African servals, exotic cats as pets

Exotic Cat Care
Bottle-Feeding and Weaning Exotic Kittens
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Many thanks to Tracy Wilson of Wild Trax Supply, for allowing the use of this article on ExoticCatz.com.

Always feed a kitten laying on it's stomach or sitting / standing upright. Never flip a kitten over on it's back and allow it to drink in the manner that human babies are held.

Any time a kitten is started on a new formula, or switched to a different formula recipe or brand, the new formula should be diluted and introduced slowly.

Kittens should be eating about 5% of their body weight on a daily basis until they are adults.

Sometimes the only notice that a young kitten gives before it gets severely ill is just skipping one feeding.

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Here is a milk formula recipe that I have had great success raising serval kittens and other small cat species on, along with some feeding and care tips for kittens.

  • 3/4 cup distilled water or unflavored Pedialyte
  • 1/2 cup PLAIN UNFLAVORED yogurt, fat free (helps thicken the formula to help prevent aspiration, and provides good bacteria to balance the digestive system. Do not used vanilla or other flavored or sweetened yogurts as it could cause diarrhea.)
  • 1/4 cup Zoologics Milk Matrix 33/40 milk powder
  • 1 teaspoon Osteo Form Calcium powder (available from Revival Animal Health Item #83-224 OSTEOFORM POWDER 1 Lb.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Taurine powder (available from Revival Animal Health Item 73-151 16 oz powder)
  • 1 ml squirt of Poli Vi Sol liquid baby vitamins (human baby vitamins available at pharmacies)

Leann Montgomery's ocelot kitten Machista.
At about 4 weeks, you can add plain pureed chicken baby food to the formula gradually. Start with a very small amount and gradually increase it so as not to cause diarrhea.

Blend ingredients together in blender until smooth. Allow bubbles to settle out of formula before feeding to prevent gas. Formula is only good for 24 hours, throw out any remaining after 24 hours. Must be refrigerated. Any formula that is heated up for the kitten and not used must be thrown away if not used within half hour, do not re-refrigerate heated formula. Formula should not be heated up directly in microwave as hot spots could occur in the formula that could burn the kitten internally. Instead, heat up a coffee cup of water in the microwave for about 1 minute. After heating water, place bottle (already filled with formula and nipple in place on the bottle), into the cup of hot water and let it sit for about 1 minute.

Check formula temperature by squirting a small amount on your wrist to ensure it is not too hot to feed the kitten. It should be warm feeling, but not uncomfortably hot to your wrist. Feeding overheated formula can cause severe internal burns to a kitten, as most kittens typically drink so fast they will be scalded before they realize the milk was too hot. My servals and other small cat species have preferred a bottle nipple made by Four Paws called a "Vet Nipple" N-30 the best. It is small and has a tapered end, not a round end. (available through KV Vet Supply Item#: 80412)

Always feed a kitten laying on it's stomach or sitting / standing upright. Never flip a kitten over on it's back and allow it to drink in the manner that human babies are held, as milk could enter the kittens lungs and cause aspiration, which can cause the kitten to develop pneumonia and die.

Note that any time a kitten is started on a new formula, or switched to a different formula recipe or brand, that the new formula should be diluted and introduced slowly. You can start by diluting the formula down to just 1/4 part formula to water (or Pedialyte). It is a good idea when a kitten is first pulled from it's mother to start with unflavored pedialyte for the first 24 hours that it accepts a bottle to allow the mother's milk to get out of it's system. It might take several weeks to get up to full strength formula. However, each kitten responds differently. Exercise patience and increase formula strength very slowly. If at any time you increase the amount of formula and diarrhea follows within a day, decrease the strength of the formula back down to the strength where stools were fine and take things slower before increasing the strength again.

It's a good idea to always stimulate a kitten up to around 4 weeks of age to go to the bathroom before feeding to empty it's bladder or intestines. Kittens under 4 weeks of age should be stimulated to potty at least 3-4 times a day. Kittens produce a huge amount of urine, so expect a lot of urine, and small bowel movements maybe just once or twice a day. Gently dab, (do not rub) their ano-genital areas with a soft tissue, warm baby wipe, or wet warm cloth to stimulate them to potty both urine and feces. If you irritate the kitten's bottom, it will feel raw and burning to the kitten when they try to potty, which may make it reluctant to go at all. Be very careful not to rub their bottoms raw. If the kitten's bottom is obviously red and raw, you can apply a small amount triple antibiotic ointment to the area. Once the kitten can potty on it's own, which is usually upwards of 3 to 4 weeks of age, then you no longer have to practice potty stimulation.

