How to Take Care of Newborn Kittens & a Mother Cat

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Your role of taking care of newborn kittens and a mother cat is mostly one of observation. You need to watch to see whether the kittens are:

  • Feeding
  • Kept warm
  • Excreting on their own
  • Developing social skills

The mother cat typically handles all those duties on her own. You step in if the mother or kittens appear to be in trouble and to socialize the kittens to become used to people.

A man holding a kitten in his hand.
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A mother cat usually gestates between 63 and 65 days. You should set up a box for her to get used to during this time. The box should have low enough sides to allow the mother cat to climb in and out easily, but it shouldn't be so low that the kittens could get out.

Line the box with layers of newspapers, and place the box in a warm, dimly lit, quiet place, such as a closet or a corner where there isn't much activity. The mother might use the box to give birth, but she might choose her own place.

A litter of kittens drinking milk from their mother while in a cardboard box.
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Soon after birth, look at the kittens. Make sure the mother cat is stimulating them so that they can breath, urinate and defecate. She does this by licking the newborns' faces immediately to get them to breathe. She later licks around the anal glands to help excretion. Check to see whether the kittens are nursing. Kittens typically nurse every one to two hours. If not, place any non-nursing kittens near a nipple of the mother cat, and rub the kitten's face against the nipple.

A newborn kitten curled up with its mother.
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During the time a mother cat is pregnant until a month after she's done nursing, feed her a high-quality kitten food. This gives the mother cat and her kittens extra calories and nutrients. You should place the food and water near the mother and kittens.

A cat looking up from her food dish.
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Check to see whether the mother and kittens appear healthy and thriving. VCA Animal Hospitals recommends that you bring the mother cat and her kittens to a veterinarian within 24 hours after delivery. The veterinarian can ensure all the kittens have been delivered and whether the mother cat is producing enough milk. A veterinarian can answer any questions you have and can give you directions on when to start giving the kittens solid food.

A cat nursing two newborn kittens.
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Socializing the kittens to ready them to be pets requires some assistance from you. Start handling the kittens when they are 2 weeks old. Make sure you and other family members handle the kittens gently. Continue to handle and play with the kittens through the seventh week. This is the prime socialization period for cats.

A person gently holding a kitten outside.
Alena Brozova/Hemera/Getty Images

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