Kitten Kindergarten

When it comes to pet training, dogs traditionally have had a paw up on their feline counterparts. Programs to increase a cat’s socialization and training aren’t considered by most pet owners and didn’t exist until recently. But school is becoming the "in" thing for kittens, with the advent of kitten kindergarten.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Diarrhea, Gastro-Enteritis and Enteritis

Severe Diarrhea or severe Gastro-Enteritis is a serious inflammation of the stomach and intestine which causes abdominal pain, severe diarrhea and often vomiting. It quickly causes dehydration and electrolyte loss due to excessive fluid loss. The kitten may cry in pain if it has the strength to do so. Seek immediate veterinary help. Antibiotics may be required to combat infection. If and when the condition stabilizes, the kitten may be too weak to suckle and may require tube-feeding.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Hypothermia

This is a frequent cause of neonatal death. Kittens have no control of their body temperature at first. Their small size means they quickly lose heat. Their inability to store glucose for long means they run out of metabolic fuel which would generate internal heat (hypoglycaemia). Hypothermic kittens feel cold and limp. Their blood pressure drops, their circulation slows and their paws, abdomen, tongue and gums become pale (then bluish) due to reduced oxygen supply. The vital organs and digestive system cannot function at low temperatures or with reduced circulation. The kitten will become comatose if not treated promptly.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)

Caused by inadequate or infrequent feeding; also when abandoned kittens are found and have not been able to nurse for some time (e.g. mother killed or driven away). Kittens up to two weeks old can store very little glucose in their bodies. Small kittens are also at risk. Kittens with a septic infection need glucose in order to fight the infection; they will need feeding every 2 hours day and night. In general, feeding every 2 hours prevents hypoglycaemia.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Hypoxia (Oxygen Starvation)

Oxygen starvation can result from a prolonged or difficult birth. It is often the result of placental failure or umbilical cord obstruction during the birth or respiratory obstruction. Affected kittens are usually less active than their litter mates. The suck reflex may be weak or missing altogether. They are often too weak to survive unaided so it is essential to identify affected kittens quickly after birth and to start treatment promptly. In some cases there will be brain damage; mildly damaged kittens may go on to lead relatively normal lives. Severely affected kittens should be euthanized.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens

Information presented here has been provided by human foster mothers, veterinary staff and cat shelter workers. Many hand-rearing articles are aimed at breeders or contain veterinary terms. My own experience is related to cat rescue/shelter work where I have helped in supplementary feeding or emergency care of kittens.

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Hand-Rearing Kittens: Fading Kitten Syndrome

FKS is a general term used for kittens which fade away for no apparent reason within a few days of birth or sometimes at several weeks old despite earlier good progress. Various viruses and bacteria have been implicated. A mismatch between the mother’s blood type and the kitten’s blood type leads to maternal antibodies (in colostrum) breaking down the kitten’s blood and leading to rapid fading.

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