How to Bottle-Feed a Newborn Kitten

Om Feeding
Kellinahandbasket/Creative Commons/Flickr

Nutrition in the first several days is critical to the survival of a newborn kitten. Follow these step-by-step instructions for bottle-feeding a newborn kitten, including precautions to take, helpful tips, and the follow-through "cleanup job," including stimulation of the bowels and urinary tract, and you will be a competent surrogate cat mother in no time.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 10 to 20 minutes several times a day

Here's How:

  1. Prepare your supplies. Sterilize the kitten-sized baby bottles and nipples in a boiling water bath for about 5 minutes. Cool before using. Place a large towel, a rough-textured washcloth and a bowl of warm water on a table next to a comfortable chair.
  2. Fill the bottle with desired amount (see tips) of commercial kitten milk replacement such as KMR, or an emergency formula if you can't get to a pet food store right away. Warm the formula by placing the bottle in a bowl of very hot water, then test it against your forearm. It should be 95° to 100° F, or approximately body temperature. Test the nipple to ensure the flow is just right.
  3. Sit in the chair with the towel folded in your lap. Place the kitten prone (face down) on your lap. Make sure the kitten is warm before feeding. Feeding formula to a cold kitten can cause serious digestive problems. Without raising the kitten's head, place the nipple in his mouth. He should start nursing right away. If all goes well, let him continue nursing until finished. Do not overfeed.
  1. If the kitten does not start nursing right away, or if he seems to have trouble getting the milk, check the nipple again. It should not drip milk when held upside down but should drip given a small amount of pressure. It may also be helpful to stroke his head or gently pet his back to start his nursing reflexes, but once he gets the idea, he will nurse readily.
  1. Much like human babies, kittens may need "burping" after nursing. This is best accomplished by holding one hand under his abdomen and gently patting his upper back. Not too hard - you don't want him to vomit. If he doesn't burp right away, go to step #6.
  2. The mother cat will stimulate her kitten's elimination by licking his anus and genital area with her rough tongue. You can emulate this process with a warm, damp, rough washcloth or dampened a paper towel. It may take a couple of feedings to see results, so don't despair if he doesn't defecate right away. Urinating may take a bit longer.
  3. Your kitten will want to sleep after nursing, so put him back into his bed to let him sleep undisturbed.
  4. Your newborn kitten will need approximately 1.1 oz.(32 cc) of formula a day, divided into 9-12 feedings a day, depending on his size and condition. Count on feeding him every two hours or so, around the clock, for starters. Yes, it's a demanding job, but intensely rewarding to watch your newborn develop and grow.


  1. In a pinch, if you can't get kitten baby bottles, an eye dropper will do. Be very careful to drop only a very small amount on the kitten's tongue to avoid aspiration of the formula into his lungs.
  1. Weigh your kitten every day, on a food scale covered with a clean cloth. He should gain 1/2 oz. ever day for about the first two weeks.
  2. Buy several bottles and nipples, then sterilize and fill a number of them at once, and refrigerate. Warm as needed, following the directions above.
  3. Proper positioning of the kitten is critical. Raising his head may cause aspiration of the formula into the kitten's lungs, which could be fatal.

What You Need:

  • Commercial Milk Replacer
  • Nursing Bottles & Nipples
  • Soft towels
  • Coarse wash rag
  • Paper Towels
  • Kitchen Scale