Bottle Feeding Infant Kittens

A demanding job, but intensely rewarding!

-Use sterile supplies (can use boiling water over and then let cool). Fill bottle with desires amount of kitten replacement milk (KMR).  Please do not use substitutions for commercial products.  It’s always good to have more than one bottle set available. Filling a number of them at once and refrigerating to warm as needed is especially helpful for nighttime feedings and with large litters.

-Always warm the formula. Do NOT microwave! Place the bottle in a bowl or glass of very hot water and test temperature on your forearm. It should be 95° to 100° Fahrenheit, or approximately body temperature.

-Test the nipple to ensure the flow is just right. It should not drip when held upside down, but should if you apply pressure to the bottle.

-There are many ways to prepare the nipple (which come without holes). My best success is cutting an “x” in the top with a razor blade or nail scissors.

-Make sure the kitten is warm before feeding. Feeding formula to a cold kitten can cause serious digestive problems and increase chances of aspiration. Diarrhea and aspiration are two of the most serious concerns when bottle feeding infants and can be fatal. Diarrhea causes dehydration and aspiration is when a kitten gets liquid in to it’s lungs (when milk goes down trachea instead of esophagus)

Without tilting the kitten’s head, place the nipple in its mouth. You may tilt the bottle (so that the bottom near the nipple hold all mily and no air).  Ideally the kitten will nurse right away. If all goes well continue nursing until the kitten naturally finishes. You may try placing the bottle in a couple to a few times if it the kitten loses its latch on it. Do not overfeed! Having a consistent feeding schedule is also ideal and helps avoid digestive issues.  After feeding, the kittens belly should appear rounded, but not bloated or distended or feel “hard” to the touch.

-If the kitten does not start nursing right away, or if seems to have trouble getting the milk, check the nipple again. Make any necessary adjustments. You can try using a 1ml syringe—GO SLOWLY!!! You can also dribble a few drops of milk from the bottle to stimulate nursing reflexes. You can also try gently pulling the bottle a little bit out of the kitten’s mouth which stimulates a latching reflex.

-Much like human babies, kittens need a gentle “burping” after nursing. Gently pat the kittens back to help them expel any air that was taken in while nursing.

-You will also need to stimulate her kitten’s genitals to get them to eliminate their feces and urine which their mother does by licking. Using a warm, damp cloth, cotton ball or paper towel, rub both the anus and the vagina or penis in an upward motion.


Additional info:

ALWAYS keep the kittens warm and dry!!!

The amount of formula given and time between feedings depending on the age, size and condition of the kittens.  A general rule of thumb is if a kitten s 2 weeks, offer food every 2 hours, 3 weeks, every three hours although they can typically go longer stretches f needed…

For information on kitten development, frequently asked questions, medical concerns and more visit the webpages:

“NYC Feral Cat Initiative”

“Alley Cat Allies” and