In late August, a newborn kitten was abandoned by his mother. He was only 3 days old when she abandoned him. She took away her other four kittens but left him. I had no option but to adopt him and do whatever was necessary to make him live.

Now, six months later, Olive (the name I gave him) is a healthy, hyperactive, playful, and happy cat!

Here’s the story of Olive and how to save an abandoned kitten.

Keep him [her] warm

First thing first: if you find an abandoned newborn kitten, the first thing you should do is to keep her/him warm – even if it’s a hot summer day. This is crucial because newborn kittens cannot regulate their body temperature until they are several weeks old. Without their mother’s warmth, they are at risk of hypothermia, which can be life-threatening and hinder their growth and development.

When my friend who found Olive brought him to me (he was so tiny, the poor thing’s umbilical cord had not even fallen off yet), the first thing I did was to find a heat source. There was no hot water bag available at that moment, so I inserted the baby in a box, put some warm water into a plastic water bottle, wrapped it with a towel, and put it near the poor baby to keep him warm. It was a summer day in late August, it was about 30°C (86°F) outside, but as I explained above, keeping the newborn kittens warm is super important.

How to save an abandoned kitten: I filled a plastic water bottle with warm water, enveloped it in a towel, and positioned it close to the tiny kitten, ensuring he stayed warm. This setup became the backdrop for the baby kitten's first photo.
I filled a plastic water bottle with warm water, enveloped it in a towel, and positioned it close to the tiny kitten, ensuring he stayed warm. This setup became the backdrop for the baby kitten’s first photo on August 24.

Feed the kitten

After his body temperature returned to normal, I fed the poor baby with diluted special cat milk powder using a syringe (fortunately, I had some cat milk powder on hand, though I didn’t have a kitten bottle). If you can’t find cat milk powder (kitten milk replacement powder) and the situation is urgent, you can use half-diluted lactose-free milk. He drank two syringes full of milk and then fell asleep.

How often should you feed a kitten?

Feeding abandoned newborn kittens requires careful attention to their age and developmental needs. Here’s a general guide on how often to feed them, broken down by weeks:

  • Week 1: Feed every 2-3 hours around the clock – even during the night. Newborn kittens need constant feeding to ensure they receive adequate nutrition and hydration.
  • Week 2: Continue feeding every 2-3 hours – including nights. At this stage, kittens are still entirely dependent on milk for nutrition.
  • Week 3: Start to extend the interval slightly, feeding every 3-4 hours (still including nights). Kittens may begin to show increased activity and growth.
  • Week 4-5: Gradually increase the time between feedings to every 4-5 hours. You can also introduce a very small amount of kitten formula on a shallow plate alongside bottle feeding to begin the weaning process.
  • Week 6: Dry food can typically be introduced to kittens between the ages of 4 to 6 weeks. It’s a good idea to moisten the dry food with a bit of water or kitten milk to soften it, making it easier for the kittens to eat. When Olive was about 4 weeks old, I fed him with dry cat food moistened with water. Here’s a quick recipe: Put some boiled (hot) water on dry food, wait about 10-15 minutes, then feed the baby with it after the food is soft enough.
  • Week 8 and later: By the time they are about 8 weeks old, kittens usually develop enough to start eating dry food directly. However, during this transition period, it’s recommended to gradually mix dry food with wet food to help their digestive systems adjust. Since each kitten develops at its own pace, closely monitoring changes in their feeding habits and seeking specific advice from your vet when necessary is important. You may also consider feeding them with dry kitten food (Royal Canin Mother & Baby is great for that).

Remember, these are general guidelines, and the exact feeding frequency may vary depending on the kitten’s health, weight, and appetite. Always ensure kittens are warm before feeding, as they can’t properly digest food if they’re cold. Monitoring weight gain and consulting with a veterinarian can help tailor the feeding schedule to each kitten’s specific needs.

For more information, see this Kitten Bottle Feeding and Stomach Capacity Chart [pdf].

The first video of Olive! I made a cozy nest for the abandoned kitten using a box, a water bottle filled with warm water, and a towel for warmth. Despite the summer heat, I ensured the newborn stayed warm, highlighting the crucial need for warmth in their early days. I shot the video above at my office.

