How much milk should I give my kitten?

Quick Answers

Kittens need a specific amount of milk based on their age and weight. Here are some quick tips:

  • Newborn kittens need milk every 2-3 hours. They should drink around 2-4 ml per feeding.
  • At 3-4 weeks old, kittens need milk every 4-5 hours. They should drink around 4-8 ml per feeding.
  • At 5-6 weeks old, kittens need milk every 5-6 hours. They should drink around 6-10 ml per feeding.
  • At 7-8 weeks old, kittens can start transitioning to solid food but still need some milk. Give them 4-6 ml per feeding 3-4 times a day.
  • By 8 weeks old, kittens should be weaned off milk and eating solid food regularly.

The amount of milk needed depends on the kitten’s size and health. Always watch for signs of dehydration or overfeeding.

How Often Should Kittens Drink Milk?

Newborn kittens need to drink milk very frequently, as their stomachs are small and milk digests quickly. Here are guidelines on milk feeding frequency by age:

  • Newborn kittens: Feed every 2-3 hours. They should drink around 2-4 ml per feeding.
  • 1-2 weeks old: Feed every 3-4 hours. They should drink around 3-5 ml per feeding.
  • 3-4 weeks old: Feed every 4-5 hours. They should drink around 4-8 ml per feeding.
  • 5-6 weeks old: Feed every 5-6 hours. They should drink around 6-10 ml per feeding.
  • 7-8 weeks old: Feed every 6-8 hours along with solid food. Give 4-6 ml per feeding 3-4 times a day.

It’s important not to let very young kittens go more than 2-3 hours without milk, as they can become hypoglycemic. Watch for signs of hunger like crying, rooting, and kneading. Healthy kittens will feed eagerly at each feeding time.

As kittens grow bigger, they can gradually space out milk feedings. But they still require frequent small meals until around 8 weeks old when they transition fully to solid food. Their digestive system matures and they gain the ability to eat larger quantities less often.

How Much Milk Per Feeding?

The volume of milk needed per feeding depends on the kitten’s size and age. Here are general guidelines:

  • Newborns: 2-4 ml per feeding
  • 1-2 weeks old: Around 3-5 ml per feeding
  • 3-4 weeks old: Around 4-8 ml per feeding
  • 5-6 weeks old: Around 6-10 ml per feeding
  • 7-8 weeks old: Around 4-6 ml per feeding if still supplementing with milk

Larger kittens may need more milk than smaller kittens. Look for visible signs of hunger and fullness rather than sticking strictly to amounts.

After feeding, a kitten’s belly should feel full but not distended. Avoid overfeeding as it can lead to digestive upsets. Kittens should never appear bloated after a feeding.

Here is a helpful chart with milk feeding volumes by age:

Kitten Age Feeding Frequency Milk per Feeding (Average)
Newborn Every 2-3 hours 2-4 ml
1-2 weeks Every 3-4 hours 3-5 ml
3-4 weeks Every 4-5 hours 4-8 ml
5-6 weeks Every 5-6 hours 6-10 ml
7-8 weeks Every 6-8 hours 4-6 ml

Pay attention to each kitten’s appetite and signs of fullness rather than rigid amounts. As long as they are gaining weight steadily, the milk volumes are probably appropriate.

What Kind of Milk Should I Give My Kitten?

The best milk for kittens is their mother’s milk while nursing. But if orphaned or supplemental feeding is needed, the best alternative is kitten milk replacement formula.

Some options for kitten formula include:

  • KMR® (Kitten Milk Replacer) – Made by PetAg specifically for kittens
  • Other commercial kitten milk formulas like Purina ProPlan Kitten Milk Replacer
  • Emergency kitten formulas like Lactol or Nutri-Stat

Avoid using regular cow’s milk or plant-based milk alternatives not formulated specifically for kittens. Cow’s milk can cause digestive upset and plant-based milks lack key nutrients kittens need.

Homemade kitten formula recipes are also not recommended, as it’s easy to accidentally make unsafe or nutritionally incomplete mixtures. Only use homemade recipes under the guidance of a vet.

Look for products designed especially for kittens, as they contain the right balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates kittens require. The protein should come from animal sources. Follow label instructions for mixing and feeding.

