Photo: Andrew Marttila
Hannah Shaw, who is known on Instagram as the Kitten Lady and is the author of Tiny But Mighty: Kitten Lady’s Guide to Saving the Most Vulnerable Felines, has rescued hundreds of stray cats over the years. She specializes in fragile (and adorable) newborn kittens that are under the typical adoption age of eight weeks old and in need of extra attention. Below, she shares all of the essential gear she uses to take care of her kittens. These items work for kittens over eight weeks old, too, in case you’re interested in adopting or fostering a little one of your own.
Kittens under four weeks old cannot thermoregulate and rely completely on an external heat source in order to stay warm. This is especially important for orphaned kittens who’ve been separated from their mothers, but older cats will also appreciate a warm space to cuddle up in. Cover the heat pad in a soft baby blanket, and make sure the kitten has access to a warm spot and a cool spot so that she can choose.
Human babies get all the best stuff, like these plush baby blankets, but kittens need a cozy nest where they can rest, too. While some people may reach for an old towel or dish rag, I really like offering them something that is soft and is just for them. Microfleece blankets offer comfort and a familiar space that becomes their go-to resting spot. Line the kitten’s space with a soft microfleece blanket in a cute pattern. The squishier, the better.
Small, lightweight toys are important because they’re easy for kittens to toss, chase, and carry around in their mouths. Crinkle balls and rattle mice both make enticing sounds that spark curiosity — and kick their hunting instincts into high gear. The Chiwava brand is great.
After a long play session, kittens need a comfy place to rest. They love little, plush hideaways because they mimic the feeling of a mother’s nesting area. They’re soft, safe, dark, and a little tucked away. I like ones in cute shapes, like strawberries or sharks.
Step away from the dog bowl! You want to avoid any large or deep dishes when caring for young kittens, as they may struggle to consume the food or water that is behind the tall edge of the bowl. Choose a dish with a very shallow lip, which will allow the kitten to easily reach their meal.
All kittens have an instinct to huddle with their littermates and mama, so if you’re caring for a solo kitten, you definitely want to offer them a cuddle companion. Some brands’ toys even have a heartbeat inside, which can offer kittens the comfort of a gentle vibration.
Kittens have a strong instinct to grasp, hold, bite, and kick their prey (and their littermates!). Kicker toys are important for all kittens, but especially for bitey kittens who don’t have a sibling to play with. Rather than letting them attack your hands or feet, you can redirect them to a kicker. My favorite brand is Bruce and Fox.
Note: The Bruce and Fox Etsy store is currently closed, but these are similar.
It’s important to feed them a kitten-specific diet that is made to support early growth and development. I have sworn by Royal Canin’s Mother & Babycat for years. The pâté is the perfect soft texture for weaning kittens and provides them with high-quality nutrition that helps them thrive. While adult cat food is typically formulated more for maintenance, kitten food is formulated for growth because kittens need to grow at an astonishing rate. While a healthy one-month-old is around one pound, a healthy two-month-old will have doubled in weight, and a three-month-old will generally be about three pounds or even more. Kitten food therefore needs to be higher in both fat and protein. It is also formulated to support things like ocular development and healthy bone growth.
Note: Shaw partnered with Royal Canin for its #ShelterShoutOut contest in honor of National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week.
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