Kittens being raised by a mom is the best way for a kitten to survive and live a healthy life. We take in both social and feral moms. It is important to constantly monitor the new born kittens health as well as mom. Fallow the same guidelines for litter and health as the “Orphan Kittens” section describes. Weigh kittens twice a day unless mom is feral and does not let you handle them. If this is the case it is extremely important to monitor their growth visually.
Using a large crate with a feral mom is a must. Make the crate nice and comfortable. Litterbox, food, and bedding should all be a good distance apart. It is nice to offer a large tub in the crate for mom to hide in and have babies. When the mom and kittens arrive, give them a day to calm down and adjust to their new surroundings. During this time, cover the cage completely with a sheet or blanket to help them feel extra secure. Add safe toys (ones that cannot be chewed and swallowed by kittens) and you’re set! It is extremely important to pull babies from her as often as possible so they get used to human interaction. Mom may be protective of her young, so be careful. Use a glove or towel to remove kittens. Take kittens to a “kitten proof” location to socialize. Do not leave kittens unattended. If this upsets mom to much then do not pull kittens from her. Only pull kittens when they are eating gruel on their own. Then completely separate kittens from mom and continue to feed them gruel as their food source. It is important to make sure that the kittens are eating gruel properly first.
Social & Feral Mom Care
Water, Food: Clean water must be available at all times. Nursing mothers drink a lot! Use bowls that cannot tip. We want to keep the crate as warm and dry as possible.
Dry kibble should be available to Mom at all times. We also advise wet kitten canned food. Once you start weaning your kittens (at about four weeks) you can start introducing gruel kitten food. Food and water bowls should be cleaned daily.
Kittens who do not receive enough milk usually cry constantly and are either restless or extremely inactive. If mother does not appear to be taking care of her kittens then you will need to bottle feed the kittens. Refer to orphan kittens for caring instructions.
At about four weeks of age you’ll notice the kittens starting to become interested in Mom’s food. This is the time to introduce them to solid food.
General Care: Be observant. Several times each day determine: are the kittens and Mom eating, do they appear healthy (eyes and nose clear, alert, etc.), are they using the litter box, do the stools look normal. Stools are a great source of information. Loose or watery stools give you clues to illness. Prompt medical treatment may prevent serious illness. Get to know each individual kitten so you will know when something may be wrong. Always keep the enviroment extremely clean. Kittens have a low immune system and can easily get sick. Change kitten bedding with clean, disinfected bedding at least once a day.
Exercise: Play with your kittens. Use kitty teasers and dangle toys. Also, keep toys in the area so kittens will be able to play when you are busy. Never use your hands as play toys and discourage kittens from biting and scratching. If they are playing inappropriately, redirect their play to toys. NEVER hit or spank a kitten. This just teaches them to fear human hands and can be cruel.
Most canine mothers have a strong maternal instinct and can do a great job of caring for their newborn puppies by themselves. They will know how to keep their newborn puppies warm and well fed, and how to help them with waste elimination and hygiene. However, if the mother dog rejects her pups or cannot product enough milk for them, or you are caring for an orphan, then the puppies will need your help in order to survive and thrive.
Healthy newborn puppies look vibrant and strong, and their gums are pink. A puppy’s eyes should open approximately 10 to 14 days after birth. A newborn puppy’s body weight may double or even triple during the first few weeks, and gaining 10 to 15% of their birth weight daily is considered healthy. The puppies should nurse with enthusiasm, and they often twitch while asleep.
Warning signs include failure to nurse, constant crying, weakness, difficulty breathing, poor weight gain, temperature drop, diarrhea, vomiting, listlessness, sneezing, coughing, and nasal discharge.
It’s also important to monitor hydration in newborn puppies. To do this, gently pinch the skin on the back of the neck into a “tent”. If a puppy is properly hydrated, the skin will go back into place immediately. If the pinched skin stays creased, the puppy is dehydrated and will need to be treated immediately.
Newborn puppies cannot regulate their own body temperature, so guard against chilling by in a warm, draft-free room. The puppies get their best heat from the mom dog. During the first week, a puppy’s normal temperature is between 95-98°F. The pup’s temperature increases gradually each day until four weeks of age, when it should be close to the normal temperature for an adult dog (100.5 to 102.5°F). A large crate lined with soft towels makes a nice bed for newborn puppies and their Mom.
A mother dog’s milk provides everything newborn puppies need nutritionally during their first four weeks of life. Nursing also provides newborn puppies with antibodies to help prevent infections. Usually, weaning will be completed by approximately 6 to 8 weeks of age. (refer to weaning section) As tempting as it is to hold and hug your adorable newborn puppies, it is best for them if you don’t do it more than a few times a day. And when you do, it should be for a very short time (a minute or two at most). Make sure not to upset the mom dog when handling.