Hand rearing 5 abandoned kittens

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Skarda

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Sooo... I investigated the egg thing (also having known someone who got typhoidal salmonella here, but not whether it came from eggs, meat, or just unwashed hands).

It turns out 5% of eggs in Thailand are contaminated if the hens haven't been vaccinated. Since I don't whether I'm getting eggs from vaccinated hens, that seems quite a high number. That's 1 in 20 eggs! I will be more careful with raw eggs for myself going forward. I (and most people here) eat a lot of soft boiled eggs and sunny side up eggs. I don't know if that's still an issue.

Re: Kitten milk powder, I'm doing 1:3, and it seems to be going well. They're gaining weight, and they seem to have a good appetite. Thanks, guys, so much for your support in doing this. I'm not a cat owner (I was as a child, but that was a long time ago), but I couldn't watch these kittens die after the mom abandoned them at our house. Plus, my kids are very excited about these little kittens!

Another question... Right now, they're spending the day pretty much in their nest. I take them out to feed them, stimulate them, clean them, and give them some quick cuddles, but mostly their day is spent inside a cardboard box. That's been to protect them and make sure they stay warm enough.

However, I'm realizing at three weeks, I will introduce them to the litterbox. So I'm wondering what's between now and then (I'm estimating they're around 9-10 days old). They're beginning to open their eyes and crawl around on their hind legs as well. I'm still afraid of their body temperature dropping (though honestly in the afternoon, that's probably not much of a risk given how hot it is here), but how much should I begin to offer them supervised time to explore their environment? When does that start?

And another question... I've been feeding them with a syringe, because I couldn't find a kitty bottle originally. I've tried since to get them on the bottle, but none of them took to it at all. I can't get them to take any milk that way, so we're sticking to the syringe, which is working. BUT... again, at three weeks, I'm supposed to start introducing wet solids, right? So, between now and then... am I supposed to start moving them from the syringe to... dishes? If so, when? How? I don't know what I'm doing, and I'm not finding answers on Google.

Again, I really don't know what I'm doing, but I will do my best.
 

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Kittens pretty much stay in the nest until they're old enough to climb out themselves. You could give them some time crawling around on a blanket if you want, but it's not necessary. You'll know when they want to explore more, lol. Speaking of that, do you have a rabbit cage or puppy playpen or anything else you plan to keep them in when they get older?

You don't have to transition them to a dish until they start eating solids. Even after that, you might want to keep giving them some milk in the syringe to minimize future problematic suckling behavior.
 

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Kittens really do not wean to soft foods until 5-6 weeks, and then begin using the litter box once they are eating and have solid poops. Kittens without a mom will often wean earlier though.

Here are a couple of helpful videos:


 
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Skarda

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Kittens really do not wean to soft foods until 5-6 weeks, and then begin using the litter box once they are eating and have solid poops. Kittens without a mom will often wean earlier though.

Here are a couple of helpful videos:


Those videos were super helpful! Thank you so much!
 
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Skarda

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Kittens pretty much stay in the nest until they're old enough to climb out themselves. You could give them some time crawling around on a blanket if you want, but it's not necessary. You'll know when they want to explore more, lol. Speaking of that, do you have a rabbit cage or puppy playpen or anything else you plan to keep them in when they get older?

You don't have to transition them to a dish until they start eating solids. Even after that, you might want to keep giving them some milk in the syringe to minimize future problematic suckling behavior.
I honestly don't know what comes after the cardboard box. We don't have any other pets, so I will need to purchase something. I do have a designated room that we can use with them, but there are children that go in and out to some degree, so I need something within that to contain them in case the door gets accidentally left open. We plan on adopting two (and our friends think they will adopt the other two), so eventually when they are big enough, we will let them roam. But with three small children in our house, that needs to be only once they are truly ready.

Anyhow, what do you recommend? For now they are in a fairly tall box. They won't be getting out until they have quite the jumping skills... But it is quite small, and they will outgrow it pretty quickly.
 
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First an update: The littlest kitten that I was worried about did die. We did everything, but she never really started gaining weight.

The other three are strong and healthy and doing well. They are approximately 3.5 weeks old, eating a ton, beginning to play, and occasionally using the litter box.

The problem is the litter box. The only non-clumping litter at the pet store was the dissolvable crystal kind... And the kittens want to eat it ALL THE TIME.

It says non-toxic, but it can't be healthy.

I have tried giving them some wet kitten food to graze on instead, but they are totally disinterested (they are young for weaning anyway... I just figured it would be better than eating litter).

What do I do? And how bad is it that they are eating it?
 

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Have you tried regular non-clumping clay litter, just the basic stuff that's like a dollar a bag at the grocery store?

Also, maybe try offering a bowl of dry kibble.
I once had a mother-raised litter who started eating her kibble at 3.5 weeks, they never did want their baby food mash. So who knows, maybe they want to crunch something and that's why they're eating litter.
 

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Any clay litter that’s non-clumping will do, or sand, but if they are eating the litter, get rid of it pronto and put down newspaper or shredded brown paper bags, or use doggy pee pads. They should NOT eat crystal litter.

