Bottle-feeding can be one of the most challenging things in raising Bengals (or any animal). Every two hours AROUND the clock (if newborn) for the first week will leave you drained and addled. However the bonding experience and benefit of suckling as naturally as possible on a bottle is very important to the kitten. Suckling improves vigor, as the kitten would normally have to fight for a teat or work at getting their meal by sucking. Also, there is the comfort in suckling/nursing and being caressed/groomed by you, the surrogate mom that will enhance the mental health and socialization of the kitten. It can be rewarding to you as well, It is a wonderful experience to watch them little ears go back and forth as they nurse and to have a content full baby fall asleep in your hands, purring with just a touch of milk dribbling out their mouths! I am hoping these tips below will help you out should you have newborns or latent orphans.
While there are many commercial milk replacers on the market, we have found several to be inferior and or superior. You may have varying results.
And there are many more out there!
When to Bottle-feed
There are many reasons why you might have to bottle feed, the queen is ill, has no milk, is not a good mom, deceased or is absent for one reason or another.
Sometimes there are just too many kits for the queen to care for or one is ill or lagging behind his/her siblings. In these cases a Vet check and a few bottle feedings will generally bring them right around or supplemental feedings of those in need.
There might be a time you will have to take full charge if a surrogate mom is not available. Whatever the reasons if your kitten(s) are orphaned, not gaining, thriving, growing or actively suckling on a real mom, this is where you come in.
VERY IMPORTANT: Never feed a cold or chilled young kitten formula. Be sure the kitten is dry, and body normal temperature, (should feel warm to touch, paw pads, gums should be pink, not blue or pale.) IF you feel the kitten needs a boost give 50/50 warm sugar water a drop at time (don’t hurry just one drop every now and again). As the sucking reflex becomes stronger you can allow the kitten to suckle warm sugar water from bottle until kitten is warm, wiggly and strong. Once the kitten is up to temperature, feisty and crying you can offer formula. The formula should be at about 85-90 degrees.
The best way to warm a chilled kitten is by vigorous rubbing with warm (out of dryer) towels until hair is dry. If kitten still appears chilled your own body heat or someone else’s is best. Heating pads can warm them too quickly or not be adjusted to proper heat for the kitten at this time. Place the kitten under your shirt against your bare tummy skin if you can or have someone else do this if you must assist in further deliveries. In the past and not to embarrass anyone, when I have had no assistance and had to continue delivering kittens, I have placed them in my sports bra (I think you can all figure out where ?). I always wear a sports bra now during deliveries. Guys, I can only say perhaps a vest or a make shift kitten sling that holds them close to your body for warmth.
We like to dilute the formula nearly in half for the first 24 hrs. We have also found that powdered bovine colostrum or fresh goat’s colostrum added to the formula the first week makes strong, fat and healthy babies. If using the powder be careful when doing small batches a couple pinches per 2oz. bottle and small pinch per one cc is all that is needed, (otherwise it becomes so thick it will not flow!) you can experiment with how much to put in with your batches without making it too thick.
It is very important that you observe or stimulate the first fecal which is called meconium. This is very thick and sticky, generally dark brown to nearly black in appearance. This usually happens almost immediately after birth or within the hour of birth. This will tell you that all is well and that what goes in will come out.
Cutting the nipple holes is a bit of a learning experience. Too small of an opening and the kitten can tire itself out trying to suckle. Too large of an opening and the kitten can aspirate or formula just goes everywhere. I like to take a really sharp pair of fine scissors and shove the nipple end to the back of the scissors and then gently cut a small X in the tip of the nipple. I test it with water and see if it flows easily. I apply gentle pressure and the water/formula should readily dribble out. If you get a few drops while held upside down without pressure its about right. If you find your kitten is not getting formula without your assistance, then try to slightly increase the X. I have found that holes such as using as a hot needle just don’t work. You may ruin a few nipples trying but it will be worth the waste.
Once the kitten is warm and dry and crying lustily. it is now time to give formula. Do not use the microwave oven to heat the formula. Use a hot water bath instead. Put the formula in the bottle or syringe and place them in a pan or glass of hot water. If using a syringe make sure the nipple is on it and it is nipple down in the water and the plunger area just above the water.
If the sucking reflex is strong and you have the nipple adequately open, the kitten should be able to suckle on the syringe with little or no troubles pulling the milk out.
I have found however, the first couple feedings it is often necessary to ever so slightly depress the plunger on the syringe or squeeze the bottle. UPMOST CARE must be given to only apply just enough pressure that you are not forcing the formula down the kitten but rather relieving some of the suction pressure. Generally after the first few feedings the kittens are more than strong enough to pull the plunger and suckle from the bottle without anything more than you holding the bottle and kitten.
NEVER feed a kitten on its back. Aspiration can occur if they are fed on their backs. The kitten should always be either on its belly or at a slight head upward angle. As they get older some kittens will stand on their hind feet and be nearly vertical, try to keep them at least 45 degrees.
