Caring for Kits
 

 

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Caring for kits is normally all about fun. The mothers do all the work, and you get to enjoy all the cuddling and cuteness.

There are a few things you need to do for even healthy kits.

  • To encourage milk production, mothers can be given a separate water bottle with 1/2 cranberry or apple juice (no sugar added) and 1/2 water in it. This should be in addition to their normal water bottle.

  • Watch the kits and make sure that they remain active and that you see them nursing.  Feel their bellies and make sure they are warm. 

  • All kits should be weighed at least twice a day for the first few days, or until they are steadily gaining weight.  Its perfectly normal for kits to lose up to a few grams the first day, but they should gain at a rate of about 2 grams per day after that.  It can take that long for the mother's milk to come in.

  • If you notice any of the following happening, you will need to step in and help:

    •    Mom is ignoring all or one of the kits

      • Keep an eye on this situation.  If it is a very young kit, you will need to make sure it is kept warm.  You may also need to give supplemental hand feedings or rotate kits to give weaker ones more time with mom.

    •     Kits are losing weight after the first day or not gaining for several days

      • You may need to give supplemental hand feedings or rotate kits

    •     Kits are fighting with each other, this is fairly normal with larger litters

      • Sometimes kits fight, especially in litters of three or more.  This can be caused by mom not having enough milk or simply two kits want the same nipple and refuse to share.

      • Watch fights closely, even newborn kits can kill each other.

      • If fights are bad enough, and blood is drawn or one kit simply isn't thriving, kits need to be rotated. 

      • This is fairly normal with larger litters and it often is the smallest kit that is starting these scuffles. When this happens, the kits may need to be rotated. This means leaving one or two kits in with mom and moving the other kits to another cage. For very young kits, use a small cat carrier, put a blanket on the bottom of it and put a heating pad set on low under half of the cage. This way the kits can stay warm, but can also get away if it is too hot. Keep a water bottle, hay and pellets available.

        For very young kits, do not keep any one kit away from mom for more then 2 hours. Once they are older, increase the time to three and/or four hours. Keep this schedule around the clock. After all the kits are roughly the same size, try putting all the kits back with mom. Watch them closely for signs of trouble and return to rotating kits if necessary.
        Weigh kits often. The ones away from mom may need supplemental hand feedings.

      • At some point, when all the kits are big enough (usually when they all get to be the same size), this should not be necessary anymore, but I have seen one litter that this had to be done with for a full 8 weeks.

      • Weigh kits often, the ones away from mom may need supplemental hand feedings.

  • Kits should be left with the mother until they are 8 weeks old.  They will start to eat hay and pellets very young, but will not be able to get all of their nourishment this way for some time.  I've seen one day old kits eating hay.  At this point however, it is more "practice" eating then eating to sustain life.

  • At 8 weeks, male kits should be removed from their mother.  Females can be left in with mom, as long as dad isn't in there as well.  And male and female kits should not be housed together after 10 weeks of age.

Rotating Kits

This means leaving one or two kits in with mom and moving the other kits to another cage and should be the first option before hand feeding if at all possible.  Some kits are fine being put in with dad while they are away from mom.  If dad won't keep them warm, then, for very young kits, I use a small cat kennel, put a blanket on the bottom of it and put a heating pad, set on low, under half of the cage.  This way the kits can stay warm, but can also get away if it is too hot.  I also keep hay and pellets in with the kits.  They may eat them from a very young age.

If there is one kit that is much smaller and not doing nearly as well as the others, then I leave that kit in with mom at all times, rotating out the siblings in 2 hour intervals, but never the weaker one.  As they get older, the intervals can go to three and four hour intervals.

Rotations must be done 24 hours a day.  This is not something you can do during the day when you are awake and forget at night to sleep.  If you do that, you can lose kits.

You should start to notice weight gain within a day of starting rotations.

Sometimes, once all kits reach about the same weight, rotation is no longer necessary.  Other times it has to be done the full 8 weeks, it just all depends on the personalities of the kits.

 

Hand Feeding

Hand feeding should be a LAST resort!!!  Remember, no matter how hard we try or how great our formula, Mother Nature is always best.

If hand feeding is necessary, there are several options for things to use as a formula, since there is no commercial chin formula available.  The one I've heard most often is mixing canned mixing the following:

1 can goats milk (in canned milk section at grocery store, evaporated milk can be used if goats milk can't be found)

1 can water

1 tablespoon dry rice baby cereal

1 tablespoon plain active culture yogurt

2 drops of light Karo syrup 

Make sure the formula is warm, but not hot!

Formula only stays good for 2 days, a new batch must be mixed up after two days.

To feed the kits, do not put the food directly in their mouths, you could make them aspirate and they could die.  Instead, use an eye dropper and put one drop of formula at a time on their lips and they will lick it off.  It will take them a few tries to get used to this, but they do pick it up.  You will need to do this at a minimum every two hours at first, and this does mean round the clock, through the night as well.

 

You can also place a dry formula (thanks to Randy and Jeri Jagielo for allowing me to post the recipe!) in the cage. Both the babies and mom may eat the formula. It can help the mom to bring in milk and the babies to gain weight!


1 part calf or goat milk replacer (purchase at a feed store)
1 part crushed pellets
1 part 50/50 mixture of dry rice and oatmeal baby cereal


 

 
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