Hand Raising Orphan Kittens

Hand raising orphan kittens can be challenging and takes dedication. However, the reward you gain from watching these little babies grow up and blossom into their individual personalities is absolutely incredible.

It is a good idea to determine how old the kittens are before you start feeding them. Kitten’s eyes typically don’t open till about the 14-day mark.


You will need to provide a warm, safe “den” for the kittens. Young kittens are unable to regulate their own body temperature during the first few weeks of their life, so using a heating pad or warming blankets is a good idea.  Avoid placing their home near heating or cooling ducts. Their bedding will need to be changed frequently as it may get soiled quickly.


The kittens will need to eat every couple hours for the first couple weeks. I would recommend picking up some Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR) from your local veterinarian. You may either use a nursing bottle or a syringe to feed the kittens. Do not feed them on their backs, like human babies. It is best to feed them while they are on their stomachs. When using a syringe for feedings, ensure not to feed them too fast as this may cause asphyxiation. The kittens will generally stop feeding when their stomach is full.

Around the age of 3 -4 weeks, you may start mixing some wet kitten food in with the milk replacer, and they will eventually start lapping it off of a plate. At this point, the feedings will not need to be so regular.  Feedings can start to be about 4 times a day, tapering off as they get older. Once they are eating wet food well on their own, you can introduce them to dry food.


In the first weeks of life, kittens normally rely on their mother to keep up their hygiene. Since you are now taking over the roll as their mother, you will be responsible for stimulating the kittens. You can use a warm, wet paper towel/gauze to gently massage or wipe the anal and urinary openings. Your kitten should immediately urinate and or defecate. Dry the kitten after each time, and be gentle so you do not irritate the anal area.

As the kittens get older and more mobile and exploratory, you can provide a low-sided cardboard box with a small amount of litter for the kittens to get used to. It is generally instinct for them to scratch in something for their elimination habits. They should start to urinate and defecate on their own around the age of 3 weeks.

It is a good idea to get the kittens checked out as soon as possible with your local veterinarian and follow regular deworming and vaccination protocols.

Written by Morinville Veterinary Clinic