I have bottle and syringe fed more kittens than I care to admit. I’ve had feeding issues, lost kittens to “failure to thrive” syndrome, I have cried more tears than I can count. I would love to tell you there is ONE magic way to feed all kittens, but there isn’t. All kittens are different and there is no real substitute for “Mom”. BUT, along the way, I have learned some tips and tricks. I am going to take some time to share these with you all. I hope some, or at least one of them help you.
This is a great video. This is ingenious. I have never tried it, but I can only imagine this mimics mom and surely could not hurt.
The best nipples I have ever found are “Wildlife” nipples or “MIracle Nipples”. I buy them online and prices can vary wildly, but they are generally around $5.00 each and worth every penny. The one below is shown on a 1Ml syringe, but these will also fit on standard nursing bottles. It takes a bit of skill to get the nipple in the ring, but the end result is worth the work.

Formulas

I personally like KMR stages One and Two for newborn and weaning kittens. I am absolutely not a fan of the regular PetAg or the Hartz as I have had major issues with them causing diarrhea. Diarrhea, as you will learn, and as some of you may already know, is a killer in tiny kittens.

Feeding

Do not feed cow’s milk to kittens, as it does not have the proper nutrition for them. Cow’s milk will also cause diarrhea, a possibly life-threatening condition for young kittens. Only feed your kittens an approved kitten formula. Hoskins, a homemade formula, is ideal. You may also use KMR, a powdered commercial formula. The recipe for Hoskins and instructions for mixing KMR are below.

Hoskins formula

3 oz. goat’s milk
3 oz. water
4 oz. plain full-fat yogurt
3 egg yolks
The formula will be good for about 48 hours if refrigerated. If the formula has been left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours, it must be discarded.

 

KMR powdered formula

Use 1 part formula to 2 parts water. A part is whatever you are using to measure with. For example, if you’re using a tablespoon for measuring, this would mean 1 tablespoon of powdered KMR and 2 tablespoons of water.

Formula that has been in the refrigerator must be warmed to just above room temperature. Place the bottle in a bowl of shallow water, then heat in the microwave for 10 seconds. Or you may place the bottle in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. If mixing up fresh KMR powder formula, use warm water. Before feeding the kittens, always test the temperature of the formula by placing a few drops on your inner wrist to be sure it is not too hot. Always wash your hands well with soap and water before and after feeding the kittens. Bottles should be cleaned thoroughly before each use.

Never feed a kitten on his back. The kitten should be on his stomach in a position similar to how he would lay next to his mother to nurse. You may try holding the kitten upright swaddled in a warm towel or have the kitten lay on a towel in your lap. Experiment with what position works best for you and the kitten.

Turn the bottle upside down and allow a drop of formula to come out. Place the bottle nipple in the kitten’s mouth and gently move it back and forth, holding the bottle at a 45-degree angle to keep air from getting into the kitten’s stomach. This movement should encourage the kitten to start eating. If at first, you don’t succeed, wait a few minutes and try again. Usually, the kitten will latch on and begin to suckle. If the bottle appears to be collapsing, gently remove the nipple from the kitten’s mouth and let more air return to the bottle.

Allow the kitten to suckle at his own pace. If a kitten refuses to suckle, try stroking the kitten’s back or gently rubbing her on her forehead. This stroking is similar to momma cat’s cleaning and it may stimulate the kitten to nurse. If this doesn’t work, try rubbing some Karo Syrup on the kitten’s lips. If the kitten still doesn’t want to nurse, contact your medical staff immediately.

Never attempt to feed a kitten who is chilled because it can have serious health consequences. Try warming the kitten as described above. If you are unable to warm the kitten, contact your medical staff immediately.

A kitten should eat about 8 milliliters (mls) of formula per ounce of body weight per day. For example, a kitten who weighs 4 ounces should eat about 32 mls of formula per day. To determine how much to give at each feeding, divide the total amount of formula per day by the number of feedings. For example, if you’re going to feed 32 mls per day and do 7 feedings per day (approximately every three hours), that would mean giving 4.5 mls per feeding.

Nursing bottles are marked with measurements, so it’s easy to know how much you’re feeding the kittens. Please note that some bottles use ml for measurement, some use cubic centimeters (cc). They are the same: 1 cc = 1 ml.

Using a kitchen or small postal scale, weigh the kittens daily to calculate the amount of formula they need. Keep a log listing daily weights and amount of formula consumed at each feeding.

Newborn kittens, up to 1 week old, should be fed every 2-3 hours; by 2 weeks old, every 4-6 hours. Once they are 3 weeks old, they can be fed every 4 to 6 hours. Continue to follow the rule of 8 mls of formula per ounce of body weight per day, as described above, to determine the amount of food the kitten should be eating.

If you are feeding multiple kittens, feed the first kitten until he stops nursing, then begin feeding the next kitten, and so on. Once you have fed all the kittens, feed the first kitten again and repeat with all the kittens. Usually, one to three nursing turns will suffice. When a kitten stops nursing, he/she has had enough. Do not overfeed the kittens because it can cause loose stools and diarrhea. A well-fed kitten’s belly should be round, but not hard and distended. Smaller or weaker kittens may eat less per feeding and will need to be fed more often.

Kittens need to be burped, just like human babies. Lay the kitten on his stomach, on your shoulder or in your lap, and very gently pat his back until you hear a little burp. You may need to burp a couple times per feeding.

Young kittens may suckle on each other. This is a normal thing, but make sure they aren’t damaging the fur or skin of the littermate they are suckling on. If the suckling is causing problems, you should separate the kittens.