Kitten care

An easy-to-follow guide to caring for your kittens

Essential kitten care

Learn how you can help the queen care for her kittens and make sure your cats get the nutrition and veterinary care they all need before they find a new home.

How to care for your kittens

Kittens are delightful little bundles of curiosity. They're also fragile creatures that rely on their mothers for intense care during their first few weeks.

These pages will help you know what to expect - and when to call your vet.

Feeding kittens

Kittens should suckle from their mother (also known as the queen) until they are three to four weeks old.

It's very important that kittens feed from their mother soon after birth - ideally within the first two hours. This is because kittens need the queen's first milk, known as colostrum, which contains antibodies that will protect the kittens from disease. If any of your kittens do not receive colostrum, call your vet.

See below for a guide to weaning kittens when they reach three to four weeks of age.

See also: Care of newborn kittens

Veterinary care for kittens

Talk to your vet about the following treatments for your kittens:

Flea and worming treatments - may be recommended for kittens as young as two days old, depending on the risk to the kittens and any treatment the queen had during pregnancy.

Vaccinations - The protection provided by the queen's colostrum fades when the kittens are eight to nine weeks old, leaving them vulnerable to disease. So ask your vet when the kittens can start a course of vaccinations.

Neutering - The queen can be neutered while she is still with or feeding the kittens as long as the surgical wound will not be affected by enlarged mammary glands. Fortunately the spay wound will normally be on her side. You do not need to wait until her milk has dried up, though it is usually best to wait until the kittens are no longer dependent on her and neuter her when the kittens are around eight weeks old. The queen can get pregnant again as early as one or two weeks after giving birth, so it is sensible to get her neutered promptly.

The kittens should be neutered when they're around four months old. If neutering is not carried out by then, you should separate males from females and the queen to prevent in-breeding. Ask your vet if you need help sexing the kittens.

Rehoming - Ask your vet when is the right time to rehome the kittens. This will depend on their behavioural development as well as the risk of disease. If possible, do not separate the kittens from the queen until at least eight weeks of age, unless your vet recommends this.

See also - Fleas, Worms, Vaccinations, Neutering, Rehoming

Weaning kittens

Weaning can begin at three to four weeks of age but will take several weeks.

  • start with a diluted kitten milk in a shallow bowl. Always follow the product's instructions carefully to ensure the correct amount and dilution is used and at the right temperature. Place a small amount on the kitten's mouth to encourage them to drink directly from the bowl. Offer this several times a day
  • add a small amount of wet kitten food to the milk over time
  • gradually increase the ratio of food to milk until the kitten is eating solid food
  • this process should happen gradually over three to four weeks while the kittens continue to suckle, until they are feeding freely
  • monitor each kitten during this time to make sure they are eating well

Separating kittens from the queen

It's important to separate the kittens from the queen when they're ready. Don't separate them before they reach eight weeks of age, as they will still be learning from their mum.

  • once the kittens are fully weaned, it is a good idea to allow the queen to gradually spend time apart from the kittens each day to allow her milk to dry up
  • you may need to gradually separate the kittens from the queen so that her mammary glands do not become engorged
  • the queen may try to mother something else, such as a cuddly toy, if you try to take the kittens away too soon
  • behavioural issues may arise if you separate kittens from their queen and litter mates too early - for example the retention of juvenile behaviours such as kneading or suckling may be seen in cats separated before eight weeks of age

Rehoming kittens

You'll need to find new homes for the kittens, and owners who will provide for them and have them neutered.

Kittens can be rehomed singly or in pairs, but if homed singly, make sure the new owners will be able to provide sufficient stimulation.

If homed in pairs, ensure the new owners will provide separate beds, bowls and toileting areas for the kittens in case they choose to live separate lives when they are older.

Related topics

Care of newborn kittens - Topic

Hand-rearing kittens - Topic