How much to feed?
this will vary from formula to formula, kitten to kitten, and your schedule.
A good rule of thumb is around 7-8 calories per ounce of body weight. Most formulas are 1 calorie per one ml/cc. So a one week old, 4 oz kitten would require 32 calories a day (24hrs). Divide the number of times you are feeding a day to come up with how much per feeding the kitten should take. Example if you are feeding 6x a day and the kitten is 4oz he should consume a little over 5mls per feeding. Remember not all kittens will require this calorie intake, some may need more, some less. A kitten should double its birth weight by the time it is 9-10 days old, triple in the following 8-12 days, at five weeks should weigh near 1 pound and 10 weeks near two pounds. As long as they are steadily gaining and they do not have diarrhea or are constantly crying you are doing the right thing.
You most certainly can overfeed and this is presented by milk coming through the nose, vomiting, gagging or loose stools. All kittens are different even within a litter as to their consumption. You get ones that might require less amounts more often or some that require more but less often. As long as they are gaining and not overeating you are doing it right. Most litters tend to consume about the same amounts and frequency.
the case of piglets, we like to feed them half as much as they normally
want, put them back and feed the rest. Then allow piglet to have the rest
of his or her allotment.
If you notice loose stools try diluting the formula for several feedings. If the stools do not firm up consult your vet.
How often to feed?
What works for me might not work for you due to your schedule.
I like to feed newborns every 2-3 hours around the clock for at least the first 4-5 days. I then increase the night feedings to every 3-4 hours and continue the 2-3 hour feedings during the day. I slowly increase the time between the feedings day and night depending upon the individual kitten’s needs. As they grow they will of course consume more. The less frequent you feed them, the more they will consume as well. You have to find a balance with your schedule and the kittens needs.
Generally after one week my babies LET ME KNOW they are hungry and I feed them when they want.
Keep logs of how much each kittens takes (don’t have to be exact) and how often you feed, bowel movements, as well as weight gain. You should weigh the kittens at least once a day but twice is nice while in the first week. Weigh at the same time daily. If you notice a drop in weight pay attention it may not be anything. But is an early warning sign. Even stagnant weights should be watched.
Don’t worry too much if the kitten varies from feeding to feeding as to how much it consumes. I have found sometimes they take more and sometimes less. Also don’t worry too much about mild fluctuations in weight gain. It’s the failure to gain in a 12 hour period or a weight loss that should be your heads up.
Stimulating Kittens to potty
It is VERY important to stimulate the kittens after every feeding to urinate and move bowel. I have found that the kittens will urinate ever stimulation, however the bowel movements may be less frequent around 2-3 times in a 12 hours period.
To stimulate a kitten to potty you simply have a warm wet cotton ball or cloth and gently rub in circles the anus and gentiles. It can take as long as five minutes or more to get a kitten to BM. The urine is always first. I generally like to have a bowl of warm water and trash bag near hand and loads of cotton balls! I feed all the kittens first then stimulate them. If a kitten does not BM on a regular basis you might find that it will not consume as much as its littermates. You might notice more crying or distended abdomen. This kitten is apt to be constipated. Sometimes gentile massage to the tummy can assist in BM. If not consult your Vet. Constipation or inability to move bowels can have serious and deadly consequences.
How to Identify Kittens for charting
large litters or similar looking kittens it is hard to distinguish whom
is whom until they are older. There are many ways to identify the kittens
safely for charting growth.
If you use string be sure that its snug but not to snug and also check it frequently as the kittens grow quickly. Be sure they cannot get caught or hung up an anything in the pen or incubator. Believe it or not the permanent marker is not all that permanent and will probably have to be reapplied regularly, especially if you are only supplementing and the queen has access to the kittens. For older kittens, you can use colored velcro tie downs. You can also order plastic ID tags or write on tags though revivalanimal.com.
If kittens suckle on one another
It is not uncommon for littermates to suckle on each other. Though I have found it rare with kittens that have not suckled on a queen before, rather it is more common in kittens that are older and have had the luxury of constant suckling on mom’s teat.
They will often suckle ears, tails, toes and genitals. This can lead to damage to these extremities. Suckling the genitals, as you can imagine can cause the kitten to ingest urine and fecal material thus causing the kittens to become sick and the genital region to become swollen and raw.
If you notice them suckling on one another it will be important to separate them. You can either do this with card-board slats if they are in a large box or incubator or you can remove them to individual boxes or incubators.
Extra care will have to be given to assure proper temperatures are maintained and drafts minimized, as they will no longer be able to huddle in a group for warmth. Likewise extra attention should be given to each kitten while feeding as they no longer have each other for comfort either.
Temperature and heating
Newborns cannot regulate their own body heat for the first couple weeks of life. It is necessary that you provide the controlled temperature. Newborns require around body temperature 90-95 degrees F during the first week of life. The second week you can adjust it to 85-90 degrees until five weeks, then 70-75 for six weeks and up.
There are several ways you can maintain temperature for your newborns, such as lights, hot water bottles and heating pads.
