Everything You Need To Know About Kitten Milk Replacer

kittens sleeping in a basket

Last updated on March 27th, 2023 at 04:20 am

As a cat owner, there may come a time when you need to fill in as the mom and provide your kittens with nourishment. If that’s the case, you’ll want to use a kitten milk replacer.

Orphaned kittens and kittens that need supplemental feeding need milk that is as close to their mother’s milk as possible. Plain milk from a cow or goat is not a proper substitute. Kitten milk replacer is specifically designed to mimic a mother cat’s milk and provide optimal nourishment for kittens.

In this post, we’ll break down everything you need to know about kitten milk replacer — from what it is exactly and why you should use it to how much they should consume per feeding and more.

What is Kitten Milk Replacer 

Kitten milk replacer is formulated to be as close to a mother cat’s milk as possible. It contains the essential nutrients kittens need for proper growth and development, in amounts appropriate for the species. In general, it contains more of everything that you will find in cows milk – more fat, more calories, more protien, and more vitamins and minerals.

It’s offered in liquid and powder form and is available from most pet stores or online. Veterinary clinics may carry kitten milk replacers as well.

When Should You Use Kitten Milk Replacer?

Kitten milk replacer is essential when kittens are orphaned or their mothers can’t nurse them.

Kittens might be orphaned before they are weaned. This is a particular risk for outdoor cats that are often killed by cars or by predators.

A mother cat may become ill and unable to care for their kittens, or her milk may dry up due to the illness. She may even die from the illness in extreme cases. Mother cats can also die from complications of giving birth.

kittens with mother cat

Another scenario where kittens need kitten milk replacer is when their mother’s maternal instincts fail. Though not common, mother cats sometimes won’t care for the kittens, and may abandon them altogether.

It is also possible for the mother cat to have so many kittens that she simply doesn’t have enough milk for them all. When this happens, the smallest and weakest kittens can’t compete with their siblings and require supplementation.

Kitten milk replacer should also be used to supplement kittens that are not gaining weight at a healthy rate and need extra nutrition. Kittens recovering from Fading Kitten Syndrome often need nutritional supplements.

Finally, kitten milk replacer can be used when weaning the kitten from their mom and transitioning them to solid food. This helps ensure the kitten is getting all their necessary nutrients

How Much Milk Replacer Do Kittens Need?

The amount of kitten milk replacer each kitten needs depends on their age, size, and overall health. Very young kittens require frequent feedings as their stomachs can’t handle much volume at one time.

Kittens should consume approximately 8 mL of formula per ounce of body weight daily. Newborn kittens weigh, on average, about 3 ounces, and will need 24 mL of formula split into feedings spaced 2-4 hours apart.

Healthy kittens will gain weight quickly, so make sure to weigh them daily to track progress and so that you can adjust the amount of milk they are getting accordingly.

If you are supplementing kittens that are also getting some mother’s milk, offer them what they will willingly drink at one time.

bottle feeding a little kitten

How Do I Feed Kitten Milk Replacer?

Feed kitten milk replacer at room temperature, or slightly warmer for newborns. Warm the formula by placing the bottle or container in hot water, and test it on your wrist before giving it to the kitten.

Newborn kittens are very tiny, and it is often easiest to feed them using a small syringe. Watch the video below to learn how to do this safely and effectively.

If the kitten is older than 10 days old, then they may be ready to use a bottle designed specifically for kittens.

We recommend having a set of nipples, syringes, and bottles of different sizes on hand so that you always have the right size as the kitten grows.

Different Types Of Milk Replacers Available In The Market

Kitten milk replacer comes as either a pre-mixed liquid or as a powder.

Liquid milk replacers are the most convenient to use since you just open up the can or bottle and it is ready to use. However, once opened, it must be refrigerated and used within 48 hours.

Powdered milk replacers are the most common ones you will find in the stores. These are usually the best solution since you only mix up what you need at the time.

You can use the powdered formula to make one or two days’ worth of feedings in advance, and store refrigerated until needed. Once opened, the container of powdered milk replacer is stable at room temperature for up to three months, after that, it should be discarded.

What If I Don’t Have Kitten Milk Replacer?

If kitten milk replacer is not immediately available, you can make a homemade kitten formula until you can find some. Homemade kitten formulas should only be used if a kitten milk replacer is not available.

Cow’s milk can give kittens diarrhea, and should be avoided if at all possible. Goat milk is a better base for a milk replacer than cow’s milk because it has more calories, fat, and protein than cow’s milk, which is better for the kitten.

sleeping white newborn kitten

The following recipe for kitten milk replacer is taken from The Cornell Book of Cats, which is available on Amazon:

Kitten Replacement Formula

  • 8 ounces homogenized whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon salad oil
  • 1 drop of liquid pediatric vitamins (optional)

Mix well and keep refrigerated. Do not keep for longer than one week.

Are You Feeding An Orphaned Kitten? Then You Must Read This!

There is more to caring for an orphaned kitten than just feeding it. You also need to keep it warm (but not too warm!) and clean. Feedings every 2-4 hours are not optional, they are essential. So yes, you are going to lose some sleep for a few weeks.

And a very critical point, one that many people are not aware of – kittens under three weeks of age need help to go to the bathroom! Usually, the mother cat takes care of this, by licking the kitten’s bum.

But without a mother cat to do this, it now falls to you. This is easily accomplished by gently rubbing the kitten’s bum with a soft, moist cloth in a circular pattern. Make sure to do this after every feeding.

Read more about caring for orphaned kittens here.

Conclusion

Kitten milk replacer is an important tool for raising an orphaned or motherless kitten. It provides all of the nutrition that kitten needs to stay healthy and strong during their fragile first few weeks of life.

Kitten milk replacers are readily available at pet stores, veterinary clinics, and online. If you can’t get your hands on some immediately, a homemade milk replacer will do for a short time.

As always, the best thing to do is seek an expert’s advice if you have any questions. Your veterinarian or local animal shelter will be happy to help.

tiny grey and white kitten whose eyes are barely open

Disclaimer: This article is intended for information purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice. Always consult your veterinarian if you have specific concerns about your pet’s health.

Author

  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins, DVM, PhD

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.

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