If you catch sight of one or several kittens without a mother around, they are not necessarily orphan or abandoned. The mother cat might be hunting.
If the kittens are quiet, clean and plump, watch them from a distance until you are sure the mother comes back. However, if they are dirty, skinny and if they cry and look disoriented; it means their mother does not want to or cannot take care of them.
Abandoned kittens cannot survive by themselves
You can choose to contact an organization or shelter that will take care of them; or you can do it yourself and try to save their lives.
You have just found an abandoned kitten and chosen to take care of them. Then, carefully read our advice.
Check the kitten's health and determinate their age.
Every step of a kitten's growth has specific needs. To take care of them the best you can, you need to know how old they are. To do so, we seriously recommend that you take them to the vet. They will be able to tell you how old they are and to determinate if they're in good health or not. They will check on their temperature, hydratation level, nutrition level and if they have parasites.
Taking care of a new born kitten (from 1 day to 4 weeks)
If the kitten is younger than 4 weeks old, they are weaker and will need a lot of attention.
At this age, kittens are not able to regulate their temperature themselves. You will need to make sure that their temperature stays at 35,5°C. Below 35°, is very dangerous for them. Set them up with a cosy and warm place with blankets, away from draughts, in a room with the heating system on. Use heating carpets and lamps to raise the temperature very close to them at 32°C.
You will also need to feed this little baby cat. Buy artificial mother's milk from a veterinarian. Usually, they come with a bottle and teat. The quantity you are supposed to give the kitten will be detailed on the bottle, but don't be surprised if you need to give a lot of milk very often (a bottle every two hours for the newborn cats). When they are with the mother, kittens suckle very often. Use patience to bottle feed a baby cat, it's is the only way to nourish them during the first month of their life.
Have you ever wandered why a mother cat constantly licks her young? To keep them clean. But not only for this reason. She is also licking their anal and genital zones in order to stimulate and clean them. If she doesn't, the kittens won't be able to relieve themselves and might die. With a wet gauze of cotton wool, gently rub these zones. Naturally, your kitten will start to relieve themselves. To clean all of their body, use a just wet face flannel once a day. Be careful not to use a flannel too wet or too cold and decrease their body temperature.
The fourth important thing to do with an orphan kitten is too check their weight. On average, a kitten weighs 90 to 100 grams when they are born. Below 75 grams, they will be very weak and might not survive. In good conditions, a kitten gains 5 to 10 grams a day. Use a kitchen scale to weigh your kitten daily. If they don't gain any weight for 2 days in a row, consult a veterinarian.
After the 4 difficult first weeks, your kitten will start to become autonomous and will start their weaning.
Taking care of a kitten older than 4 weeks
First of all, you won't need to artificially regulate your kitten's temperature: they will be able to do it themselves!
Then, it will be time to introduce your kitten to their litter! Be patient at the beginning if they miss the litter. Make sure that the litter box's edges are not too high and if it's a closed litter box, take off the door.
Your kitten will also starts exploring the world by themselves!
To finish, it will be time for the most important step of their growth: weaning! Weaning is the time when your kitten stops drinking mother's milk and starts eating solid food. To help your kitten get used to solid food, mix kibbles with their milk so that they can learn how to masticate. Then, gradually decrease the milk proportion until they are able to eat dry kibbles, around their 5th or 6th week. Because your kitten is weaker, use high quality kibbles specially made for baby cats.
Keep checking your kitten's weight regularly and don't forget to plan their vaccines and deworming.
If in spite of your efforts the kitten don't make it, no need to blame yourself. You had the courage to try the best you could to save a defenseless animal.