If using powdered kitten milk formula, mix it with warm water according to package directions. Test the temperature before feeding. It should feel warm but not hot on your wrist.

Where Can I Get Kitten Milk Formula?

Kitten milk replacement formula is available at:

  • Pet supply stores – Brands like KMR and PetAg kitten milk are commonly carried
  • Veterinary clinics – Vets may stock emergency formula for orphaned kittens
  • Online retailers – Amazon and other online pet stores sell kitten milk formulas
  • Grocery stores or pharmacies – Some carry KMR or other major brands

Call ahead to check availability if possible. Human baby formula should never be used as an alternative, as kittens have very different nutritional needs.

Stock up on kitten formula before foster kittens arrive. Shelters or rescue groups may be able to provide donated cans of KMR if supplies run short.

Buy enough to feed kittens every 2-3 hours around the clock for at least their first few weeks of life. Having plenty on hand prevents emergency shortages.

How to Bottle Feed a Kitten

Bottle feeding is needed for newborn kittens or those without access to their mother’s milk. Here are some tips for successful bottle feeding:

  • Choose the right nipple – Use a kitten nurser bottle with a nipple designed for feline mouths
  • Warm the formula – Heat water and formula to around 100°F before mixing and feeding
  • Gently insert nipple – Place nipple into the kitten’s mouth; they will begin suckling
  • Hold bottle at 45° angle – Keeps milk flowing without choking
  • Feed slowly – Allow the kitten to swallow frequently; avoid overwhelming them
  • Burp if needed – Gentle strokes down back can bring up trapped air
  • Never squeeze bottle – Can cause aspiration of fluid into lungs

Signs of aspiration are choking, gagging, wheezing. If this occurs, stop feeding immediately and seek veterinary help if serious symptoms.

Fading kitten syndrome is a life-threatening emergency. Consult a vet promptly if kittens are weak, losing weight, or not feeding. Proper technique and consistency are vital.

How to Get a Kitten to Latch Onto a Bottle

It takes patience and persistence to teach a kitten to accept bottle feeding. Here are some tips:

  • Use a nipple made for kittens – Slit nipples can help milk flow
  • Gently insert nipple into mouth – Stroke under their chin to stimulate suckling
  • Try stroking nose/head – Can prompt them to open mouth and take nipple
  • Squeeze a drop of milk – The taste may get them interested
  • Avoid forcing nipple in – Don’t risk harming their mouth or airway
  • Stay calm and soothing – They can sense frustration
  • Try warming nipple slightly – Avoids cold shock; test temperature first
  • Persist for 10-15 minutes – With patience, most kittens eventually latch on
  • Call a vet if struggling – They may have advice or provide assistance

With time, stroking, and encouragement, newborn kittens almost always get the hang of nursing from a bottle. Don’t give up too quickly. Consistent efforts to help them latch will be rewarded.

If a kitten is too weak or ill to suckle, speak to a vet about alternative feeding methods like syringe or tube feeding. Kittens unable to nurse need immediate care.

How to Transition Kittens from Bottle to Food

Kittens should start transitioning from bottle feeding to solid food around 4-6 weeks old. Here are some tips for introducing food and weaning:

  • Offer canned or soaked dry kitten food – Easier to transition than crunchy kibble alone
  • Try shallow bowl or plate – Lower sides than a deep bowl
  • Start with gruel or slurry – Mix food with warm water or kitten milk
  • Put small amounts on your finger – Lets them lick food off to taste
  • Gently open and close mouth – Can encourage licking motions
  • Avoid force feeding – Stay patient and give them time
  • Reduce bottle feedings gradually – As they eat more solids, offer less formula
  • Provide fresh water – Important for helping digest solid foods
  • Offer a litter box – Starting around 3-4 weeks old

Aim to get kittens eating mushy food from a shallow dish within their first few weeks. Crunchy kibble can come later. Introduce one new food at a time, in small amounts, to check for tolerances.

Bottles can be fully removed by around 8 weeks old once food intake is consistent. Look for steady weight gain and energy levels. Some kittens may wean earlier or later.

At What Age Can Kittens Eat Regular Cat Food?