Tracking the Progress: Average Weight Gain in Kittens

The weight of a kitten varies significantly depending on several factors, including breed, the health of the mother, nutrition, and environmental conditions. However, I can provide you with general guidelines for average weight gain in kittens during their first eight weeks of life. Please note, that while these numbers can give you a ballpark figure, individual variation is normal, and some healthy kittens may fall outside these ranges. Always consult a veterinarian if you have concerns about a kitten’s growth or health.

  1. Birth (Day 0): Newborn kittens typically weigh between 85 to 115 grams (3 to 4 ounces). The weight can slightly vary depending on the breed and litter size.
  2. End of Week 1: Kittens should start gaining weight rapidly, approximately 10 grams (about 0.35 oz) per day. By the end of the first week, a healthy kitten might weigh between 150 to 200 grams (5 to 7 ounces).
  3. End of Week 2: The weight gain continues at a similar pace, and kittens may double their birth weight by this point, reaching around 170 to 230 grams (6 to 8 ounces).
  4. End of Week 3: Kittens continue to grow and develop, weighing approximately 250 to 340 grams (9 to 12 ounces).
  5. End of Week 4: At this stage, kittens are more active and start to eat solid food, supplementing their diet. Their weight should be around 340 to 450 grams (12 to 16 ounces).
  6. End of Week 5: Kittens are becoming more playful and active. Their weight should be approximately 450 to 560 grams (1 to 1.25 pounds).
  7. End of Week 6: With continued growth, kittens should weigh about 560 to 680 grams (1.25 to 1.5 pounds).
  8. End of Week 7: Kittens’ weight gain might start to slow a bit, but they should still be growing steadily, weighing approximately 680 to 800 grams (1.5 to 1.75 pounds).
  9. End of Week 8: By now, kittens are ready for adoption and should weigh around 800 to 900 grams (1.75 to 2 pounds). At this point, they should be eating solid food and have received their first vaccinations.

These numbers are estimates based on average growth rates. It’s important for kittens to have a veterinary check-up during these early weeks to ensure they are growing properly and to address any health issues early. Regular weighing is a good practice to monitor their growth and overall health.

For further information and advice on kitten care, consult with a veterinarian or reputable sources such as veterinary educational institutions or animal welfare organizations’ websites.

What if the kitten isn’t gaining enough weight?

If a kitten isn’t gaining enough weight, it could be a sign of Fading Kitten Syndrome (FKS), a serious and often fatal condition that affects kittens, especially those less than 12 weeks old. Fading Kitten Syndrome is not a disease in itself but a collection of symptoms that indicate the kitten is failing to thrive. Key indicators include a lack of weight gain, lethargy, weakness, a refusal to feed, and a lower body temperature than normal. The causes behind FKS can be varied, including congenital defects, infections, environmental stress, inadequate nutrition, or insufficient care from the mother.

Fading kitten syndrome requires immediate attention and intervention to give the kitten the best chance of survival. Treatments may involve warming the kitten if it’s hypothermic, bottle-feeding if it’s not getting enough nutrition, and veterinary care to address any underlying infections or health issues. Early detection and prompt, supportive care are critical in managing FKS effectively. Read more about Fading Kitten Syndrome.

Make her/him poo and pee

You need to help them “go to the bathroom”. A tiny, newborn kitten cannot relieve itself on its own during the first few weeks, so you need to assist. Normally, the mother would stimulate the kitten’s bottom with her rough tongue to encourage it to urinate and defecate. In her absence, you should gently rub its bottom with a piece of cotton, toilet paper, or a paper towel to help it do both pee and poop. Paper towels are best due to their texture, but be careful not to irritate the baby’s skin.

First poop of Olive the abandoned newborn kitten
Olive’s first milestone: achieving his first poop. I gently used a makeup removal cotton pad to help him relieve himself.

First Days of Olive at Home

On the first day, I had to take Olive to the office (and did so occasionally afterward). In the evening, I brought him home. I still didn’t have a hot water bag, so I continued with the method of wrapping a plastic water bottle in a towel and placing it next to him.

Saving an abandoned newborn kitten: Olive is sleeping peacefully in his warm setup.
Olive is sleeping peacefully in his warm setup.

