During the first four weeks of age a healthy kitten is a picture of contentment, sleeping much of the time and waking up only to eat.

A good mother instinctively keeps her kittens clean by licking the bellies and rectums of each kitten to stimulate the elimination reflex.


It is of vital importance to stimulate abandoned or rescued kittens up to the age of 4 weeks by rubbing the genital and anal area with a wad of cotton or tissue before and after every feed. Keep the kittens clean with a warm damp cloth and be sure to clean the anal area and abdominal skin properly. Change bedding often to prevent urine scalds. If scalds are present, apply Baby Powder but if inflamed apply a topical antibiotic - or aloe ointment. Kittens start to eliminate on their own at 5 – 6 weeks and can then be taught or shown how to use a litter box. The urine should be clear, not with mucous, blood or yellow. If there is blood or mucous, see a vet immediately. If the urine is yellow, the kitten may be dehydrated. The stool should be softly formed, not runny. If the stool is runny, it is likely you are overfeeding the kitten or it has a parasite. It is better to feed more often and give less food each time than to overfeed a kitten.


It is extremely important to keep the kitten clean (especially during the weaning period) - their skin is very sensitive and they can get red, irritated skin or fungal infections if not kept clean. A damp wash cloth is sufficient for keeping the kitten clean without wetting and chilling the kitten.


Chilling is a serious danger to the newborn or young kitten’s survival.

The temperature at this age is of critical importance and the room must be draft free. Use fixtures that emit heat but not light because light is not good for the kittens at this early age. The heating units should be placed in such a manner that the kittens can move away from the heat into a cooler area. DO NOT use heating pads because kittens can become severely dehydrated or burned by continues exposure to them. Hot water bottles are a fine heating source as long as you check that the water is not leaking out or too hot or cold. In an emergency you can use a rice filled sock that has been heated in the microwave.

Temperature of kitten box:

In the first 2 weeks

Between 80-90 F (26.6 C - 32.2 C)

At 2 weeks of life

80 – 85 F (26.6 C – 32.2 C)

3rd - 4th week

Decrease temperature to 75 F (23.C) by end of 4th week.


The suckling reflex kicks in fully at 1 to 2 days of age. It is of utmost importance that kittens receive antibodies from the queen by nursing from her the first 24 -36 hours. During this stage they receive and absorb the important colostrum that builds immunity from their mother. The duration of immunity depends on the concentration of antibodies in the maternal milk when the kittens were born.

Cow’s milk is not suitable for raising kittens because it is too low in protein and too high in fats and carbohydrates. It usually causes serious diarrhoea, bloating, constipation, severe gastric upset, toxoplasmosis, hypoglycaemia and even death; cow’s milk also has no nutritional value for the kittens. Dogs can also not be substitute mothers because their milk again, is too low in protein and carbohydrates and too high in fat.

Although commercial milk re-placers (available from veterinarians) are the most desirable substitutes for the queen’s milk, home formulas can be used in emergency situations as a temporary measure. Mix well and warm before using. Never use cold milk for this will chill the kitten and can cause colic. All already mixed milk re-placers need to be discarded after each feed or bacterial infection can set in.

Kitten milk re-placer should be mixed 1 part re-placer powder to 2 parts cooled down boiled water for the first 3 weeks, and then 1 part re-placer powder to three parts boiled water after three weeks of age. It is very important to keep all utensils, bottles, teats etc.., sterilized.

Age (in weeks)

Average weight that week

Suggested number of feeds

Suggested amount of milk per day*


113 g


32 ml


198 g


56 ml


283 g


80 ml


368 g


104 ml


453 g


128 ml

*the compositions of various milk replacers are similar. However, the exact amount to feed may vary with the specific product. Read the label carefully.

Kittens may be fed using a special pet nursing bottle or syringe (without the needle). It is of utmost importance to keep the kitten upright on his stomach and chest so formula won’t aspirate into the lungs. (DO NOT cradle the kitten on its back like a human baby for the formula will run into the kitten’s trachea.)

Emergency Kitten Formula

237 ml evaporated of homogenized milk

2 eggs yolks

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Never feed a chilled kitten. Chilled Kittens must be re-hydrated by feeding a warmed glucose and water solution (5 percent water to 10 percent glucose.) Four cc (ml) every one to two hours until they are warm and well hydrated. When fed adequately, a kitten’s abdomen will feel full, but not tense or distended. Avoid overfeeding because this produces diarrhoea or vomiting.

As long as the kitten does not cry excessively, gains weight, feels firm to the touch, and has a light brown stool 4 – 5 times a day, you can be almost certain the diet is meeting his nutritional needs.

At 20 days of age the kitten’s suckling reflex starts to fade and most kittens can learn to lap kitten milk re-placer from a dish. At 4 weeks, you can mix the formula with a commercial kitten food. Weaning to solids can also begin at this time.

Is my kitten ill?

Veterinary care should be sought if there are any of the following symptoms:

Excessive crying/whining, diarrhoea, constipation, blood in the stool, not urinating, distended stomach, not nursing properly, purple or blue discolouration in the abdominal area or any other part of the body, pale,flaming red or blue gums, difficulty breathing, weight loss, limpness, cold to the touch, tire easily, moving slowly, neck bent to the side, legs splayed apart.

See Common Kitten Diseases

Always keep your veterinarians contact details available for any emergencies.

Kitten Developmental Chart:

Can lift head

at birth

Umbilical Cord Detachment

3 days


18 days


21 days

Can maintain upright posture

2-3 weeks after birth

Eyes begin to open

8-14 days after birth

True eye colour appear

3 – 12 weeks

Proper eye focus

5 weeks

Ears begin to function

8 – 14days

Ears become erect

3 weeks

Sight and sound orientation

25 days


2 weeks (full set at 8 weeks)

Start to play and interact

4 weeks

Crucial socialisation period

3 – 7 weeks

Stalking and pouncing

5 weeks


5 weeks

Voluntary elimination/litter box

5-6 weeks


4 – 6 weeks

Spinal and Neurological reflexes developed to adult level responsiveness

3 months

Ageing by teeth development

Baby Teeth:
Centre (4) Incisors (front teeth between canines) 2-3 weeks old
Outer Incisors (still between canines) 3-4 weeks old
Canines3-4 weeks
Upper Molars/Premolars
8 weeks
Lower Molars/Premolars
4-5 weeks

Adult Teeth:
Centre (4) Incisors (front teeth between the canines)
3 1/2 - 4 months
Outer Incisors (still between the canines)
4 - 4 1/2 months
5 months
Upper Molars/Premolars
4 1/2 - 6 months
Lower Molars/Premolars
5 - 6 months
Upper Molars in the back, no baby teeth and just the molars
4 - 5 months

*Always remember that each kitten is an individual and the above chart is just a guideline of expected development


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