Kittens can start eating regular wet and dry cat foods at around 6-8 weeks old. Key transition times include:

  • 3-4 weeks old – Offer gruel or slurry for initial tastes
  • 4-5 weeks old – Begin eating mushy wet food from a bowl
  • 5-6 weeks old – Expand to include dry kitten kibble softened in water or formula
  • 6-8 weeks old – Can transition to unsoftened wet and dry foods
  • 8+ weeks old – Fully weaned and eating just regular cat foods

Look for kitten formulas designed for growing cats under 12 months old. Avoid adult cat foods until kittens are fully grown, around 12-18 months old.

Stick to high-quality, name brand kitten foods. Avoid lower quality brands that can lack proper nutrition for development. Consult your vet if unsure.

Transition gradually between foods over 4-7 days, mixing old and new. Watch for any digestive issues and discontinue if these arise.

What Human Foods Can Kittens Eat?

While kitten-specific foods are ideal, some human foods are safe for kittens in small amounts, such as:

  • Cooked, unseasoned chicken or fish – Shredded or flaked into bite-size pieces
  • Cooked egg yolks – Rich source of protein and fat
  • Plain yogurt or cottage cheese – Choose products with no added sugar or flavors
  • Vegetable baby food – Like sweet potato or carrots; low sodium versions
  • Canned pumpkin – Unflavored only, helps digestive upsets

Avoid human foods that are toxic to cats like onions, garlic, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, grapes/raisins, nuts, citrus fruits, and grains like bread or pasta. Stick to plain, bland, unsweetened items.

Cats have unique vitamin and mineral requirements. While small tastes of appropriate human foods are fine, kitten-specific formulas should make up the main diet. Check with your vet before feeding any new foods.

Signs of Dehydration in Kittens

Dehydration is dangerous for kittens. Watch for these signs and seek veterinary treatment promptly:

  • Dry or sticky gums and mouth – Healthy gums should be moist and pink
  • Lethargy and weakness – Being too weak to stand or feed normally
  • Sunken eyes – Eyes that seem pushed back into the sockets
  • Loss of skin elasticity – When gently pinched, skin stays tented
  • Dark yellow urine – Should be pale yellow; reddish urine could indicate blood
  • Little or no urine production – Healthy kittens should urinate regularly
  • Weight loss – Kittens should gain weight daily; rapid weight loss is an emergency
  • Disorientation – Acting dazed, confused, or unresponsive
  • Cool body temperature – Healthy kittens should feel warm; low temperature indicates shock

Dehydration can happen rapidly in kittens and be fatal if not treated urgently. Contact a vet right away if signs are spotted. Providing emergency fluids by syringe can help stabilize a kitten until veterinary care is available.

Prevent dehydration by bottle feeding on schedule and making fresh water available at all times once food is introduced. Monitor urine and stool output daily.

Signs of Overfeeding in Kittens

While underfeeding is dangerous, overfeeding can also harm kittens. Watch for these signs of overfeeding:

  • Bloated or distended belly – Should not appear swollen or round
  • Choking or gagging during feeding – Fluid entering lungs
  • Foamy vomiting – Can signal reflux issues
  • Labored breathing – Milk aspiration can cause respiratory distress
  • Profuse diarrhea – Loose stools from overwhelm or intolerance
  • Lethargy after feeding – Energy should improve after eating
  • Coughing or wheezing – Milk in lungs causes respiratory symptoms
  • Not wanting to nurse – Refusing milk from overfilling
  • Weight gain stops – Kittens should gain daily; plateaus signal overfeeding

Reduce portion sizes and frequency if these issues arise. Smaller, more frequent meals prevent overfilling.

Consult a vet promptly if you suspect aspiration, which can lead to pneumonia. With prompt care, most kittens recover after incidents of overfeeding.

Conclusion

Feeding guidelines vary based on a kitten’s age and weight, but monitoring daily gains and losses is key. While amounts are important, focus on proper feeding technique, quality foods, and watching for any signs of intolerance. With time and patience helping them transition to solid foods, kittens will continue to thrive as they wean and grow. Consult a vet promptly at any sign of distress or poor development. With attentive feeding and care in these crucial early weeks, you’ll raise happy, healthy kittens.

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