Raising Orphaned Kittens – Part 1: Warming & Feeding

Written by Kathy Raepple

Let me start by saying “Thank You” for dedicating your time and effort into saving these precious little lives. Hand raising kittens is a highly demanding, but richly rewarding experience that you and everyone involved will remember fondly for many years.


As soon as you find orphaned kittens you will need to be sure that they are kept fairly warm. Hypothermia (low body temperature) is believed to be one of the leading causes of kitten death. You will want to warm them up slowly. The best method would be to place the kittens against your skin or wrap them in a warm towel.

Once you have warmed the kittens up you will need to make them a “nest.”  A cardboard box or cat carrier tends to work quite well.  Line the box or carrier with several warm blankets. You will also want to have a heat source in the nest. Warm water bottles work quite well for this.  *Always make sure to keep a towel between your heat source and the kittens to prevent accidental burns. *

You will need to ensure that the nest is kept around 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the first couple weeks. Once the kittens are around 3 weeks of age, you can reduce the nest temperature to around 80 degrees. After 5 weeks of age the kittens should be able to regulate their own body temperatures and will be more tolerant to the ambient room temperature.

Important Information:  Limit your heat source to one area in the nest allowing for the kittens to be able to move away from the heat if they are too warm.  Also remember that, the more kittens in the litter, the warmer the “kitten pile” will be just from body heat.  Be sure to always monitor the temperature of the nest to prevent it from being too warm or too cold.


Kittens from newborn to about 2 weeks of age will need to eat about every 2 – 3 hours while older kittens can go 4 – 6 hours in-between feedings.  You will want to purchase a kitten nursing bottle as well as kitten formula (KMR is one of the brands that I have used).

Mix the formula as directed on the packaging.  Make sure to test the temperature of the formula before feeding it to the kittens – you will want to test it the same as you would test a baby bottle – with a drop on your wrist.  Formula that is too hot can burn the kittens while formula too cold can chill the kittens and cause them to become ill.

To properly feed kittens and decrease the chance of them aspirating the milk, place them on a towel belly down and hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle.  You may need to open the kitten’s mouth to insert the nipple of the bottle.  The kitten should latch on and begin suckling the formula.

You will need to be careful not to over feed the kittens – 8 to 10 small meals is better than 2 to 3 larger meals.  If they are eating readily from a bottle, then I generally let them eat as much as they would like –  they tend to know when they’ve had enough and will definitely let you know.

If you have any questions about orphaned kittens or what to do if you find one, please do not hesitate to contact Park Road Veterinary Clinic at 519-759-3031