*Care for kittens with a mother:
The best scenario is when mother and kittens are still together. If all is right mother will take care of their feeding and education. Sometimes she needs a little help, and the kittens will need some extra bottle-feeding. See the last part of the chapter called Delivery. Kittens will drink with their mother untill they're about 6 weeks old, and then they'll turn away from her milk and eat independently. 
There is further information at the bottom of this page, which will also partly apply to kittens wíth a mother. Also there's a growth chart on this site. 

When can kittens leave the litter and why?
The mother will provide the best education and socialization for the kittens. Kittens with a very social mother are usually more balanced and inquisitive. They will learn all about grooming and litterbox-use. They are more obedient and can be corrected. If brothers and sisters are still present, kittens learn how to share and play, and how to groom each other.
Here in the Netherlands it's legally prohibited to separate them before 7 weeks of age, whether they still have a mother or not. Reading about the interaction between mother and siblings, it's easy to understand how important it is to keep them together, and not let them go to another home until they're 12 weeks old.

Leaving the litter is a difficult time for kittens. Taken away from their wellknown environment they'll miss their siblings and mother. This means a lot of stress, which will weaken their immune-system. By placing them in another environment they will have to deal with new germs they have no resistance against. That's why kittens often get sick when they have not been vaccinated. 
We feel it's very important to vaccinate (= 2nd vaccination) before the kittens leave the litter. See to it that you receive a vaccination passport with the 1st vaccination, and have the 2nd vaccination entered in there as well.
Because a vaccination may cause a reaction, especially in times of stress, it would even be better to wait one more week until the 13th week to let a kitten leave. Also let the new care-giver know what food the kitten is used to, and how it is fed, to prevent intestinal problems.

mama Charmin & kids

*Care for kittens without a mother:
It's a worrisome situation when there's no mother to care for the kittens: she may have died, or she may be present but absolutely ignore her babies.

Or: the litter may have been found without a mother. 
If you have found such a litter, please look here at the chapter Dumped Kittens to find out what you should do. In case you have to take the kittens home with you because you can't get help from the Animal Protection Service, here is some information about their care:

    • Small kittens from 0 to 4 weeks old can't eat or drink independently.
    • Just born kittens have to be bottle-fed every 2 hours, day and night
    • The bottle-feeding has to be done with special milk, like KMR or Lactol. It depends on where you are on how you can get this substitute-nursing milk. Ask the vet or a nearby breeder. See Bottle-feeding chapter
    • Attention: don't use regular (cow)milk: it contains too much lactose and causes intestinal problems.
    • At birth a kitten weighs approximately 100 grams. 
    • Kittens have to be kept warm with hotwater bottles or bags. Watch out for hypothermia. See Bottle-feedingchapter. 
    • The umbilical cord falls off by itself between the 3rd and 5th day
    • At birth a kitten can't see nor hear. 
    • Eyes and ears will open between the 9th and 12th day. 
    • The first teeth will appear at around 3 weeks of age.
    • Kittens will start eating independently at around 4 weeks of age. Start with a little Nutrix rice pudding. Bottle-feeding will still be necessary. It may be possible that kittens - like the one in the picture below - will only accept the bottle and not the pudding. Warning: never give Brinta (wheat product) which has too much fiber and can cause diarrhea. Give only easily digestible porridge like Nutrix, mixed with Litterlac, KMR or Lactol.
    • Start litterbox-training at the age of 4 weeks, no matter if there's a mother around or not, because she will often stop licking the kittens clean as soon as the kittens start eating different foods. After every feeding put the kittens in the special small kitten litterbox with the low entry. The litter must be very fine, and absolutely non-clumping. This is important in case a kitten eats some of the litter which may then clump in its digestive system. 
    • When they're 6 weeks old they can start eating dry kitten kibble soaked in some water and Whiskas for kittens. 
© M.A. de Boer 2003-2004. All rights reserved. 
Nothing may be copied in any form without permission of the author who can be contacted via the email-link above.