How to Care For an Abandoned Kitten

Caring for an abandoned kitten can be a rewarding experience, but before taking in any stray, it is recommended that you take your potential pet into your local veterinarian for a thorough examination and care recommendations tailored specifically for your unique pet.

Below is our guide for properly caring for an abandoned kitten, including kitten nutritional assistance, special care needs, environmental requirements, and more.

How Should I Feed, House, and Handle My Stray Kitten?

Depending on age and health, you can care for your kitten by feeding kitten food or providing kitten milk replacer. Despite what may seem like the obvious choice, you should not, under any circumstances, feed cow’s milk to a kitten.

Visit the Veterinarian: Your kitten’s age and overall health will be major factors in deciding the long-term diet you should be providing, so a comprehensive veterinary examination is recommended to help determine the kitten's age, care needs, and the presence of any health problems. If your kitten can eat and drink well on his or her own, only routine kitten care may be required. Here are some basic things you will need to provide:

Be a Replacement Mother: If your kitten is too small to eat and drink independently, or hasn’t opened his or her eyes yet, you will need to lend a helping hand. Extremely young kittens need to be fed kitten milk replacer as often as every two to four hours, depending on age.

Extremely young kittens cannot pass stool and urine by themselves. You may need to gently rub his or her genital area with moist, warm cotton balls or a very soft moist cloth. This will help the pet pass bodily wastes. This should be done every time you feed the kitten. Any stool or urine must be gently, but completely, cleaned off your skin to avoid potentially severe skin rashes and even blistering.

Create a Comfortable Environment: Your kitten may also require a safe heat source, such as a heating pad or an enclosed nest area, like a box. If a heating pad is used, be careful not to place the kitten directly on the heating pad and be sure to follow all the manufacturers' safety instructions. Either place a heating pad under the box or put a towel on the pad, and only heat about half of the nest area on a low setting. Kittens can regulate their body temperature better if allowed to move between warmer and cooler (room temperature) spots in the nest.

Need More Information?

To make sure you are meeting your kitten’s specific care needs, visit your local veterinarian, explore our Pet Health Concern or Ask a Vet libraries, or read through some of the related links below.