There’s nothing cuter in this world than to see a bunch of kittens sleeping or playing together. Their scrounge-up faces, tiny paws and bumbling movements make for adorable kitties.
One thing that kittens are great at besides being cute is eating and kittens do have a ferocious appetite.
However, there will be times when a kitten might not be eating as much as required or worse, not eating at all.
Kittens on average eat about 6 times a day which makes it necessary to feed them every 3 to 4 hours. Newborn kittens can’t go more than 12 hours without food. The older the kitten gets, the longer it can go without food.
Even if a kitten can go on for some time without food, we want to make sure that this doesn’t happen. Kittens need as much food as possible to fuel their growing bodies and mind.
In this article, we will discuss the timeframes of feeding your kitten, possible reasons that can make your kitten stop eating and what you can do about it.
Let’s get started.
How Long Can Kittens Go Without Food?
As a general rule of thumb, the younger the kitten, the more frequently it will need to be fed. Some newborn kittens can eat up to 12 times daily. It isn’t a good idea to let a feeding schedule lapse unless recommended by the vet.
Here’s a general feeding schedule based on a kitten’s age.
0-4 Weeks Of Age
Newborn kittens have a very demanding feeding schedule. They need to be fed at least every 2-3 hours. This stage is crucial for the kitten’s survival as their bodies are weak and need all the nutrition that they can get.
4 – 8 Weeks Of Age
As kittens get older, the feeding frequency tends to decrease as well. Kittens within this age range need to be fed every 4-5 hours daily.
8 Weeks Or More
Your little and once vulnerable-looking kitten is well on its way to being an adult cat. A kitten this old needs to be fed about 2-3 times daily which is similar to most older cats.
What Should I Be Feeding My Kitten?
If your queen has just given birth to her kittens, their mother’s milk is all the nutrition that they need for now. A queen’s milk has all the important nutrients and vitamins that her kittens require.
If you have just adopted a kitten less than four weeks old, you will need to get a replacement kitten formula from the vet.
Do not feed newborn kittens cow’s milk or anything else as they won’t be able to digest it properly. Even though kittens are not lactose intolerant like most adult cats, cow milk can upset their delicate tummies and cause bad diarrhea and vomiting.
After four weeks of age, you can start giving your kitten some solid food like canned or wet food. Please do not start feeding your kitten dry food or kibble as it isn’t healthy for cats of any age.
When choosing a canned food, get those that are made for kittens which are usually in pate form. This makes it easier for the little ones to eat and swallow.
You can still expect your kitten to be asking for its milk formula, so don’t throw that out too soon.
Once your kitten has passed the age of 8 weeks, they are ready to fully transition to solid food for all meals. Pet owners should make it a point to feed their kittens the best diet possible.
You can feed your kitten good quality canned food or start them on a raw meat diet. A raw diet is the most natural diet for cats as they are obligate carnivores.
Feral or stray kittens are very comfortable eating whatever prey their mother has caught for them.
Toilet Habits Of Young Kittens
Another thing you need to take note of is that kittens can’t poo on their own. The mother cat will lick their backside after each meal to stimulate bowel movements in her litter.
After they poo, the mother cat will then clean them by licking their anuses if there is poo stuck halfway in their butt.
Thankfully for pet owners, using our tongues on our little cats is definitely not required. But you do need to take a warm damp towel and slowly rub your kitten’s bum to try and make it poo. Make sure to also wipe your kitten clean after it is done.
It is common to see poo stuck halfway in your kitten’s anus if you do not do this process properly.
Why Is My Kitten Not Eating?
When it comes to kittens, most cat owners do not have to entice them to eat. Kittens are constantly crying for food to fuel their growth.
Here are some reasons that can put a lid on your kitten’s appetite.
Looking For Its Mother
When kittens are born, they are born blind and deaf. This makes them very dependent on their mother cat. If you have recently adopted a tiny kitten, don’t be surprised to hear your kitten cry non-stop for its mother.
The constant grooming, warmth and scent of their mother make the kittens feel comfortable and secure. Furthermore, kittens have the natural instinct to suckle on their mother’s milk.
If your kitten has been taken away from its mother before the proper weaning age, it can have problems eating.
When you first bring your newborn kitten home, everything will smell unfamiliar and strange to it.
Cats recognize each other through smell and can get confused in a new environment. To not allow the kitten to experience sensory overload, isolate the poor newborn kitten in a room by itself away from other pets and family members.
Newborn kittens might not be able to handle stress better than adult cats. Everything is a new experience for the kitten which can leave it feeling overwhelmed.
This sensation is made worse without the comforting smell of its mother and littermates.
It is best to keep your kitten’s stress level to a minimum by allowing it to be as comfortable as possible.
Kittens are more prone to falling sick as compared to adult cats. Kittens that are orphaned or abandoned have an even higher risk as they lack their mother’s milk.
This milk contains nutrients that help to strengthen the kitten’s immune system and protect against diseases.
If you have a kitten that has been orphaned, it might not be in the best health which affects its appetite.
