Some tips on keeping kittens clean


Maneka Gandhi


I sometimes get calls from people saying that a cat has wandered into their home and given birth or that they have found orphaned kittens somewhere. I envy people who have been adopted by a cat-- they must have done something good to have gotten so lucky.

There are hardly any cats left in India . Thousands are killed and passed off as chicken at dhabas. Tibetans kill them to take to China for fur collars. The Narikaurava tribe kills them to eat. It’s not long before small cats become as rare as their endangered cousins.                                            

Part of the danger cats face is that so few people know how to care for them.  Here are tips:
Should a cat give birth near your home, bring the family indoors as otherwise 90% of the kittens will die of cold.  Check that the mother cat is settled and feeding her babies. Kittens don't enjoy constant handling so avoid frequent picking up but do get them used to your smell and touch to help socialize them.

Kittens cannot regulate their own body temperature so need warming. Wrap a small hotwater bottle in a towel and place towards one side of their nest so they have a place to cool off too. Orphaned  kittens  will miss Mum, so put in a stuffed toy  they can snuggle up to.  Don’t give cow's milk. Kittens can’t  digest lactose so cow’s milk will lead to intestinal distress and can kill them.  Use infant fomula milk and feed  every two hours with a baby bottle.

After each meal you need to stimulate them to do potty. They can't do this on their own and NEED your help. Take a cotton ball or a soft cloth, moisten it with warm water and gently massage around the anus until they go. If you don't do this after each meal, they will become constipated and possibly die.         

It will be a few weeks before they can eat anything but formula, but the older they get, the less often they need feeding.  Put the formula in a shallow dish for them to learn to lap up. After 4 weeks they will start to eat solid food. After about 8 weeks, they no longer need the milk but may enjoy it anyway.  They require a diet with 5 times more protein and calcium than dogs. Unlike dogs, cats do need some meat. Keep clean, fresh water in a shallow but heavy bowl.  Here are some menu suggestions:
Cat khichri can be made with a mixture of cottage cheese,  meat, rice, a chopped boiled egg, , finely chopped carrots , a steamed and chopped tomato . You can also make a mixture of oats,  mashed banana, curd, fresh vegetables and a capsule of cod liver oil.
Other foods are boiled sliced potatoes,  grated vegetables, cottage cheese ,cooked oatmeal.
Cat biscuits can be made from 3 cups whole wheat flour ,2 cups soy flour ,1 cup wheat germ ,1 cup cornmeal, ,1 cup nonfat dry milk ,1/2 cup brewer's yeast , 5 tablespoons vegetable oil ,1 tablespoon cod liver oil ,2 cups of water or as needed. Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Mix all the dry ingredients and then the oil and water. Roll dough out to about 1/4" thickness and cut into 1/4" bits. Place on greased cookie sheets and bake for 25 minutes. Refrigerate in an airtight container.
Don’t give  cats chocolate, onions or garlic(very toxic ), pork , raw fish, raw eggs, milk or bones. Feed liver in moderation and not at all if you're giving Vitamin A supplements. 

Instead of meat everyday , put a pinch of taurine in the food. Taurine is an amino acid available at the chemist 

Make the kittens a litter tray--a  shallow tray with a layer of sand  to use as a bathroom. Change the sand daily but keep the tray in the same place,  just not too close to the kittens as it smells.  Kittens will instinctively use the litter box , but their mother also helps to teach them. The sides of the litter box should be low enough for the kittens to get in and out easily.  

Kittens do clean themselves, but in the absence of their Mum may need you to help by wiping gently with a damp towel. They often need their bottoms wiped but  generally do not need bathing unless especially dirty or if they need a flea bath.

Play time is very important. Kittens have a great time rough housing, stalking, pouncing, chasing, and grooming each other. Provide plenty of toys--stuffed toys , balls of wool, When the kittens are 8 weeks, get them and their Mum spayed for their sake and your own!   

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in


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