It happens: you find an orphaned baby kitten, or you foster a baby kitten for the shelter...and they're so small, the bottle just isn't working. Don't fret! Syringe feeding is perfectly acceptable and something many people do for orphaned kittens between 0-2 weeks of age. Here's what you need to know.
1. Pick the right syringe. For small babies, I recommend a 3cc syringe (with no needle.) You can find these for very cheap online for less than ten cents a piece! In a pinch, ask your local veterinarian or animal shelter for a few 1cc syringes -- they will definitely have some on hand. Once they're a little older and stronger, you can move to a 3cc syringe or go ahead and get them bottle feeding.
2. Feed them the right stuff. You're going to need to purchase kitten formula -- you cannot feed kittens the milk that is in your fridge. Kitten formula comes in a powder and a liquid, and I recommend the powder because it will keep substantially longer. Kitten formula can be purchased at most pet supply stores like Petsmart or Petco, or can be found in rural areas at feed stores. You can also buy it online by visiting the links on my supplies page. Once opened, keep the formula refrigerated.
Mix 1 part powdered formula with 2 parts warm water. Formula should be comfortably warm -- never cold and never hot. Test the temperature on your skin before feeding.
3. Assess the kitten. Before you feed a kitten, always make sure you've assessed them to make sure it is safe to feed. If a kitten is overheated or too cold, it is not safe to feed until you have gently stabilized their temperature. If a kitten is not swallowing, it is not safe to feed them. Ensure that the kitten is able to swallow by dropping a tiny bit of formula on their tongue and feeling the throat with one finger. If the kitten appears stable and is swallowing, it is safe to proceed with feeding.
4. Feed the kitten. Pull 3cc of formula into the syringe. Lay the kitten in a natural, belly-down position -- never, ever on their back. Gently slide the syringe into the kitten's mouth and slowly drop formula onto the tongue. The kitten should begin to swallow. Very slowly continue to drip formula into the mouth. If the kitten latches on and is suckling, that's great! Just make sure that she isn't eating too quickly; you may have to old onto the end of the syringe to help control a slow and steady flow.
5. Complete the Orphaned Kitten Routine and repeat. The Orphaned Kitten Routine consists of: feeding, peeing/pooping, cleaning, and keeping warm and safe. Repeat the routine, being mindful of the amount and frequency of feeding that is appropriate for the kitten.