How to Care for a Sick Kitten

There will come a time in every cat breeder’s career when they will need to care for a sick kitten. It’s a very scary and humbling experience to have the life of a little kitten in the palm of your hands. With young kittens, especially neonatals (0 -14 days old), the most important part is being able to recognize that you have a sick kitten. Then, having a protocol in place to start a treatment plan in an effort to help with the symptoms until the kitten is feeling better.

In Episode 13 of Cat Breeder Sensei Says, you’ll learn how to identify the first signs of a sick kitten, and then hear some tips on how to implement a treatment plan on your own.

Weigh Your Kittens Every Day

When your kittens are born, start a weight chart for each one. Weigh them at birth, and then every day after that for at least the first 14 days. A kitten should gain about half an ounce every day. Weigh the kitten around the same time every day to follow a routine. Write the weights down for each kitten in the litter and monitor them for gains. Once they’re out of the neonatal stage and are doing well with weight gain, you can weigh them once per week.

If your kitten does not gain weight for one day, do no panic. Weigh him again at the same time the next day and check his weight. If he gains weight on the second day, everything is fine. If he stays the same weight or loses weight, then you need to start checking for troubles.

Signs of a Sick Kitten

It’s important to be able to how to tell if a kitten is sick. After you’ve experienced the behavior of a litter of kittens from birth until they go home, you’ll know how they normally act. Knowing the signs of a sick kitten will help you react in a quicker more proactive way.

sick kitten

Weight loss: One of the first signs of a sick kitten is weight loss. This isn’t always an indicator, however. Weight loss can be caused from lack of milk supply or a negligent Queen.

Fever: A normal temperature for a kitten is between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Rectal thermometers will always give the most accurate results. The digital ear thermometers that are made for humans also work great in kittens. If you see your kitten shivering, this could indicate a fever. Additionally, if the Queen senses a fever in her kitten she will wash the kitten more than normal. You may find the kitten more wet than usual. This is how the mom helps to reduce the fever in her young.

Vomiting: Vomiting in a kitten, especially a young kitten that hasn’t left the nest yet, is an indicator that he’s not feeling well. There can be various reasons for vomiting in your kitten.

Diarrhea: Since the kittens can’t use the bathroom on their own, the Queen will toilet the kittens. She does this for about the first 4 weeks of their life. You may see light poop in the nest, but it shouldn’t be excessive. The Queen will keep her area clean. If you notice liquid, runny, or watery diarrhea or odd-colored poop (white, bloody, black), then you may have a sick kitten.

How to Take Care of a Sick Kitten

NOTICE: Always consult with a veterinarian if you are uncertain about the treatment plan for any kitten. These are only suggestions, and may not be the right one for your kittens!

sick kitten

Supplementing with Kitten Formula: Any time your kitten is not gaining weight, you can supplement his nutrition with kitten formula. There are several brands of milk made just for kittens. Keep some on hand in the event of an emergency. Never feed a kitten cow’s milk. They do not digest that well. It doesn’t provide the nutrition your kitten needs.

Heating Disc: Make sure that you are keeping your kitten warm. He is unable to regulate his own body temperature for about 3 weeks. If he doesn’t seem warn enough, a kitten warming disc placed in the nest will offer some warmth. Be sure to lay the disc underneath a baby blanket or t-shirt to make sure that it’s not too hot.

Antibiotics: If your kitten is feeling sick, an antibiotic treatment may be necessary to treat or prevent any secondary infections that are present. Clavamox drops are usually the antibiotics of choice for small kittens. Clavamox is only available through a prescription from your vet. Talk to your vet about allowing you to have some on hand. It can be kept in the refrigerator when you are expecting a litter of kittens.

Slippery Elm Bark: This is a very safe and non-toxic natural supplement that is used to treat upset stomach, constipation and diarrhea. Typically, the dose is 1/4 teaspoon of slippery elm bark per 10 pounds of cat. The dose for a baby kitten will be only a fraction of that, or a pinch if you will. Consult with your veterinarian to get the recommended dose for kittens.

Sub-Q Fluids: (subcutaneous) Kittens with diarrhea and/or vomiting are highly prone to dehydration. You or your vet can administer fluids to the kitten to rehydrate him. The fluid is deposited into space under the skin. Watch the video below to learn how to administer Sub-Q fluids to your kitten.

Viruses aren’t the only thing that can come up with your kittens, listen to this podcast to learn more about Trupanion Pet Insurance and how they might be able to help cover more unexpected things!

Cat Breeder Sensei was created to start a POSITIVE Movement in the Pedigree Cat Breeder Community! We want the next generation of breeders to have more knowledge, more insight, and be more helpful to their peers. Join us in celebrating the fascinating world of breeding Pedigree cats and spread the word that WE WILL NOT ACCEPT NEGATIVITY. <3

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