Cats do a pretty good job of regulating their body temperature via their ears. When it gets too cold, their thick fur coats help to keep them warm.
Unfortunately, kittens can’t regulate their body temperatures via their ears and need extra heating to help keep them warm.
A cold kitten might not be strong enough to eat even when hungry.
How Can I Get My Kitten To Eat?
If your kitten isn’t eating normally, here are some methods that you can try to get its appetite going.
Warm Up The Food
Kittens might be born deaf and blind but they still have their keen sense of smell. If you have been feeding your kitten cold food, make it a point to warm it up before feeding time.
To win over a cat’s appetite, you need to entice its nose first. Warm food tends to smell better to cats which makes them eat more.
Make sure that the milk or solid food isn’t too hot or it will scald your kitten’s mouth.
Just slightly warm and it’s good enough.
Look For A Foster Mother Cat
If your kitten is still very young, less than 8 weeks old, having a foster queen look after it for a few weeks might be a better idea.
Kittens that have not been properly weaned off their mother cat still yearn for them.
The young kitten feels more at ease drinking from a lactating female cat than from a bottle.
Bottle Feed Your Cat
In the event that no foster cat is available, the next best option would be to start bottle feeding your kitten with kitten milk formula.
Do not feed your kitten if it is feeling cold as it won’t be able to digest the milk replacement. Wrap your kitten in a blanket and gently rub its paws till it no longer feels cold.
You can then proceed to bottle-feed your cat.
You can just leave your kitten out in the open or without the necessities and expect it to be comfortable.
For newborn kittens, keeping the temperature of the room nice and toasty or approximately 100F degrees would be good.
You can touch your kitten’s ears, paws and nose to see if it feels cold to the touch as a gauge of how cold it is feeling.
Keep the room warm with a heater or an electric blanket for the kitten.
For kittens that are slightly older, have other essentials like a water bowl, litter box, scratching post and toys.
See The Vet
Last but not least, take your kitten to the vet if it hasn’t been eating well recently. Do not sit on this as kittens need food more often than older cats.
A newborn kitten that doesn’t eat every few hours can fade away and die.
Look out for these signs to know that your kitten isn’t feeling well:
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal and nose discharge
- Lack of energy
Please do not attempt to self-medicate your kitten with medication for your other cats. A kitten’s body is very sensitive and can easily suffer from adverse side effects.
Your vet will prescribe you medication that is suitable for kittens.
Can Kittens Go All Night Without Eating?
Once again it depends on the age and health status of the kitten. If your kitten is still less than 4 weeks old, you will have to wake up a few times during the night to make sure that it is fed.
Kittens that are older than 4 weeks can go through the night without eating if they are adequately fed during the day. In general, kittens that are younger than 6 months are always hungry and should be fed as much as possible to help with their growth.
Will Newborn Kittens Cry When Hungry?
Newborn kittens can get rather vocal when they are hungry. By crying and kneading at their mother’s teat, it tells her that they are hungry and she will start to lactate.
Kittens will also cry for a variety of reasons like when they are looking for attention, feeling stressed, looking for warmth, etc.
Should I Force Feed My Kitten?
If your kitten has not been eating at its optimum frequency, the vet might have to proceed to force-feed the cat.
Force-feeding is common in kittens who have been found orphaned or in a bad state. It is important to get nutrition in the kitten immediately before it starts to fade away.
If your vet has instructed you to force-feed your kitten every few hours, it will be via a syringe and with liquid food to make it easier to go down.
How Long Can Kittens Go Without Water?
Kittens can generally last 3-4 days without water as do most adult cats. Cats originated from the desert and are good at withholding their thirst.
If your kitten is currently drinking milk or being fed wet food, it should be getting all the moisture that it needs.
There’s no harm in leaving a small water bowl to encourage it to drink more. Chances are, your kitten will have more fun playing with it.
Is It Normal For My New Kitten To Not Eat?
It can be normal for new kittens to be frightened when they first arrive home. Your poor cat has been removed from its familiar surroundings and is feeling unsettled.
A new kitten might not have the best of appetites when trying to settle into its new home. It can take a few weeks to a month for your cat to start feeling like the king of the hill.
You should notice a gradual increase in its appetite as the days pass.
What Happens If My New Kitten Doesn’t Eat?
If your new kitten does not eat it can start to experience Kitten Fading Syndrome. The first 4-5 weeks of a newborn kitten’s life are very important.
During this stage, your kitten is very prone to falling sick and needs all the care and nutrition that it can get.
The kitten fading syndrome will result in the kitten getting weaker and less willing to eat as time passes. Once it gets too serious, the kitten will not survive.
As cute as kittens are, they can be difficult to raise if you are not familiar with the process. This is even more important for kittens who are less than 5 weeks old.
But not to worry.
If you happen to adopt or foster a kitten so young, your vet will be able to give you all the advice and resources required to transform your little kitty into a healthy adult cat.
Your kitten’s appetite is a good indicator of its health so make sure that it is always eating.