Q: A friend of mine who is working in Uganda for the summer is looking for some reliable info online about taking care of 4 week old kittens. For instance - she can't get packaged kitten milk there, so what should she feed them? Are there any websites with this info that you trust?
Answered by: Chris Whyle, Behavior Wellness Coordinator
A: Following is a link to a very good site on kitten care, which includes “homemade” recipes for kitten milk replacement.
I’m giving the following suggestions based on the information that the kittens are four weeks of age. At four weeks of age, mother cats begin to introduce dead prey to their kittens, as they’ve developed small teeth and their digestive systems are developed enough to handle this sort of food. Mom cats generally allow kittens at this age to continue nursing for a week or so, but the weaning process starts at four weeks. So introducing canned kitten or adult cat food (unsure if this would be available where your friend is living in Uganda?) would be appropriate, as well as dry kitten food soaked in water until soft, with supplemental feedings of homemade kitten milk replacement (none of the homemade kitten milk replacements are nutritionally complete for long-term feeding, unfortunately).
Cats do not have the enzyme to digest cow’s milk, so feeding this would cause digestive upset, diarrhea, and possible dehydration. Goat’s milk is preferable to cow’s milk, but the best thing, until the kittens are reliably eating canned cat food, would be KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer). KMR and bottle-feeding supplies are available online from Amazon and other sources, and the powder would be the best bet, as it does not need refrigeration until it is opened. I don’t know if your friend would be able to have KMR shipped to her, but if so that would be an option for supplemental feeding until the kittens reach five weeks of age.
Keeping kittens warm is crucial to their survival, as their little bodies are not able to regulate temperature well. At four weeks old they are still developing this ability. Monitoring food intake and elimination is also very important, but at four weeks of age the kittens should be able to pee and poop on their own. Kittens vocalize when they are hungry, and should be fed every time they vocalize.