Feeding a Bottle Baby

Many well-meaning people bring kittens to shelters thinking this is the best way to save their lives, but this can put them at risk. Newborn kittens require round the clock care that may not be available at a shelter facility. Our foster program helps to solve this problem as foster volunteers can provide for neonatal kittens in a home setting. OPHS has kitten kits available that equip individuals to care for kittens until they are ready for their forever homes.

While it is always best to keep babies with their mother cat, it may not always be possible and bottle babies need additional support in foster homes. Foster parents will need to coordinate not only feedings, but maintain body temperature with heating pads as well. Extra care is required until litters of kittens have transitioned to solid food. Fostering truly is a lifesaving measure for these little kittens!

Unweaned kittens need to be fed with a bottle and kitten formula, which can be purchased at most pet supply stores or online.  Kittens should not be fed cow’s milk or any dairy products or milk alternatives.  Kitten formula is specially formulated to meet their unique needs.


Aspiration:  The act of inhaling fluid or a foreign body into the bronchi and lungs.

To Aspirate:  To take fluid into the bronchi and lungs.

FORMULA:  OPHS will provide you with formula. Kitten formula such as KMR (kitten milk replacer) is also available from your local pet store or pet food supplier. Some come in powdered form you mix with water, other come pre-mixed that you can use straight from the can.




  1.  Thoroughly mix the powdered kitten formula with warm water according to the product’s instructions.  

 Test the temperature on the inside of your wrist; it should be comfortably warm, made fresh every 1-2 

 feedings, and free of clumps. (If product is chilled from fridge, warm milk in a hot water bath by placing  

 bottle in a cup of warm water. DO NOT MICROWAVE THE FORMULA DIRECTLY. The formula should feel 

 slightly warm on your wrist, but not hot. Ideal formula temperature is 100° F. Your body temperature is

 approx.. 98.6°, so it should feel only slightly warm.


  1.  Cut a small hole into the nipple of the bottle to allow formula to flow. Invert the bottle & fill the nipple

 with formula. When properly cut, formula should just barely drip out. 


  1.  Hold the kitten in a natural position with the belly down on the table or your lap. Do not hold the kitten

 like a baby with the belly up, as this could lead to aspiration.


  1.  Hold the kitten’s head and body steady with your non-dominant hand, placing one finger on the throat to allow you to feel for swallowing. Gently introduce the tip of the nipple into the mouth with the dominant hand.


  1. The kitten should roll her tongue like a taco and latch onto the tip of the nipple. Do not flood the mouth with formula; let the kitten drink at her own pace.


  1. Allow the kitten to drink until she drinks an acceptable volume based on her weight.
  1. Gently wipe the kitten’s face clean with a baby wipe or barely damp paper towel. 
  1. STIMULATE THE KITTEN:  Have paper towels, a small bowl of warm water, and a regular towel on hand for this process. To stimulate the kitten, place a folded towel in your lap to catch the pee & poop. Gently rub the areas located under the tail with a paper towel that has been just barely dipped into warm water. It may take some time, or it may happen right away. Allow the pee to fall into the folded up towel in your lap. The kitten will normally pee every feeding. Once it has finished, continue to stimulate for about 10 more seconds to see if the kitten needs to poop. Kittens usually only need to poop every 24-36 hours, so don’t be worried if the kitten doesn’t poop every feeding. Once this occurs, take a clean paper towel or wash cloth dampened with warm water and clean the kitten's hind end. Proper kitten poop will change from yellow-brown to more brown the older they get and start to wean. The consistency should look similar to brown toothpaste in form.
  1. Dry kitten off with warm towel and return to heating pad.


  • Make sure the length of the nipple is not too long, or the kitten could aspirate.
  • Make sure the flow is correct. If a nipple hole is too small or big, the kitten may not get a good latch.                
  • Make sure the flow is correct. If a nipple hole is too small or big, the kitten may not get a good latch.
  • If a kitten is being fussy, you can try gently wrapping her in a blanket while feeding.



  • Formula coming out of the kitten’s mouth or nose  This is caused by the kitten being fed too quickly, usually because the feeder squeezes the bottle or uses a bottle with an overly large nipple hole.
  • Underfeeding  An underfed kitten fails to gain weight, cries excessively, shivers, and is listless.
  • Overfeeding  Overfeeding is a common cause of gas, bloating, vomiting, and/or diarrhea in kittens, though runny stools may also indicate other medical problems. Dehydration can quickly become life-threatening in kittens with diarrhea, so contact OPHS as soon as this occurs.
  • Choking  This usually indicates that the kitten has inhaled some of the formula. Hold her upside down until the choking ceases.
  • Extreme weakness  If the kitten is too weak to feed, it may be ill or require tube feeding, though this should be a last resort. Try stroking its forehead and back and rubbing a little Karo syrup on its lips. If you can’t get the kitten to nurse, contact OPHS when this occurs for evaluation and treatment.