Lights are okay but not as effective and can be not enough or too much heat and a little awkward to implement safely in the nursery box. A 75-100 watt bulb can be used to heat a specific area of the box. You should determine the height by experimenting with a thermometer. Placement of the light should be away from the sides so they do not get to hot and combust or melt. I do not like using heat lamps as they are just too hot to be safe in this situation.
Hot water bottles or jars, work just fine, but require constant attention and refilling to maintain temperature. These are best used in emergency situations. You can buy fish aquarium stick-on thermometers for glass or plastic jugs. The water bottles or jars should be wrapped in a towel or cloth before placing in the nursery.
Heating pads if used correctly and monitored, can be quite safe and effective. I like to place the heating pad in the bottom of the nursery for the first couple of weeks. When the kittens reach an age where chewing on the cord becomes an issue, I place the heating pad underneath the nursery. I put a towel down first, the heating pad and then another towel, then the nursery. It is important to check the surface temperature with a thermometer. Put as many layers as it takes over the heating pad until desired surface temperature is achieved. Never use a heating pad on any setting other than LOW. Be sure that the nursery is large enough that if the kittens should become too warm they can crawl off the heating pad to a cooler area. I find that even after a couple days old the kittens are more than able to move about the nursery in such a fashion, moving from warm to cool areas.
I also like to add a stuffed animal to the nursery for small litters or single kittens. They do in fact curl up next to the stuffed animals. I think it gives them some security and added warmth.
Housing and incubators
Newborns should not be exposed to other cats or kittens. Care must be given to keep the temperature at a constant and that the temperature is appropriate for the age of the kitten.
They should not be exposed to drafts. This being said, you can choose what will work for you.
If the kittens are in a room where they are not exposed to other cats. A plastic or cardboard box with a lid/cover or a carrier will do nicely. If you use a carrier, be sure to cover it with a towel to keep the temperature in and the drafts out. If using a box be sure there are some air exchange holes on the top of the sides or the lid (a few pencil sized holes should do). If you use the Rubbermaid ™ containers as birthing boxes these also make excellent nurseries, as long as no other cats have access to them.
I like to use a Plexiglas “incubator”. I want to see what my babies are doing at a glance. It is ideal for maintaining temperature, keeping out the drafts and exposure from other cats. With very little skill at all, one can be made at home.
This incubator is two foot long, 20 inches deep and 15 inches tall. It is all Plexiglas with wood frame. I have a Plexiglas top for when they are very young and a wood and wire top for when they are older. The vertical thin strips you see are for segregating the incubator if kittens are sucking on one another. We have air holes drilled along the upper sides and lid.
Feeding older kittens
older kittens that have had to be pulled from their moms, is just as challenging
as feeding newborns. These little guys can often get a real attitude at
dinner time! They will fight, scream, claw and bite down on the nipple
instead of sucking. The milk smells and tastes different and the nipple
is certainly not mom’s teat and you are NOT mom!
They are not being aggressive in a sense, but merely hungry and confused. I find that dipping the nipple in the milk before trying to insert it in their mouths can help. If they are clawing too much you can try to trim them wee little nails or wrap them in a cloth.
You will need to weigh these guys as well to ensure proper intake and growth.
As the kittens activity level goes up so the calorie intake goes up. But they typically do not need to be feed as frequently as newborns.
have been able to teach kittens as young as 3 weeks to drink formula from
kittens not yet started on solid food will still require some stimulation
have found that most of my little ones will begin to chew on kibble as
early as 3-4 weeks. Therefore, we like to start placing a bowl of kitten
kibble in the nursery with them at this age. We also supply a very shallow
dish of water when introducing kibble.
Vaccines for Orphans
We also recommend, that all kittens raised from birth (not having natural colostrum) be given a bivalent vaccine at 4 and 8 weeks of age. This is an intranasal/intraocular vaccine for herpes and calici. One vial will dose 5 kittens. Put only one drop in each eye and each nostril.
NOT feed a chilled kitten formula or food.
NOT feed a kitten hot or cold formula
NOT force formula into the kitten. Aspiration may occur.
NOT feed a kitten on its back, aspiration may occur.
NOT forget to stimulate your kitten to potty.
NOT allow your kitten(s) to become chilled or overheated.
NOT overfed your kittens
NOT underfeed your kittens.
NOT allow your kittens exposure to other cats or kittens.
This is a good recipe for kittens that need to put on weight or as a weaning formula. It also works pretty well as an ER formula for orphans. Some breeders also give a teaspoon or so to their lactating queens or queens in need of a boost.
packet Knox ™ unflavored gelatin
Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in gelatin until dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Take out only what you think you will need for each feeding and warm it in a hot water bath, no micro-waving please! Do not return any of the unused formula to the main supply.
This formula will generally last about 72+ hours. It will set up to a gelatin like consistency hence the name GLOP. You can freeze in ice trays and then put into plastic zip lock bags for longer preservation in freezer.
consult your Veterinarian about what to do with newborns or orphans.
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