One other thing you will need to do, since mom isn’t there to clean up after the kittens, is to stimulate the kittens to eliminate waste during or after each feeding. You can accomplish this by using a warm, wet paper towel to gently massage the anal and urinary openings. Your kitten should immediately urinate and/or defecate. Afterward, gently pat the area dry to avoid irritation and infection.
As the kittens get older and more mobile and exploratory, you can provide a low-sided cardboard box with a small amount of litter for the kittens to get used to. It is generally instinct for them to scratch in something for their elimination habits. Once they start urinating and passing stool on their own (generally by 3 weeks of age), you will be able to give up that particular job of assisting them.
Some things to monitor over the course of the next few weeks are appetite, activity level, and growth. You will need to call the veterinarian if a kitten won’t eat or stops eating. Bathroom habits should be predictable, and you should talk to your veterinarian if urinating or defecating changes, or if the kitten’s attitude or activity level also changes. Other health concerns include upper respiratory infections that create sneezing and eye and nose discharge.
Many times the eyes will get so much discharge, the eyelids will gum up and stick together. Wet a cotton ball with warm water and hold it on the eyes for a few seconds to moisten the discharge. Then, very gently wipe one to two times to remove the softened crust and open up the eyes until you can contact your veterinarian.
A number of different parasites are a concern and can weaken a young kitten. Your veterinarian should treat fleas, mites, lice, and intestinal parasites. Don’t use over-the-counter medications without consulting your veterinarian since very young kittens may not be able to tolerate some of these products.
Many types of problems can be determined at the time of the first visit. Your veterinarian may suggest that you drop off a stool sample at 4 weeks of age to check for intestinal parasites.
By 6 weeks of age, kittens should be well on their way to eating, drinking, and exploring on their own and be quite the entertainment focus. Have your veterinarian check them over, and discuss vaccination recommendations. Depending on the veterinarian, vaccinations will be started between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Also, viral testing will likely be run to rule out feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus.
Oh, and good luck giving them up to new owners. It will be very difficult to let these little orphan kittens go off to their new homes without you.
Image: Vladimer Shioshvilli / via Flickr
Any type of arachnid excluding ticks
Small, wingless insects that live as parasites on humans and some animals
Low amounts of glucose in the blood
A medical condition in which the body has lost fluid or water in excessive amounts
An increase in the number of bad white blood cells