I am fostering a feral queen and 4 kittens (they all ended up with an URI) - 1 of them died, and one of them is weaker and smaller than the rest, was not nursing and was losing weight, so I removed it from the litter and started hand feeding on Dec 27. This was after I had exhausted other options such as placing the weaker kitten only with the mom so it would get a chance to nurse. All it did was sleep on top of mom. Since the mom is feral in nature, she is very fearful of me, so extra handling of the kittens by me was causing her stress and she would often hide for hours away from the kittens so I stopped trying that.
It has been about 6 days and initially it wouldn't latch but after the second day the kitten was latching for upwards of 2cc at a time, allowing me to feed it more. This went on for 2 days but I noticed that it was very frantic after feedings and had a hard time falling asleep so I would let it sleep and then only feed it when it woke up on it's own (at the recommendation from another more experienced foster parent), however it would sometimes sleep for 5 hours at a time. This caused the kitten to become dehydrated and hypoglycemic confirmed by the vet when I brought it into the animal emerg. Since it was no longer accepting food, I was afraid it was dying and did not want to extend it's suffering.
The vet thought that the kitten was bright and active, despite not wanting to eat, and would swallow so they advised me to continue to force feed the kitten every 3 hours, which is what I have been doing. I have been force feeding it since Dec 31 and it has been a fight at every meal with the kitten. I have tried wrapping it up, I have tried taking several short breaks, I have tried different nipples, I have tried no nipple, it just will not latch and will only swallow small amounts. I have added a bit more water to the formula to make it thinner and easier to swallow. There must be something wrong?
I have asked my foster coordinator about tube feeding and she does not think it's a good idea given how small the kitten is - only 130g at the moment (1/2 the weight of what it should be). I am also new to fostering and have never tube fed before so would go to a vet to ask first. I am at my wits end here since force feeding is very frustrating. The kitten has been steadily gaining weight (about 2g per feeding) so I know its swallowing the milk, but why won't it latch?! Has anyone experienced anything like this?
I am a cat volunteer enthusiast, not a professional, so my word is only worth so much, but, if you go through the Kitten Lady, Hannah Shaw's videos on Youtube, she makes good suggestions. For example, if the kitten has a URTI, it is not unusual for a lung to be labouring to breath, thereby exhausting the kitten for any other activity. Have you tried putting it into a playpen with a warm air nebulizer or humidifier? Have you tried putting it into the bathroom for 20 min.s + while having a hot shower to loosen congestion? If the kitten can't smell, it won't want to eat. Do you have a miracle nipple? Little tiny adjustments can sometimes get these little ones over the humps...If you try adjusting how you feed (see feeding for fussy eater kittens by Hannah Shaw on Youtube,) in case the kitten has a problem like the food getting stuck in one part of their body and not making it to the stomach... Also, for me, I find that many councillors help. If one vet can't help, sometimes another can suggest something that they have had success with in Neonatal kittens. Also, remember that all you can do is your best, and no more. Take care of you, too. Hope this helps, sorry if it is not helpful.
Sara Smalley, A Canadian Prairie Kitten Enthusiast
Hi! I have been fostering kittens for several years & have had a few 'stubborn' nursers. YOU are doing a fantastic job!!! When I have a kitten that would rather sleep than eat (and yours are healing from a URI) I wake them for feedings. At 2 weeks they are just starting to be aware of their surroundings (eyes opening, ears opening up, etc) & sleeping & eating is mostly what they are doing.... This past summer I had a little one, Angel Baby, who was literally half the size of her siblings, took 2 weeks to learn to latch (all but one of her siblings were already eating canned food by the time she learned to latch onto a bottle) & didn't reach her weight for adoption (over 2 pounds) until she was almost 4 months old! She is just a small little one & WAY behind. Be patient. I have a couple of suggestions (for what they are worth):
Name that baby - call her by name & speak often to her...
If she won't take the bottle or not interested, I open a bottle of Karo Syrup or Molasses and touch the tip end of my little finger onto the top & rub it onto their little gums, just a drop or karo can bring them around enough to nurse.
I'm sure you know this, but if you don't put her back with Mom (which I would do unless she gets pushed away) make sure to keep her warm. If you pick her up to bottle feed & she has been pushed away from Mom, warm her up good before you feed her & discuss with your foster group - you may need to find another baby to put with her & go ahead & put her on a heating pad (or other acceptable heating source).
Wake her up well before you feed her... make sure she makes eye contact or at least looks your way when you talk to her.
Rub her little belly after you feed her in case she is having some tummy issues.
I would also suggest that you pick a nipple & stick with it - if you are trying different ones, it may be more difficult to get her to latch.
If her urine gets dark yellow get her to vet for more fluids.
One thing I have done when I had a litter with a bad URI - I rubbed Vicks on my chest, covered it with a towel from the kitchen & laid them on me for a bit. That way they get the benefit of the menthol for their breathing issues. I'm not sure whether it actually helped or not, but it made me feel like I was doing something for them. Please be careful not to get ANY of the Vicks on them because eucalyptus is poisonous to cats (if they digest it).
If you are getting worn out (and believe me a 'putzer' or stubborn latcher can do that), see if you can find a friend, partner or another foster to help out & give you a break every other day or so - it helps!
I suspect that she is still healing & may still have a URI. It may just take time. Do your best & keep up the good work, Mom! YOU are doing a GREAT JOB & if she doesn't make it, you did EVERYTHING you were supposed to do. I hope she makes it, if Baby Angel is any example of what a 'stubborn' nurser is, she will make a great companion for someone some day! Angel is now driving across the country with her parents in a big 18 wheeler & they are all LOVING it!
So great you came here for help! You are doing awesome, thinking outside the box and working so hard to help your baby. It's a shame to me that so many veterinarians are fearful of tube feeding. I say, if they're going to die without food ANYWAY, why not try to tube feed them? The ones I have tube fed ARE the tiny ones that HAVE to nurse but won't figure out the bottle. Hanna Shaw (Kitten Lady) does have a good video for stubborn nursers, but when all that fails, I tube feed. It can be dangerous if you insert the tube in the wrong place, I aim for the right side of the kittens throat (my left as I'm looking at the kitten) and try to get it to cry or make a noise before I depress the syringe. There's much more to it, as in measuring the tube length properly, not using too small a tube (I like 5 fr for 0-3 weeks), knowing how much their stomachs can hold, etc. It's all out there on the interwebs, and tube feeding has saved lives of my foster babies. Ok, one of them still died, but it had an aspiration pneumonia from being bottle fed improperly and it's tiny body couldn't fight any more. GOOD LUCK <3
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