A newborn kitten, with its delicate features and endearing meows, depends heavily on its mother for survival. But sometimes, due to various reasons, kittens might be separated from their mothers. The question that arises in such situations is, “How long can newborn kittens survive without their mom?” This is a crucial concern for anyone rescuing, fostering, or stumbling upon a seemingly abandoned kitten. Let’s dive deeper into this matter.
The First Hours of Life
In the very first hours of a kitten’s life, the mother provides them with colostrum, a unique milk filled with vital antibodies. This helps to protect the kitten from infections and kick-starts their immunity. Without this, kittens are more susceptible to illnesses.
The First Week
During the initial week, kittens are incredibly vulnerable. Their eyes and ears are closed, and they rely wholly on their mother for warmth, food, and the stimulation required to urinate and defecate. Without the mother:
- Warmth: Kittens can’t regulate their body temperature. Without the warmth provided by their mother, they can quickly succumb to hypothermia.
- Feeding: Newborns need to feed every 2-3 hours. Without the mother’s milk, they are at risk of malnutrition and dehydration.
- Stimulation: Kittens need gentle stimulation to help them with bodily functions.
Given these needs, without intervention, a newborn kitten may only survive for a few hours to a day without their mother.
Weeks 2 to 4
By the end of the second week, a kitten’s eyes start to open, and they begin to become more mobile. However, they are still heavily reliant on their mother’s milk for nutrition. They might survive for a bit longer without their mom – perhaps a couple of days – but they still require human intervention for feeding and warmth.
Weeks 4 to 8
From the fourth week onwards, kittens begin the weaning process. They can start to eat solid food, but they’ll still benefit from their mother’s milk. Without their mother, kittens at this age can survive for maybe 3-4 days but are still at high risk of other health complications if not adequately cared for.
What Can You Do?
If you come across abandoned kittens:
- Warmth: Provide a heat source like a heating pad or a warm bottle wrapped in cloth. Ensure it’s not too hot and always have a layer between the kitten and the heat source.
- Feeding: Do not feed kittens cow’s milk. Use a kitten milk replacement formula available at pet stores.
- Stimulation: Use a soft cloth or tissue to gently stimulate the kitten’s genital area to encourage them to urinate and defecate.
- Veterinary Care: If possible, get the kittens to a vet for a check-up and guidance on their care.
The survival of a newborn kitten without its mother depends significantly on its age and the immediate care it receives. While the first hours to days are critical, with proper human intervention, the kitten’s chances of survival increase. Remember, it’s essential to try and find the mother if you suspect kittens have been abandoned – she might be out hunting or has been scared away temporarily.