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So your children just brought home a kitten that is less than 6 weeks old, or you found a litter of kittens in your yard, and their eyes are still shut, what do you do?

If your children brought the kitten home find out where they got it from and if possible return it, but be forwarned, sometimes a mother cat will not take a kitten back that has been gone too long. The length of time will depend upon the age of the kitten and the individual cat.

If you found a litter in your yard, more than likely someone thought that it was a good place to dump an unwanted litter of kittens. If you have any ideas on who it was, feel free to vent your disgust with such cruel and inhumane treatment. Now comes the work-- you just became a mama cat.

Be prepared if your orphaned kitten is less than two weeks old, it may not survive no matter what you do. Prior to two weeks they recieve a lot of important nutrients and care from the mother cat that we as humans cannot duplicate. You may be lucky, but try not to get too attached, but if you are taking on the responsibility of caring for the kitten you probably are already attached, so the previous caution is not going to work. Good luck.

Kittens are fairly simple to raise if you are prepared to spend the time caring for them. They require feeding, warmth, and lots of TLC. You will need the following:

An animal feeding bottle. When feeding them, experience has shown that eye droppers are not effective, unless you have a lot of patience and time.

Kitten formula. Available at most pet stores, and many large stores with a good pet department. Pick a brand and stick with it, much like a baby formula. Follow the directions of your vet, or if he/she is unavailable the directions on the container. Your vetanarian will probably be able to suggest the best one available in your area.

A cardboard box with some old rags, or towels lining the bottom. Your kitten will need to be kept warm and out of drafts, they are very susceptable to colds and chilling. I have had some success using an old heating pad on one side of the box. The kitten could curl up near the heating pad if it felt cold.

Now you have the equipment together, find a place to keep your kitten. A fairly quiet location, much like a mother cat would find, the bottom of a closet, under a table, or bed. Make sure it is reasonably accessible for your convenience. Generally speaking the dimmer the light the better for the kitten. You should make sure that the cloth on the bottom is soft, and dry. Old towels, worn out t-shirts, or jeans are ideal.

Your kitten will let you know when it is hungry by crawling around and mewing. The younger they are the more often they will need feeding. Make up the formula according to the vets or the label directions. Be sure it is body temperature, you wouldn't want to chill the kitten's stomach. Hold the kitten in your lap and angle the nipple so he/she can find it. Once the kitten has the nipple let them enjoy thier meal. Gently stroke the kitten while it is feeding, brushing the fur first back and then forward will help with digestion.

The kitten has finished and is starting to sleep, now is the time to burp the kitten. Yes just like a human baby your kitten will need burping. Now is the time to be thankful that, unlike babies, they very seldom spit up. Place the kitten on your shoulder and very gently pat it. You will hear a soft burp. After burping the kitten, take a warm damp washcloth and clean his/her face. Use gentle circular motions, covering the chin, sides and neck of your kitten. Mama cat washes her kittens several times a day. This serves several purposes: keeping them clean, bonding the kitten and the mother and ensuring that they are able to digest thier food.

You will need to encourage your kitten to evacuate its bowels, using a warm damp washcloth rub the abdomen in a circular motion. Your kitten may or may not go at this time, but check on a fairly regular basis and make sure you clean them up as soon as you are aware that they have gone. Just like babies they can get a rash. Unlike babies you can't use a diaper rash cream. once they are able to walk start encouraging them to use a litter box.

Dry your kitten off with a dry towel or washcloth, and let it sleep until the next feeding time. When your kitten is about 4 weeks old you can introduce kitten food, moistened with a little formula. The microwave is ideal for preparing it. about a tablespoon of dry kitten food, and two tablespoons of prepared formula in the microwave for 30 seconds and mash. Don't be disappointed if the first few times the kitten doesn't eat. It is a new taste/texture and will require some adjustment on the kittens part. Offering it before you bottle feed will help encourage him/her to eat.

As the kitten gets older they will start to look for a litter box. Find one that they can climb in and out of, an old shoe box lid filled with kitty litter is about the right size. When your kitten goes outside of the litter box just place him/her in and he will learn quickly that is where he is supposed to go. Sometimes you may have to show your kitten how to scratch and bury the litter, gently scratch the litter with one of the kittens paws when you put them in the litter box and they will soon get the idea.

Most kitten are weaned at about 6 to 8 weeks, so continue to supplement their dry food with formula until they are about 8 weeks old. They will need the extra nutrients and calories until they can consume enough kitten food to supply thier needs.

Enjoy your kitten, you have done a great job, and provided an independent friend for life. Generally I have found that bottle raised cats are friendlier, and more affectionate than others. I hope that you enjoy your new pet. Don't forget to get your kitten spayed/neutered as soon as your vet feels they are old enough. Your vet should be able to answer any other questions you might have.