I agree also with offering them dry kitten chow to snack on between wet food meals.
 
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Thank you, guys, so much for the support you all have provided! First, and update on the litter box: I searched everywhere for non-clumping clay litter or any other non-clumping litter, and I utterly failed, until finally I was able to order online a wood-pellet litter.

However, I think that week of "practicing" peeing/pooing on the pee mats has made transitioning to the litter box tough for them. They mostly don't use it. I've tried to read everything I can about helping them learn to use the litter box, but right now they tend to do their business right next to their food and water bowls (?!?!?).

BUT... that's not my most urgent question right now. All three kittens have been extremely healthy and strong and doing well, until...

Yesterday I noticed one of them (named Snuggles) not drinking as much milk. At first, I thought maybe she'd started showing more interest in her wet food and that's why. But... I don't think so...

And today I can tell when I do the skin test that Snuggles is dehydrated. She's not acting in "critical" condition, like the two that died, but her appetite is not where it needs to be. I'm feeding her way more often, but each time I feed her, I get maybe a few seconds of VERY gentle sucking, and then she pulls away and won't open her mouth. She's still purring, she still plays with her siblings, and she still has energy (still peeing and pooing normally).

But she's not eating any of the wet food and very, very little milk from the bottle.

We have an appointment tomorrow with the vet anyway. BUT... after having lost two, I'm worried about Snuggles. I know this comes with the territory of taking care of really little kittens but she's 4 1/2 weeks old now, so past the worst danger period. Should I start giving her the sugar water if she's still acting "energetic"? What else can I do for?
 

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Thank you, guys, so much for the support you all have provided! First, and update on the litter box: I searched everywhere for non-clumping clay litter or any other non-clumping litter, and I utterly failed, until finally I was able to order online a wood-pellet litter.

However, I think that week of "practicing" peeing/pooing on the pee mats has made transitioning to the litter box tough for them. They mostly don't use it. I've tried to read everything I can about helping them learn to use the litter box, but right now they tend to do their business right next to their food and water bowls (?!?!?).

BUT... that's not my most urgent question right now. All three kittens have been extremely healthy and strong and doing well, until...

Yesterday I noticed one of them (named Snuggles) not drinking as much milk. At first, I thought maybe she'd started showing more interest in her wet food and that's why. But... I don't think so...

And today I can tell when I do the skin test that Snuggles is dehydrated. She's not acting in "critical" condition, like the two that died, but her appetite is not where it needs to be. I'm feeding her way more often, but each time I feed her, I get maybe a few seconds of VERY gentle sucking, and then she pulls away and won't open her mouth. She's still purring, she still plays with her siblings, and she still has energy (still peeing and pooing normally).

But she's not eating any of the wet food and very, very little milk from the bottle.

We have an appointment tomorrow with the vet anyway. BUT... after having lost two, I'm worried about Snuggles. I know this comes with the territory of taking care of really little kittens but she's 4 1/2 weeks old now, so past the worst danger period. Should I start giving her the sugar water if she's still acting "energetic"? What else can I do for?
I think its better you have some sugar in the milk you give her. Or smear sugar on her gum, inside of her lips.

so the sugar water wont take away her being hungry to the milk...

Only sugar water first when she is in a full crisis, when you dont think she is digesting any more. Say, she is too cold. Last line defence, but it often buys time.
 

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Feed her less often so that she builds her appetite and let us know what the vet says.
 
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THANK YOU everyone! She's still alive, and I don't take for granted to advice you guys gave to get me through those last few hours before we took her to the vet. I ended up not waiting for her appointment, because I could tell she was getting dehydrated (skin test), and she was getting sleepier. I took her in to the animal hospital (her usual vet as well), and the vet was glad we didn't wait, because she thought she might have started fading that night had we not. They gave her subcutaneous fluid and told me to watch and see if her appetite picks up. She also gave me some probiotics for all of them, and some medicine for bloating.

It did initially, and then started decreasing the closer we got to the 24 hour mark since the subcutaneous fluids. Meanwhile, her sister Dot, who continued to drink her wet food, started refusing the bottle (and she has never shown any interest in her water bowl). She too was getting dehydrated.

I brought them back, and both of them got subcutaneous fluids, and all three got dewormed, and this time it seemed to be enough. Robinhood (the third kitty) seemed to also start with a depressed appetite, but never got as bad as his sisters. I can't imagine how they could have picked up any virus, because they've not seen any other kitties and hardly any other people (we're sheltering at home at the moment), but my best guess is they must have all picked up something... or the impact of worms just hit them all around the same time.

Good news, their appetites are picking back up, and they're obviously gaining weight again.

Bad news, as they start showing more and more interest in their wet food, they're taking less and less interest in the bottle... with no interest in their water bowl.

I was mixing their milk into their wet food, but the vet suggested mixing just water, since they're staying somewhat dehydrated. I'm doing that, but... it's still not enough. They're dehydrated all the time, though not emergency-level anymore.

I've tried putting their milk in a bowl, thinking that might for that over their water. No luck.

