Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for best kitten milk replacements

Newborn kittens, like newborn humans, need a specific mixture of vitamins to grow into healthy adult cats. These nutrients are typically derived from their mother’s milk, but an abandoned kitten, whether feral or in a foster home, is at risk for malnutrition without its mother’s milk. Fortunately, there are kitten milk replacements that readily replace these important nutrients.

Before choosing a kitten milk replacement, you’ll want to consider some important factors. Do you want a pre-mixed liquid or a powder supplement? How old is your kitten? How much do they weigh? Also, consider whether your kitten has a sensitive stomach and your desired feeding schedule. Interestingly, some kitten milk replacements are suitable for senior cats who need nutritional supplementation, too.

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Generally speaking, cats are ready to be weaned once you notice baby teeth peeking through the gums.

Key considerations

Kittens grow exponentially within the first few weeks of life. They may double or even triple in size. This rapid growth calls for specific nutrition that is different from what an adult cat needs.

The amount of milk needed for a newborn kitten depends on its age.

  • From 0 to 4 weeks, kittens should be fed tiny quantities often. Bottle-fed newborn kittens may feed up to six times a day. You may even have to wake them up in the late or wee hours to feed.
  • Between 4 and 8 weeks, kittens are ready to start eating solid foods. At this point, milk alone won’t suffice for a cat’s growing needs. Kittens at this age should be fed mini meals frequently in addition to kitten milk. If a kitten has trouble adopting a solid diet, you can try mixing wet food with a little milk replacement.
  • Between 8 and 12 weeks, kittens are ready for more regulated mealtimes. At this point, kittens should be weaned off of milk entirely.

Powder vs. liquid

All kitten milk replacements come in powdered form or pre-mixed liquid form. The strength and concentration of powdered milk are easily controllable factors. (The water to powder ratio is typically 2:1.). If you’re using powder, it’s recommended that you boil the water first and stir the mixture well to eliminate clumps.

Notably, some liquid formulas may increase the chance of diarrhea.

If you are weaning a kitten off of milk and find that it is resistant to eating or begins to lose weight, you can briefly return to milk feeding.

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Key ingredients

A quality kitten milk replacement contains particular ingredients and nutrients. Some of these include the following:

Probiotics: Probiotics are key for maintaining good gut health. These will help develop a healthy digestive system, important for growing kittens with sensitive stomachs.

Calcium: Calcium is vital for strong bones, especially for kittens under two weeks of age. Kitten milk replacement is a great source of calcium, though older kittens can derive their calcium from other foods too.

Taurine: Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats, which means they cannot produce it on their own. This amino acid supports eye and heart health. Therefore, they must derive it from their diet, including kitten milk replacement.

Protein and fat: Fast-growing kittens need a hearty helping of protein and fat in their diets. This occurs naturally in a mother’s milk, so it’ll be a common ingredient in any kitten milk replacement.

Colostrum: Some kitten milk replacements include colostrum, a mother’s first milk immediately after giving birth. This substance includes essential nutrients that ward off illness.

Features

Preservatives and artificial flavors

It’s best to avoid formulas with added sweeteners or artificial ingredients. Newborn kittens tend to have sensitive stomachs, and artificial flavoring and preservatives can wreak havoc on their sensitive stomachs.

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DID YOU KNOW?
An overheated or cold kitten is not stable enough to feed. Be sure their temperature is stabilized and that they’re able to swallow before feeding. You can test that by placing a drop of warm formula on the kitten’s tongue and feeling their throat for movement.
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Accessories

Pet feeding kit: Gustafoe’s Pet Feeding Bottle with Replacement Nipples and Syringes
A newborn kitten will need a few necessities, such a syringe, a bottle, and attachable nipples. Gustafoe’s kit is all-encompassing, suitable for a variety of baby animals. New kitten owners particularly appreciate the mini nipples.

Food and water bowl: Immaculife Raised Cat Bowl
Kittens won’t bottle-feed forever, so you should prepare for their eventual growth with quality food and water dishes. Immaculife’s raised cat bowl is built to relieve whisker and neck fatigue and encourage slower eating. Buyers find the design adorable, and some note improvements in vomiting and acid reflux.

Kitten milk replacement prices

Lower-cost: You’ll find quite a few kitten milk replacements in the $12 to $20 range. The liquid products in this range tend to weigh around 11 ounces. Powders are much more common (and more recommended), and in this range, they tend to weigh 10 to 12 ounces. Note that you will get more “bang for your buck” from kitten milk replacement in powdered form.

Higher-cost: Kitten milk replacements in the $20 to $35 range often weigh 14 ounces or more. They may contain colostrum, the milk a mother produces immediately after birth. A kitten separated from its mother soon after birth would benefit from this, since colostrum provides extra nutrition and temporary immunity against diseases.

Kitten bottles and nipples should be cleaned and sterilized (boiled in water) between uses.

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Tips

  • Check the ingredients and directions on the label before use. It’ll usually indicate the age range for which the formula is intended.
  • Store all formula in a cool, dry place, and check the expiration date before serving. If a powder does not mix easily, or if a powder and milk have a sour smell and yellow-ish color, they’re likely rancid. Also notice whether your kitten has diarrhea or if they’ve stopped drinking the formula.
  • Keep your kitten in a comfortable, belly-down position to feed. If using a syringe, you’ll want to slide it slowly into the kitten’s mouth and drip the formula very slowly.
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Kittens under three weeks old are quite susceptible to cold. Warm the kitten milk replacement to roughly 100°F.

FAQ

Q. How do you feed milk to a kitten?

A. Depending on the age of the kitten, you may feed them with a syringe or a bottle. A kitten under two weeks old would benefit from a syringe since it makes it possible to feed in small increments. Otherwise, you can use a milk bottle specially made for kittens.

Q. Can I feed my kitten cow or goat milk?

A. Your kitten should never consume cow’s milk. Contrary to popular media depiction, cats do not have the enzymes to break down lactase. Feeding a kitten cow’s milk may cause diarrhea and dehydration. As a treat, you can find milk beverages specially made for cats. Regardless, wait until the kitten is eating solid foods.

Goat’s milk may be gentler on a kitten’s stomach, but most veterinarians recommend kitten milk replacement if a mother’s milk is not available. Additionally, you should not feed cats soy or almond milk. Along with irritating a kitten’s sensitive stomach, soy and almond milk lack the necessary amino acids for a growing cat.

Q. How much milk replacement should I make at once?

A. You shouldn’t prepare more powdered kitten milk replacement than will be used within 24 hours. For liquid milk replacement, that figure is 72 hours. You may refrigerate leftovers, but discard the formula if more than a day has passed.

If you’re using a liquid kitten milk replacement, you can divide it into six weeks’ worth of formula and freeze it. Meanwhile, an opened powder canister will keep for three to six months in the refrigerator.

 

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