandons, or somehow gets separated from them. Here are some tips on how to raise kittens that will hopefully increase their rate of survival.
The first thing you should do is introduce them to the litterbox.
They don’t have to do anything there, but find out where it is. Their instincts will guide them the rest of the way. It is best not to carry them out, but to let them walk out on their own, so they remember how to get there.
Next, show them where the food and water is.
Many abandoned kittens are malnourished, so feed and water them right away. If you can’t find or can’t afford special food for kittens, soak some dry cat food in water, so that it will be soft enough for their tiny mouths to bite. Alternatively, you can chop it up into small pieces.
Do not give kittens undiluted, unfermented milk.
Straight cow’s milk may give them diarrhea, and this could cause dehydration and death. So use the special cat formula or forego milk altogether, and beat an egg in a bowl for them. You can let them lick a little high fat sour cream or yogurt if they like it.
Give them a warm place to sleep, and places to hide from other cats.
Most free cats don’t have behavior problems that would lead them to harass kittens overmuch, but you can never be sure. So make sure your place has areas that large cats can’t get into. Show them these hiding spaces, and play a game where you try to catch them. They’ll get the message.
If you notice that they don’t get a moment’s peace, put them in a rabbit cage a couple of times a day, and at night so that they will be able to eat, sleep, and use the box in peace for awhile.
Be aware that kittens who are abandoned too early often get sick more easily.
They didn’t get the antibodies from their mother’s milk for long enough, so they don’t have normal immunity. So they can get the cat flu, also known as “the yellow”, very easily. They also suffer more from fleas and mites, so you may need to bathe them a couple of times when you first get them. Use a regular cat shampoo though, because pesticides can hurt young kittens.
Kittens need a lot of attention.
You’re replacing their mother, so you will need to do cat-mama sorts of things with them. Gently pet them all over, and use a damp washcloth to mimic cleaning them daily. Teach them how to hunt by playing with them with strings and mouse toys.