The not so fun, and often times little known, part of raising very young kittens is that they are unable to do many things on their own. Besides eating, there are things like burping, urinating & defecating. They will rely on you for this for several weeks before they have the ability to do it on their own.
Once the kitten has taken a break from nursing you will need to burp him. You can either lift him up to your shoulder like a human baby or hold him upright in one hand while burping him with the other. I’ve found the latter to be easier for me, but others have had more success the other way.
A lot like human babies, you don’t always hear them burp, but will feel them do it instead. Most kittens will be ready to resume nursing once they have burped.
Before and after every feeding you will need to help the kitten to release his bladder and bowels. Normally, when he is with his mother, she would lick him to stimulate this process – however, we generally do not recommend this method when the kitten is being hand raised.
You will want to use a soft cloth or gauze and warm water for this process. Using the warm, wet cloth or gauze, gently stimulate the genital area. The kitten will normally start urinating almost immediately, but may take a bit more stimulation to release his bowels. His urine should be a normal yellow color with little to no odor. His bowels should be a normal consistency and color.
If you notice any signs of constipation (ie, excess vocalization with stimulation, straining/pushing with little to no progress, etc.) then you will need to consult your veterinarian. If you notice the kitten having soft stools or diarrhea, then a visit to the vet is needed. Diarrhea is never normal and can be life threatening for a young kitten.
You will want to try to record everything that is going on with your kitten – from how much he is eating and how often, to when he eliminates & defecates. Using a premade chart or table that has space for recording information as well as notes is always a great idea to have. Some of the ready made charts are for just one kitten while others have space for a full litter of kittens. Some people also find it easier to just chart everything in a notebook.
Whichever method works for you is perfectly acceptable, but remember to be consistent about everything you record – from amount eaten to temperature to eliminations. Nothing is “unimportant” to record so feel free to record as much (or as little) as you feel comfortable and that is relevant to you for your kittens health and well-being.
And remember, if you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact your Brantford veterinary team for help – that is what we are here for.