How do I get them to show interest in their water or start drinking something at all as they wean? Again, we're no longer facing emergency-level dehydration, but more just a low level chronic dehydration...

Oh, and they are not gaining as much as they should be, so I need them to get more calories too. The smallest was 300 grams (mind you, she was quite dehydrated at that weigh in), and the largest was 400 grams. They're growing, but significantly slower than they should be at 1 month old. Then again, I think they were quite a bit smaller than the average newborn kitten. They were from a litter of 7 kitties, and the vet said, they'd probably always be smaller than average.
 

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I would mix their milk into their wet food rather than water because it will give more nutrition. The more they eat the less dehydrated they will be.
 
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I would mix their milk into their wet food rather than water because it will give more nutrition. The more they eat the less dehydrated they will be.
Thank you for saying this. That was my instinct, and I needed someone to tell me I wasn't wrong. The vet who suggested switching to water isn't my favorite (there are 2 at the animal hospital that I've met). She's very sweet and I can tell she loves animals, but little things she's said has made me feel the other one is more knowledgeable about kittens. Both vets will be great as the kittens get older, but while they're really tiny like this, I sometimes feel the need to double check things.

The vet also suggested aiming to give each kitty an addition 10 ml of fluids per day beyond what they seem to want. So, allowing them to have as much as they'll take via bowl and bottle, but then syringe feeding an additional 10 ml at least per day. That doesn't sound like a lot to me, and they don't resist it at all (if it's slurry... they don't like being syringe fed electrolyte water or even milk anymore I've discovered), so I'm wondering... For those of you who've fostered many tiny kittens, does that sound about right? At the moment, after each feeding, I tend syringe feed them 1-3 extra ml (depending on their receptivity), so, depending on the kitty, probably 15-30 ml extra per day. Am I over-doing it? She didn't give me a maximum or anything. What have your vets suggested when the kittens' appetites don't match their needs?
 

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Are they eating any dry food at all? If so, stop offering dry food (unless they need it because they stop eating. . .sigh, cats!). If they only eat canned food with milk or water added, that should be enough fluids.
 
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They're not eating dry food (they did for a very short time, when they would otherwise raid their litterbox for dry things to chomp on), but they're not totally weaned either. They still want the bottle. Dot is very nearly weaned, and she takes minimal interest in the bottle, but she also has gotten herself quite dehydrated... even while taking all she wanted from the wet food (mixed with milk)... dehydrated enough that the vet felt she needed subcutaneous fluids. Right now, doing the skin test, I can't see any dehydration. If I were to identify a kitten that doesn't need me to syringe feed any extra, it would be her.

Then Snuggles is just starting to realize that she can eat from the bowl. She's the shyest kitten, so she only eats from it when Dot is not around. That means, I'm never certain how much she gets. However, she's always happy to follow up the meal with a bottle. Unfortuantely, ever since she got sick, her latch is VERY weak still. But she does drink, and right now she appears to me to be only slightly dehydrated. However, she was the one that got most dangerously dehydrated at the worst of it (at that time, she had not shown any interest in wet food yet, so that was all on the bottle).

Then, finally, Robinhood who is the most resistant to wet food. He still is bottle-only fed. He doesn't mind slurry syringe-fed, but the extra sucking required when slurry is put in the bottle is too much for him... Ironically, he was the largest kitten until about a week ago, by quite a bit even, but he is very obviously falling behind (both his sisters have gone through growth spurts with wet food). At the moment, he's been the last to get sick and so is currently quite dehydrated still--but not critically so, to my eye, but I'm feeding him a little more often to try to get more fluids into him. I suppose, for him, the advantage of syringe feeding might be merely getting him used to the taste of wet food, so that he eventually shows an interest in the bowl.

The weather is playing a role too. In the afternoon, it is HOT. Our living room is like an oven in the afternoon, and I suspect they're getting very hot. (In Fahrenheit, the temperate is usually mid- to upper-nineties, sometimes more.) They drink far less if I warm it to room temperature, so I've gotten smarter about that one, making sure their milk and food retains some of the coolness.
 

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I would not force the slurry on the last one to get sick. Just milk offered frequently is good enough for now. When he is stronger in a couple of days you can try slurry with him again.

Can you cool your living room with air conditioning or a fan? It sounds like that might help their comfort level also.

You’re doing a great job!
 
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I would not force the slurry on the last one to get sick. Just milk offered frequently is good enough for now. When he is stronger in a couple of days you can try slurry with him again.

Can you cool your living room with air conditioning or a fan? It sounds like that might help their comfort level also.

You’re doing a great job!
Thank you again! Okay, I'm keeping at the extra feeding times for Robinhood and no extra syringe feeding. :)

We do also keep a fan running all the time, and their playpen is away from windows or any direct sunshine, but... poor kitties, I know it's hot. It's hot for all of us, but I wish they'd show some interest in their water bowl!!!

I know I've said this before, but I do think these three kittens are still alive in large part due to the support you all have provided ( W Willowy and StefanZ StefanZ too). Thank you. They've made it to 5 weeks old today!!!
 
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