The gestation period for cats normally lasts for about nine weeks. If the kittens are born before this point, or have an abnormally low birth weight, they are considered premature. Premature newborn kittens, like humans, require an enormous amount of care and attention. Survival for a premature newborn kitten can be tenuous, but with the proper measures taken, the kittens can survive.
Things You'll Need
- Blankets or towels
- Kitchen scale
- Heating pad
- Rubber gloves
Prepare a box lined with towels or blanket for the mother cat and premature kittens to rest in. Place the box in a semi-darkened area that is away from bright light and other forms of stimulation.
Weigh the newborn preemie kittens if possible. Full-term kittens usually weigh between 3 and 3 1/2 oz. at birth. Premature kittens may weigh as little as 2 oz.
Encourage the mother cat to keep her babies very close so that they will stay warm. If she does not cooperate or there is a draft, add a heating pad to the box. According to Kitten-Rescue.com, premature kittens require temperatures in the mid-90 degree F range for the first few weeks in order to survive (see Resources). Use a weather thermometer to measure the temperature of the box.
Keep a close eye on the mother cat to see that she has enough milk for her kittens, and that the newborns are eating. If they are not getting enough milk, supplement the feeding using a plastic syringe without a needle attached.
Feed premature newborn kittens boiled water that has been cooled to warm for the first week while their digestive systems mature. Feeding amounts may begin at 1 ml every two hours and can increase to 1 1/2 ml as the kittens grow. Kitten formula can replace the boiled water when the kittens are about a week and a half old. Petsmart and other pet food stores sell this product (see Resources).
Make sure the newborn kittens are eliminating. Some premature kittens get constipated and need help. You can massage the kittens' stomach area to help their bowels along.
Pat the kittens gently and speak to them reassuringly as they struggle in their first days. Touch and calm surroundings are important factors in the development of these fragile little animals.