What to feed kittens when mom won’t!!

What could be more heartwarming than watching a litter of newborn kittens, snuggling and meowing constantly to feed their little empty stomach!! But then the daunting moments come when the mother cat can’t or won’t nurse them. At that moment, one thing that keeps circling in your head is, “What should I feed these kittens??”

Sometimes mom cats won’t be able to nurse her kittens due to illness or rejection. If you are taking care of kittens, it’s important to know how to feed them properly. Especially when it comes to their nutrition, because their growth, development and overall well-being depends on it. 

But don’t panic, dear readers!! Because through this article, you will get to know exactly what to feed your kitten when mom won’t, with easy-to-follow tips and tricks that will keep your little ones happy, healthy, and cuddly. So, grab a bowl of milk (or kitten formula!) and let’s get started!

What to Feed Kittens When Mom Won’t: Key Considerations

You know how some moms are just too busy or too stressed to take care of their babies? Well, sometimes that happens with cats too. And when that happens, you need to step in and feed the kitten yourself. But before you go and grab any old can of cat food, you need to consider how old are the kittens and what do they need to grow up healthy and strong.

You see, kittens are not like adult cats. They have different nutritional needs depending on their age. For example, newborn kittens need colostrum, which is a special milk that their mother produces after giving birth. It has antibodies and nutrients that help kittens to fight off infection, develop their immune system. 

But colostrum is not enough for long, As kittens grow older, they need other food that will contain more vitamins and minerals to support their development. But what to feed them? You can’t just give them any old milk or food. You need something special for their tiny tummies and growing bodies. That’s where the kitten formula comes in. 

Basically, there are mainly two types of kitten formula. One is commercial, and another one is homemade kitten formula. 

Commercial Kitten Feeding Formula:

Commercial kitten formula is a liquid or powder product that you can buy at any pet stores or online. There are some popular brands of kitten formula. Such as: 

  • PetAg KMR Kitten Milk Replacer powder or liquid, 
  • PetAg PetLac Kitten Milk Replacement powder or liquid, 
  • Hartz Kitten Milk Replacer powder, 
  • Nutri-Vet Milk Replacement powder, and others. 

But not all formulas are created equal. Some are better than others for different reasons. Here are some things to look out for when choosing the right one- 

  1. Make sure the formula is specifically designed for kittens. Look for what is labeled as “kittens” or “for all life stages”.
  1. Pick the formula that contains high-quality protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Make sure to avoid cow’s milk or soy-based formulas, as it can cause digestive or allergic problems in kittens. 
  1. Go for a formula that is smooth and creamy, not lumpy or watery. Because watery formulas can cause dehydration or diarrhea in kittens. Make sure the formula is fresh and not expired or spoiled.
  1. Choose a formula that is easy to prepare and store. Some formulas are easy-peasy, just “open and feed”, while others are like chemistry class, you have to measure and mix. 
  1. Finally, look for the formula that is affordable and with your money. Some are more pricey, but that doesn’t mean they are better. Compare the ingredients, quality, and quantity that suits your budget and your kittens’ needs. 

Home-Made Kitten Feeding Formula:

Sometimes you might not have access to a commercial one, or you might want to save some money by making your own. Well, guess what? You can do that too. There are some homemade kitten formula recipes that you can find online or in books. 

But before you get too excited, let me tell you something. Homemade formulas are not as good as commercial ones. It might not have all the nutrients and calories. So you need to be very careful when making and using homemade kitten formula. 

Here are the most common formula recipes:

  1. Goat’s milk formula: It’s made by mixing-
  • 950 ml goat’s milk, 
  • A little water, 
  • 1 egg yolk, 
  • Unflavored gelatin, and a multivitamin supplement. 

Goat milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk, has more fat and protein. But it still lacks taurine (amino acid) which is vital for kittens’ eyesight and heart. 

Make sure goat’s milk is pasteurized, and the egg yolk is cooked to avoid bacteria and salmonella.

  1. Evaporated milk formula: This one is made by mixing-
  • 354 ml evaporated milk
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • 2 tbsp corn syrup
  • multivitamin supplement 

Evaporated milk has more fat than regular one, but still has lactose, which can cause diarrhea or vomiting in cats. 

Make sure corn syrup is plain and not high-fructose to avoid dental issues or obesity in kittens.

  1. Yogurt formula: It’s made by mixing-
  • ½ cup (120 ml) plain yogurt
  • 6 tbsp water
  • 6 tbsp condensed milk
  • 3 egg yolks

Yogurt has probiotics, which help with digestion and immunity. But it also has lactose. 

Make sure the yogurt is plain, not low fat, and not flavored or sweetened. 

Here are some safety tips you should consider. 

  • Use fresh and properly stored ingredients
  • Sterilize the equipment and utensils that you use to prepare and feed the kittens.
  • Warm the formula to body temperature (about 100° F) before feeding them
  • Discard any leftover or unused formula after 24 hours or sooner after each feeding (especially if it smells bad or looks cloudy)
  • Most importantly, consult with your vet before switching from a commercial formula to a handmade one. 