It is a good idea to keep a feeding journal on the kitten, to record the strength of formula you are feeding and the status of stools so that you know if diarrhea is directly related to a increase in formula strength. It is also wise to keep track of how much the kitten is eating at each feeding to ensure that it continues to increase in amount eaten, and not decrease at any time. Rule of thumb for the amount to feed, kittens should be eating about 5% of their body weight on a daily basis until they are adults.

It's also important to weigh young kittens daily with a small kitchen scale. If the kitten's weight starts to go down or the amount of milk consumed starts to decrease from normal, then this is a signal that something is wrong with the kitten, before it gets severely ill, and you should pay very close attention. Sometimes the only notice that a young kitten gives before it gets severely ill, is just skipping one feeding. If it refuses it's bottle at the normal feeding time when it is normally hungry, try to stimulate it to go to the bathroom, as it may have a full bladder. If a young kitten refuses to eat anything at all in 24 hours, take it to the vet, something is wrong. (not including when first pulled from it's mother and trying to start on a bottle, this sometimes might take up to 48 hours before a bottle is accepted for the first time.)

Letting others bottle feed your kitten is a good socialization technique, building positive associations with strangers from an early age.
Typically diarrhea caused from too strong formula will be yellow and runny, looking like yellow mustard. If a kitten has severe diarrhea for more than 24 hours, and it is a strange color or smell, seek veterinarian treatment asap. If your kitten has diarrhea that has mucous, undigested particles, blood, is green, or anything abnormal looking, seek a veterinarian treatment immediately, as kittens can die from dehydration and diarrhea very quickly if left untreated.

Note that is it common for exotic kittens to develop illnesses called Giardia and Coccidia. Most all animals are exposed to these bacteria's, but not all animals develop illness symptoms. Under normal circumstances a healthy animal with a fully developed immune system will be immune to exposure to Giardia and Coccidia. These illnesses are often brought on in exotic kittens with immature immune systems by stress such as moving to a new home, being shipped or transported, change in diet, or any combination of stressful events, etc. These illnesses are not deadly in themselves, however, the symptoms of diarrhea and dehydration can kill a kitten quickly. So do not be alarmed if you kitten does develop one of these illnesses, but do seek medical help immediately so that your kitten does not die from the symptoms.

It is very easy to overfeed young kittens too much milk formula. Rule of thumb: It is better to feed smaller amounts more frequently, than to feed large amounts less often. Overfeeding can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Here's a general guideline for feeding intervals:

  • 0-2 weeks of age - Every 2 to 3 hours around the clock, diluted formula.
  • 3-4 weeks of age - Every 3 to 4 hours, around the clock, increasing formula strength gradually.
  • 4-6 weeks of age - Every 4 to 5 hours, sleep through the night. Can gradually add plain pureed chicken baby food gradually to formula.
  • 6-12 weeks of age - Morning, Noon, and Night. Start introducing solids foods such as ground turkey or chicken, with supplements in small gradual amounts. Can put milk on solid food to encourage kitten to eat it. Around 12 weeks of age, you can also introduce small pieces of meat on the bone, such as a chicken wing drum. The kitten will not be able to eat the bone for a while, but it is good to start letting it try at this age. Eventually as the kitten does start to eat the bone, you can move up to a larger piece of meat and bone, such as a chicken drumstick.

Tracy Wilson bottle-feeding an older serval kitten.
After 12 weeks, it is ok to wean the kitten off the bottle entirely if it is eating solid food well, and some will wean themselves off sometimes even earlier than that. If after 6-8 weeks your kitten is fighting the bottle more than it wants to suck it, and is eating solids well, then quit fighting to give it a bottle, and just let it move on to solids. At this point, you should feed kittens solid food in small portions 3 times a day. Decrease the frequency of feedings as the kitten gets closer to adulthood, with one feeding per day as an adult.

It is also ok to let a kitten remain on a bottle for as long as it will take a bottle. I have adult servals several years old that will still suck a bottle any time it is offered. I generally like to keep servals on the bottle until at least 18 months of age, with at least one bottle a day from 12 weeks and older, to help ensure they are getting enough calcium in their diet. It is also a good daily bonding routine between owner and cat to continue bottle feeding into their adulthood.


Many thanks to Tracy Wilson of Wild Trax Supply, for allowing the use of this article on ExoticCatz.com. Tracy is a USDA Licensed & Arkansas State Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator, a member of the Feline Conservation Federation Board of Directors, and the owner of Wild Trax Feline Refuge and Wild Trax Supply. The proceeds from WildTrax Supply help support her feline refuge. This article is copyrighted 2005 by Tracy Wilson. All rights are reserved.





 

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© Jessi Clark-White, 2005
Bottle-Feeding and Weaning Exotic Kittens - Raising Wild Cats