I don't know whether there's a "best formula." I used to feed KMR exclusively. Then I tested all of the kitten formula's for Whole Cat Journal several years back. I found my kittens raised on goat's milk formulas or Just Born by Farnam (Nurturall is veterinary label for the Farnam formula) had fewer problems with food-associated runs. Since that time, the manufacturer has added colostrum. I really believe the kittens are healthier. However, I have other friends that wouldn't feed anything else but KMR. Hartz sells a ready-to-use formula at most grocery and 24-hour discount stores. This is such a welcome change from the days when you could only get formula at a pet store or vet's office--and you were in trouble if you found a kitten Sunday morning. Remember, don't switch formulas unless you have to. Changing foods will likely cause diarrhea.
I know how expensive formula's are, especially if you are paying for it yourself. If you're feeding four or five kittens over a four-week period, you could wind up in the poor house. In the event that you simply can't afford to continue feeding the Just Born or KMR, I have another option.
Charlene Denny, a friend of mine involved in rescuing thousands of kittens through Hunt County Humane Society in Greenville, Texas gave me this recipe. It's the only way her tiny shelter could afford to save this many babies. (If you're interested in donating to a small shelter struggling to save animals in a rural area let me know. I'll post the information.)
Charlene Denneyâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]s Kitten Formula
Â½ can evaporated milk (personally, I prefer goat's milk-Dustycatwriter)
Â½ can water
2 egg yolks only
2 Tbsp white corn syrup
1 drop PeTinic or good liquid feline vitamin
Blend and keep refrigerated for up to four days. Warm to body temperature before feeding. Do not overheat.
As far as which feeder is the best, that gets down to personal choice and which one gives you the most control. I know some people only tube feed their orphans because it's faster and they know exactly how much formula the kitten has taken in. Done properly, it's perfectly safe. I only use it in emergencies or with sick or weak kittens. I also think the kitten gets a great deal of benefit from the sucking action. Besides, to be perfectly honest--I can't believe how strong some of these kittens are. I often have a problem holding him still long enough to do it.
If the kitten teeny tiny, I either tube feed or use a dropper with a small tip. In my experience a bottle nipple is just too big to get in the mouths of these little guys. I start out by placing a single drop on his tongue and waiting for the kitten to swallow. They figure it out pretty quickly. It doesn't take long for him to start sucking on the dropper himself. Let him control the flow. Don't just squeeze the formula in his mouth. He could choke. If he doesn't "get it", take him to the vet and learn how to tube feed.
As he grows he'll naturally need more formula. At 8 to 10 days, I switch to a bottle. Kittens get really hacked when their concentration is broken by you having to stop every few seconds to refill the dropper.
I use one brand of bottle and another type of nipple (teat for those of you across the pond.) I really like the Four Paws Nurser bottle because it is soft. That makes it easier for the kitten to feed. However, I also prefer the nipples from PetAg, the manufacturers of KMR.
Other people swear by feeding with syringes. I have used them in a pinch, but I always fear that I will accidentally push the plunger too hard and force the formula into the kitten's lungs. I'd suggest practicing your flow before actually feeding the kitten with a syringe (or a dropper.) Don't continue to use the same syringe over and over. I've noticed that the rubber plunger will dry out and hang. If it catches and you press hard to make it move, it could drown your kitten.
Ultimately, you have to decide which method gives YOU the most control.
Just a side note, some vets do have a special bottle that they use if they rescue wild critters. It is used to feed baby squirrels, rabbits and even birds. It has an elongated nipple that goes further down into the baby's mouth and is readily accepted. Contact a vet that you know that does wildlife rescue or talk to a rehabilitation center for wild animals.Oftentimes, they will just give you this special nipple for pennies.