How to feed seven kittens

25 July, 2009

Kittens Day 2.1

Here is a photo of the kittens, just over a day old.  They are in a grouping called a “huddle” which helps them to conserve heat.

This is the second litter of seven kittens that Ananda has had.  The first time she had seven kittens, I had to top up one of the kittens with special kitten replacement milk because it wasn’t getting enough milk.  Or at least I thought it wasn’t.

A mother cat has eight teats, two of which are located next to her front legs, and which are smaller.  So any kitten getting one of the front teats may be getting less milk. 

If you have a small kitten that isn’t as robust or good at fighting for its place at the milk bar than chances are that kitten will not gain as much weight proportionally as its siblings.

And believe me, its like a wildlife documentary when it comes to seeing who can get the best teat.  I have seen two kittens fight over a teat, scrabbling away with their little paws, shoving the other’s head away.  The struggle is made all the more intense by the silence in which the fighting is conducted.

Opinion is divided amongst breeders as to whether topping-up is a good thing or not.  On the one hand, it allows the smallest not to fall behind.  On the other hand, some believe in letting nature take its course and letting the kittens fight it out amongst themselves.  Others feel that it is better to “feed the mother cat” who will then hopefully be able to produce enough milk to feed the kittens.

This time round I’ve decided to adopt a wait-and-see attitude.  And touch wood, there have been some monumental kitten squabbles, but so far they seem to have found their place in the teat.  Sometimes there has been more than one sitting at the table, with the kittens who missed out on the best teats getting a second chance when other kittens are satiated.

Sometimes I’ve had to smile at Ananda’s method of dealing with kittens who won’t stop fighting over who has which teat.  What she does is change her position, or even get up so that all the kittens tumble off their teats.  She then lies down again, so that the kittens start on a level playing field.  As one of my friends said, it’s like pressing the restart button on the PC.

Here is a photo of that rare moment – all the seven kittens with a teat!  A peaceful moment.  Long may it last!

Kittens Day 2.6

There are more photos on the Catswhiskers flickr album.



  1. Hi again!

    They all look darling. Do you know the sexes yet?

    Best wishes,

  2. Hi! The same just occurred to my cat this morning: she gave birth to seven kittens! This is her first litter and I am extremely worried that she would be unable to feed all of them. There’s one kitten that seems to be having trouble feeding; I’ve tried to place his mouth to a teat but the kitten doesn’t seem to want to latch on. I also noticed that he had a bit of diarrhea and I’m not sure what to make of it (did he eat when I wasn’t looking?). Do you have any suggestions? I’m afraid that if I wait too long to let nature take its course, it will be too late.

  3. Hi Emile,

    Congratulations on your new family!

    First, you can help the littlest kitten by putting it to the teats AFTER the other kittens have had a go. You could also separate the kittens (after they’ve had a feed) into another box, and then leave the little kitten with the mother. Putting its mouth to the teat doesn’t always work – you actually have to have the smell of milk on the teat and that’s hard to get because you would have to be a kitten to suckle and knead the teat at the same time!

    The only way you are going to know if it’s getting enough milk or not is by weighing the kittens daily for the first week at least. This will let you keep track of how much each kitten weighs each day. And then you must plot the weights on an Excel chart so that you can see whether or not there is steady progress or a decline in the weight. Here is my blogpost on this: https://thecatswhiskers.wordpress.com/2008/05/29/keeping-track-of-kitten-weights/

    It is sometimes normal for the kittens to lose a LITTLE weight in the first day. If there is a decline in weight in the following days than you may need to top up with a kitten milk replacement formula, e.g. KMR.

    The littlest kitten may never catch up in terms of weight, while it is drinking milk. Some catch up when they’re weaned onto solids.

    In terms of the diarrhoea, I think this is normal-ish. But I suggest you call a vet to find out. Newborn kittens don’t poo long hard poos the way adults do.

    Good luck and all the best!

  4. Our cat Kearra (who looks just like your Ananda) had her first litter on the 16th; seven! Just today she has decided to seperate them. Do you think she will feed both groups or is she just overwhelmed? We had to bottle feed half of our other cats litter a few years ago and I would rather not have to do that again. On the other hand I don’t want anything to happen to these babies. How long could I wait to help before they could be in danger?

    • [reply sent on 22/8/2009 directly to Kathleen’s e-mail]

      Hi Kathleen,

      The only way you will know is if you weigh them daily. Weighing should be done approx. the same time every day.

      For e.g. my kittens were putting on between 8g to 10g a day per kitten. Then suddenly, there was a dip and one of the kittens only put on 2 g, instead of the usual 8. I knew then it was either (1) ill or (2) not getting enough milk. It was the latter and I started topping up.

      By topping up I don’t mean feeding every 2 hours. I mean just say once or twice a day. And weighing it to make sure that it was still gaining weight. It may not put on as much as the rest, but as long as there isn’t that dip, then you know it’s getting some. If feeding twice a day isn’t enough, then increase it to three times a day. But don’t feed so much that it decides it doesn’t want to drink from mum.

      As for dividing into two groups, I think your girl will feed both groups. She’s just making sure that there is enough room at the teats for the kittens. Sometimes if it’s done in one group it gets too crowded and they start fighting and some are left out. So your girl is one clever cat.

      Don’t bottle feed unless you have to. And only do it if the kittens suddenly experience a drop in proportion of weight gained, or stop gaining weight. Weigh for at least 3 weeks.

      Also, the main thing is that the kittens got the first days’ worth of colostrum.

      Hope this helps!

  5. good info tnx for posting

  6. The kittens look adorable as they are all getting fed by the mom! Very informative article!

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