I got an unexpected lesson in abandoned kitten care.
The day after my last post, our friend Cheryl found this four-week old baby screaming by the side of the highway outside her house, at 1am.
Cheryl has been finding kittens in need of rescue almost every other day lately. She had to go to work in the morning, after staying up much of the night, trying to get the very upset kitten to eat, and put out a call for help.
I had no experience bottle feeding kittens, but I knew they have to be fed frequently and kept warm. I was home, and met her at the plaza to take the little one, who was still screaming, home with me.
Cheryl had given her a bath, but couldn’t get her to eat on her own. Cheryl gave me some KMR, kitten milk replacer/formula, which is available at pet supply stores, along with a bottle for feeding kittens. Walmart had a version of kitten formula as well. Cheryl had some because, as I said, she keeps finding kittens.
Kitten formula needs to be mixed and then warmed first, before feeding it to kittens. Best Friends has more detailed information abandoned kitten care about what and how much to feed rescued kittens, how often to feed them depending on their age, and how to care for them. At four weeks, they are ready for gruel, kitten food mixed with formula.
I couldn’t get the kitten to eat on her own either. I tried putting a little mashed-up gruel of KMR and kitten food in her mouth with a syringe, but that didn’t work so well. I was concerned about potentially choking her, by trying to feed her with the syringe. She needed to take it in at her own pace, and it is hard to release food gradually with a syringe. She had to eat every few hours or so.
Newborn kittens have to eat more frequently. They should stay with their mothers at least until they are weaned, and should only be taken to be hand fed if you are certain they are orphaned or have no mother cat to nurse them. The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals has more detailed information about abandoned newborn kittens, what to do, and what not to do, if you find them.
My mom and I tried wet kitten food, dry kitten food, dry kitten food softened with water and KMR, but she wouldn’t take it on her own.
Finally, I got her to eat by putting the gruel in the palm of my hand. I cupped my hand, and put a small amount of dry food softened with water mixed with KMR formula, warmed, in the palm of my hand. I sat in a chair, with her on my lap, and held my cupped hand right near her muzzle. She stuck her nose in there, and kneaded me, while she ate.
She wanted to travel around my chest and neck. So, I kept moving my cupped hand with the gruel, offering it to her wherever she felt like kneading. Her face got messy, and so did I, but she was eating! Whew. We offered her food this way every three hours or so.
Any found animals should be kept separated from your other pets, at least for a couple of weeks, until they have the okay from the vet that they are in good health. Everyone needs to be up to date on their vaccines too. An extra room is best, but we didn’t have an extra room available right away.
I set her up in our extra bunny bin, which is smaller than Oliver’s. She yelled for a while, but then calmed down. I’m sure she was terrified, being left the way she was. She was only 14 ounces. She was extremely lucky that Cheryl found her and rescued her.
My mom and I took turns feeding her and cleaning her up. Best Friends has more detailed information about cleaning kittens, as young ones need to be gently cleaned with a warm damp cotton ball, to help them go to the bathroom after they eat too.
We took her to the vet for a checkup, and got some other dry kitten food. We found that she liked to eat the softened dry kitten food out of the palms of our hands, so she could “nurse.”
The vet explained to us we would have to show her how to eat out of a bowl. We put a bowl right next to her, with the food, while she ate food from our palms. She was still kneading, like she was nursing from our palms. We tried to guide her over to the bowl, while she ate, adding food from the bowl, to our palms. Eventually, she tried taking it from the bowl, but not consistently.
She is very fussy about food, and we have to change varieties to keep her interested. She likes big cat dry food. That is probably because she likes to play hockey with the larger nuggets. She won’t touch canned food. She has strong preferences.
Our vet said we can expect another couple of months of that, while she tries to prove to everyone that she is the alpha cat, which is odd because of her tiny size. He said once she establishes her position, she will stop trying to make her point. We’ll see.
I named her Juno, after the powerful Roman goddess, and after the independent Juno of the film by the same name. My mom dubbed her “Junonimo,” after Geronimo.
Right now, most of what she knows of social interaction is smacking and biting and wrestling. The adult cats are supposed to teach her how to behave, by scolding her, if she gets too nervy. Jude is playing papa to her. The vet said if he hisses at her, he is just doing his job, teaching her what is okay and what isn’t.
The three of us, bunny, kitten, and I, did manage to watch a movie together, “Fright Night,” which I thought was fitting for a vampire kitten. She was afraid when the characters were fighting, of all things. I kept the baby rattle on hand, for the moments when she got her own ideas.
In between feeding, cleaning, and kitten monitoring, I painted bunches of eyeballs and worked on a box of toys. I sealed a lot of my custom-printed eyeballs and emblems with my Liquitex Fabric Medium.
These are photos of the toys in progress. I will post finished toys on our Ruffing’s shop. I’ll make blog posts for them separately, since my kitten photo album on this post is big!