Getting a Teddy Bear Hot Water Bag

A few days later, I purchased a teddy bear hot water bag for Olive, providing both a warm bed and a cute toy for him. Although I bought it on the first day, it took three days to arrive due to shipping.

Newborn kitten sleeping on a teddy bear hot water bag
Finally, the teddy bear hot water bag has arrived. Olive liked it very much. [August 28]
See how cute Olive the abandoned kitten is on his teddy bear hot water bag!
See how cute Olive is on his teddy bear hot water bag!
Kitten sleeping on my arm
Cute Olive is sleeping on my arm.

Olive’s Eyes Have Opened!

On August 31st, when Olive was 9 days old, I took him to work with me. On the way there, on the bus, his eyes opened for the first time!

On August 31st, Olive's eyes opened for the first time
On August 31st, Olive’s eyes opened for the first time, and he began to see the world (albeit still blurry) for the first time. It was a very special and emotional moment for me. This photo is from the day his eyes were first opened. The location is the garden of Istanbul Technical University, where I work.
Bottle feeding Olive, hte abandoned newborn kitten [September 3].
Bottle feeding Olive [September 3].
Bottle feeding the abandoned kitten
As days went by, I continued to take him to work occasionally. In this photo, I am feeding him with a bottle on the campus of Istanbul Technical University. Olive is about three weeks old here.

He is growing

Adopting a cat: Zeytin [September 17, 2023]
Olive is resting on his teddy bear hot water bag. One of his cute photos! He’s still very small. [September 17]
Fatma (Fatosh), another rescue cat that I saved from under a car back in 2019, is watching Olive.
Fatma (Fatosh), another rescue cat that I saved from under a car back in 2019 when she was a little kitten, is watching Olive. [September 17]
In this photo, Olive the kitten is one month old (yay!) [September 24]
In this photo, Olive is one month old (yay!) [September 24]
My lovely son Nairo is watching Olive the kitten playing. Nairo is a big boi.
My lovely son Nairo is watching Olive playing. Nairo is a big boi. [September 25]
Big and smol: Olive the kitten and Leo the tuxedo cat. On the table.
Big and smol: Olive and Leo the tuxedo cat. [September 25]

Using the toilet

When the kitten is about 1 month old, you can start litter training it. To do this, place it on the litter and gently rub its paws against the litter as if it were digging a few times. After doing this a few times, it will understand what it needs to do.

Olive the abandoned kitten is using the toilet for the first time [September 25].
Olive is using the toilet for the first time [September 25].
Video of Olive using the litter box by himself [September 27]

Drinking water is important for cats

Drinking water is very important for cats. If they haven’t started drinking on their own, you need to teach them. Olive learned how to drink water by himself.

To teach a kitten to drink water, you can start by dipping your finger in water and letting the kitten lick it off. Gradually move your wet finger closer to the water bowl each time. You can also gently lead the kitten’s head toward the bowl or gently place its paws on the rim of the bowl to encourage exploration. Some kittens may be enticed by the sound of running water, so letting a faucet drip slightly could also encourage them to drink. Consistency and patience are key in teaching this essential behavior.

You need to bottle-feed water to the kitten until it learns to drink on its own.

Kitten drinking water
Olive learned how to drink water by himself. This photo is from September 28.

Olive is now a healthy and happy cat

Now Olive is a playful (even hyperactive), healthy, and happy cat. Here are some photos from his journey.

Olive is sleeping with Leo the tuxedo cat. [November 14]
Olive is sleeping with Leo the tuxedo cat. [November 14]
Olive the black rescue kitten is with Nairo here. November 18.
Olive is with Nairo here. November 18.
Olive is sleeping with my lovely Lotto,mother of five adorable cats. [November 24]
Olive is sleeping with my lovely Lotto, mother of five adorable cats. [November 24]
Olive the rescued kitten at work, playing
I still take Olive to work occasionally. This is a snapshot from the first day of the new year at the workplace (Istanbul Technical University) on January 1, 2024.
The first day of new year. Olive at home, in the pink cat house. Looks cute!
The first day of the new year. Olive at home, in the pink cat house. Looks cute!
The day Olive was neutered Yay!. [January 7]
The day Olive was neutered Yay! [January 7]
Olive is resting on the table. February 19.
Olive is resting on the table. February 19.
M. Özgür Nevres

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