If you’re looking after a foster kitten, then they’re reliant on you for absolutely everything. You need to make sure your kitten gets enough milk to grow up strong and healthy. Bottle feeding a kitten can take time for both of you to get used to, but once you’re into a routine, you’ll find that your kitten loves to drink their milk, and they’re going to grow up big and strong!
1. Prepare your equipment
If you’re getting ready to welcome foster kittens into your home, you’ll need to make sure you have all the necessary equipment for bottle feeding, including:
- Nursing kit with bottles and nipples
- Kitten milk replacer powder
Depending on the types of nipples that you buy, you may have to cut a small hole in the top before you use it for the first time. Start by cutting a very small hole, and check that when you hold the bottle upside down, the milk flows out slowly drop by drop. If necessary, you can make the hole a little larger, but if you cut it too much, you won’t be able to use that nipple.
2. Make sure your kitten is healthy and ready for a feed
It’s a good idea to get a vet to check over any kitten in your care unless you’re an experienced fosterer who is confident doing this themselves. Your vet will check the kitten’s body condition and temperature and see if they have any issues that may impact their ability to drink from a bottle.
3. Prepare the formula and bottle
Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR) powder or liquid is the only milk that you should use to bottle feed a kitten. This contains all the nutrients that a kitten needs and is easy to digest. Follow the guidelines for the brand of KMR that you’ve chosen to use, and make a bottle.
Once opened, liquid or powder KMR should be stored in the refrigerator.
4. Feed your kitten
Now it’s time to feed your kitten! It’s a good idea to have a soft flat surface to place the kitten on, like a table covered with a towel or blanket. Lay the kitten on their belly, and use your hand to gently support their head. With your other hand, offer them the bottle.
As you gently place the nipple of the bottle in your kitten’s mouth, gently tip up the base of the bottle, and the formula should start to flow. You should see the kitten begin to suckle and swallow. Their ears will often twitch as they feed.
Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bottle, as this can cause the kitten to inhale milk rather than swallow it. Allow the kitten to set the pace. If your kitten is wriggly, you can wrap them in a blanket to help hold them still, but make sure you still always feed in a belly-down position. Sometimes, rubbing a kitten’s face can help encourage them to eat, as it feels like their mother cat licking them.
5. Clean your kitten
Once your kitten has finished their bottle, you need to clean them. Wipe any formula that’s spilled on their face with a baby wipe or damp face cloth. If formula is left around your kitten’s face, it can dry in uncomfortable clumps or cause a type of dermatitis that eventually causes the hair to fall out.
After feeding, you’ll also need to stimulate your kitten to poop and pee, which you can do by wiping your kitten’s bottom with a baby wipe or piece of paper towel. Use a circular motion, and wipe any of the poop or pee. Clean your kitten’s bottom with another wipe or paper towel.
6. Place the kitten back in their warm bed
Now that your kitten has a full tummy and has been to the bathroom, they’re probably ready to go back to sleep! Place them into a warm bed, and wait until the next feeding time to do it all over again!
Advice for kittens having trouble latching
If your kitten is having trouble latching onto the bottle, this video has plenty of useful tips for how to get them to drink their formula: