What to Feed a 1 Month-Old Kitten
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You will need to feed a 1 month-old kitten milk replacement since they are not yet able to eat solid food. Kittens begin to wean off of their mother's milk at around 1 month of age. It is not until they are almost 2 months old that they fully transition to solid food. For this reason, bottle feeding kittens at this age is necessary. There are some reasons why a kitten cannot feed from their mother. This could be due to the mother abandoning her kittens, illness in the mother or even the kitten accidentally becoming lost. We should never allow forcible removal from the mother before weaning since this can cause serious harm to the newborn.
At AnimalWised, we discover what to feed a 1 month-old kitten. We look at what kitten milk replacement is necessary to meet their nutritional needs and what we need to do when bottle feeding kittens.
What do kittens eat?
Newborn kittens obtain their mother's antibodies through colostrum during the first hours of life. Colostrum is the first secretion of the mother cat's mammary glands and is very rich in nutrients, as well as antibodies. This gives the kitten strength, builds weight and strengthens their immune system which is very vulnerable at this time.
After all the colostrum is consumed by the kittens in the litter, the mother's regular milk is produced. The cats should receive all of their nutrition from this milk. They will feed every 2-3 hours until they are three weeks of age. Kittens are altricial animals and require their mother to meet all of their needs, including feeding. The mother will guide the kittens to her teats for feedings and they will instinctually know how to suckle.
Kittens will need lots of calories to fully develop, these calories will reach 130 kcal per kg daily at 3 weeks of age. From this moment on, the frequency of feedings can be extended up to 4-5 hours. It is important to use formula for cats, although if you do not have it, you can opt for an emergency puppy formula as an emergency alternative.
Reasons a mother cat cannot feed her kittens
If a kitten has been weaned already, we will not need to feed them milk. However, if you have a 1 month-old kitten, you will need to feed them kitten milk replacement since they cannot eat solid food on their own. Although it is more common for them to remain together until weaning, there are various reasons why a kitten is separated from their mother. They include:
- Rejection by the mother: a mother cat's instincts are strong and they will only reject their kitten in extenuating circumstances. This could be due to the kitten being sick since she won't risk a sick kitten making her other newborns ill. Another reason is the mother being under stress, with her anxiety making her feel she cannot care for her young. Learn about the reasons for stress in cats which may contribute to this situation.
- Human intervention: just as a mother cat may do it instinctually, a veterinarian may separate a kitten if they think they are at risk of infecting the other kittens or they need some health treatments. It could also be that the mother has an illness which she risks passing onto her young.
- Separation before weaning: unfortunately, some humans may separate a kitten early simply because they want to and neglect the harm it will cause. It could be because they are not educated on cat care or because they are impatient and want a kitten immediately.
- Unintentional abandonment: if we find a stray or feral kitten, it could because the mother had to abandon them. Maybe a predator appeared near her nest and she could not rescue all of her kittens. Even inclement weather could be a reason why mother and kitten were separated.
It is of the most vital importance that a kitten stay with her mother until the weaning period is over. Too many kittens are separated early which can lead to health and behavioral issues later in life. We may need to take care of abandoned kittens if we find some in the wild, although we need to be very careful to ensure the mother isn't simply nearby.
What to feed a 1-month old kitten
As we have explained, a kitten as young as one month of age is not yet able to eat solid food. When it is not possible to drink her mother's milk, we will need to find a suitable alternative in the form of kitten replacement formula. This is an artificial milk which provides the nutrients which would otherwise be found in the mother's milk.
Since the kitten has reached 1 month of age, they will not need colostrum. This is because they received the nutrients they need at this stage. Unfortunately, if they have not, they have less chance of survival to 1 month.
Kitten milk replacement
Kitten milk replacement formula can be purchased from a good pet store or a veterinary clinic. You will not have time to order it online if you are in charge of feeding a 1-month old kitten. It can be purchased in powdered or liquid form.
If the formula is in powder form, you should not prepare more than one serving for 48 hours at a time. When preparing a powdered milk marketed for cats it can be divided into portions and kept refrigerated until it is used. Before using it, the formula should be heated to 35-38 ºC/95-104.4 ºF by immersing it in a warm water bath. Never heat kitten formula in the microwave due to the risk of overheating or uneven heating.
Orphaned kittens should be bottle fed, leaving the syringe for emergencies. The steps to bottle feeding kittens are the following:
- Put the warmed kitten formula into a bottle with a suitable teat for suckling.
- Cradle the kitten in your arms so they are lying horizontally on their stomach
- Raise the head to mimic feeding from their mother.
- Squeeze out a little formula into the teat and move the kitten's mouth towards it to motivate them.
To see more detail about bottle feeding kittens, check out our article on how to feed a newborn kitten. This will help you also when your kitten is less than 1 month old.
If your kitten is less than 3 weeks old, you will also need to help your kitten defecate. A daily record of weight, meals, elimination and general behavior must be kept, as well as maintaining a good temperature (30-32 ºC during the first week, dropping to 24 ºC in the following). They will also need to be in a warm and safe area in your home.
It's important to remember that if you've found an abandoned kitten, the first thing you need to do is take them to the veterinarian. They will make sure the kitten isn't ill, tell you exactly how old it is and will help you plan how to care for it.
Homemade kitten replacement formula
We must stress that it is important you purchase kitten replacement formula from a pet store or, ideally, from a veterinary clinic. This is because it is very difficult to recreate this formula at home. However, if you are unable to access any of these services immediately, you can make a temporary homemade kitten replacement formula. Only use until you are able to purchase a commercial product.
The following is the recipe for homemade emergency kitten replacement formula:
- 6 tbsp (90 ml) condensed milk
- 6 tbsp (90 ml) water
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) full fat plain yogurt
- 3 large egg yolks (or 4 small)
Blend all of these ingredients together until they are in a homogenous mix. It should be of a gloopy milk consistency, i.e. thicker than normal milk, but not solid. Warm to 35-38 ºC/95-104.4 ºF and feed as instructed above.
How much does a 1-month old kitten eat?
A 1 month old kitten will need at least 130 kcal per kilogram of weight divided into 4-5 daily intakes. A 1 month and a half kitten will need about 225 kcal per kg daily. Once they reach 5 months it will be the maximum of 250 kcal per kg of weight daily.
Normally 1 month old kittens naturally continue to drink milk if they live with their mother, although since their teeth have already started to come out, they will show interest in solid food, especially their mother's solid food.
Once your cat is 18 months old they will be an adult cat and will then need 70-80 kcal per kilogram of weight. This may vary if your cat needs to gain weight or lose weight, and depending on the type of lifestyle they have. Indoor cats will need less calories than active outdoor cats. Talk to your veterinarian to learn more.
How to feed a 1-month old kitten
In short, the diet of a 1-month-old cat will consist of:
- Formula milk for cats
- Start introducing dry cat food or wet cat food
- Always provide them with fresh and clean water
- They should be fed 4-5 times a day
- We do not recommend providing them with food that is always available as it can lead to certain eating and behavioral problems
- When they reach seven weeks, they should be exclusively fed dry food or wet food for kittens
Weaning a 1-month old kitten
Since the kitten does not have their mother to wean them onto solid food, we need to mimic their actions. To do so, we should use the following steps:
- Choose the right food: this should be wet food since the young kitten's teeth are relatively weak and dry food can be damaging. We can use dry kibble mixed with a little water. Ensure the formula is for young kittens so it meets their nutritional needs.
- Introduce the food: at one month, the kitten should start to be able to hold their head up and can eat form a shallow dish. Place the wet food in the shallow dish. Give them a little milk and then move them over to the dish. If they do not eat, you can feed them more milk until they do.
- Gradually reduce milk: the switch from liquid to solid food is a gradual process. Slowly reduce the amount of milk you provide and increase the amount of solid food until they only eat solid food.
- Provide water: since the kitten has been drinking milk, it is possible they will not intake as much water when eating solid food. This is another reason wet food is important, but so too is providing plenty of fresh clean water which they can access easily.
Once the kitten has been weaned, we can introduce dry kibble into their diet. This should also be a gradual process. Cats generally have a preference for wet food, so you can alternate between the two. Even once they are fully developed, it is a good idea to provide both dry kibble some wet food in varying amounts.
Check out our guide to weaning kittens if you want to see more detail about how to wean a 1-month old kitten.
What happens after the first month of a cat's life?
The most important socialization period of a cat begins at 2 weeks of life and ends at 7 weeks. During this time, kittens learn everything from their mother. Physical contact with humans is essential for optimal behavior in adulthood as certain events during this time will have a long-term effect on the cat's personality. This is the moment when cats should meet different people, other animals and visit different places. This way, they will have a more balanced temperament as adults and be able to adapt to different situations more easily, avoiding stress.
Once your kitten is 1 month old they will begin the weaning stage, reducing their ability to digest the lactose in milk and increasing the amylase enzymes that are responsible for breaking down the starch present in the carbohydrates of dry or wet food for cats. Weaning begins at four weeks of age and can be extended to eight weeks of age, where the transition is complete.
If you want to read similar articles to What to Feed a 1 Month-Old Kitten, we recommend you visit our Healthy diets category.
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