Feeding schedule for kittens

Kittens have tiny stomachs and fast metabolism, so they need frequent and small meals throughout the day. The exact amount and frequency usually depends on their age, weight, and health status, but there are some general guidelines-

  • Newborn kittens (0-2 weeks old): Feed every 2-3 hours, around the clock. 
  • Eyes-opened kitten (2-4 weeks old): Feed every 3-4 hours, you can gradually reduce the overnight feeding.
  • Weaning kittens (4-8 weeks old): Feed every 4-6 hours, you can start to feed them solid food in a small amount. Such as wet or dry kitten food.
  • Growing kittens (8-12 weeks old): Feed every 6-8 hours, like during the day and once at night. You can give them some treats or human food occasionally, but be careful it doesn’t upset their stomach. 

Looks like you have to wake up at night for a few days to feed your little kittens!! It’s okay. After all, you’re the best parent to your cat, dear!  

How to Feed Kittens When Mom Won’t

You know how cute and cuddly kittens are, right? Well, they also need a lot of care and attention, especially when they’re very young and can’t eat solid food. If you’re lucky enough to have a mama cat who can nurse them, that’s great. But sometimes you might need to step in and feed them yourself. 

Here are two ways you can do that:

Bottle feeding technique: 

This is the most common and recommended way to feed kittens who are too young or weak to eat solid food. 

  • Get a kitten bottle and formula from your vet or pet store.
  • Mix the formula (commercial) with warm water, just like the instructions given on the package.
  • Hold the kitten in your lap or in hand, wrap it with a towel or soft cloth, and gently insert the bottle nipple into his mouth.
  • Don’t squeeze the bottle too hard, or you might choke them.
  • Let it suckle at its own pace, and tilt the bottle slightly to prevent the air bubble.
  • Feed the kitten until it stops sucking, or its belly feels full. Burp the kitten by gently rubbing its back or tummy.
  • Repeat this process every 2-4 hours until the kitten is about 4 weeks, or starts eating solid food. 

Syringe feeding technique:

This is an alternative way to feed the kitten who are not interested in bottle feeding, or have trouble suckling.

  • Get a small syringe (without a needle), and formula from a pet store or vet.
  • Fill the syringe with warm formula and hold the kitten just like we mentioned before in previous technique. 
  • Gently open its mouth and insert the syringe tip into the side of its mouth, behind the canine teeth.
  • Slowly push the plunger to squirt a small amount of formula into its mouth.
  • Let the kitten swallow, don’t force too much formula, otherwise you might cause them aspiration or vomiting.
  • Then follow the same last 3 steps from the previous technique.

There you have it, two easy and effective ways to feed your precious kittens. But before you feed them using the following techniques, you need to know if your kittens are orphaned or have a mother who is not producing enough milk. Because it really makes a big difference.  

  • If your kittens are orphaned, you need to bottle-feed them. 
  • If they have a mama cat who is not producing enough milk, you need to supplement her milk with some extra formula. You can use either a syringe or bottle to feed them. But make sure to not bottle-feed them as often. Let them nurse from their mother as much as possible.   

Common Problems When Feeding Kittens and How to Solve Them

Sometimes feeding kittens can be a pain in the tail. Like they won’t eat, or eat too much, they choke on their food, they poop too much or too little. Ugh!! What’s a cat lover to do?? Don’t fret, because we’re here for you. In this section, we’ll spill the tea on what common problems you can face and how to deal with it. Let’s have a look-

  1. Refusing to eat: This can happen if the kitten is stressed, sick or picky. Try warming up the formula, changing the nipple size, or offering some wet food. If no luck, go to the vet ASAP.
  1. Overfeeding or underfeeding: You don’t want to starve or stuff your kitten, right? Follow the feeding guideline, or seek advice from your vet. A good thumb rule is to feed 2 tbsp of formula per 4 ounces of body weight, per day, divided into several days. 
  1. Diarrhea or constipation: These signs definitely mean that something is wrong with your kitty. It could be due to formula, feeding technique, or infection. If the problem persists, switch to a different formula or see a vet.
  1. Choking or aspiration: This is when kittens inhale the formula into the lungs instead of swallowing it. This can cause pneumonia and even death. To prevent this, make sure the kitten is in the natural feeding position (head up, belly down). If you notice sneezing, wheezing, or breathing difficulties, stop feeding and get veterinary help immediately. 


We hope you enjoyed our article on what to feed kittens when mom won’t. It can be tough to see little ones go hungry, but with these tips and tricks, you can make sure they get the nutrition they need. 

Do you have any other suggestions or experience to share with us? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. You never know who might benefit from your advice.

And please don’t forget to share this article with your friends on social worlds. You might save a kitten’s life by spreading the knowledge. Thanks for reading and happy feeding!!

Leave a Comment