Q: I found a tiny kitten in the woods that did not have its eyes open. I have been bottle-feeding her for a few weeks now. She is my baby and doing well. She now has her eyes open and is crawling but her belly looks really big. She seems to be having a hard time pooping when I stimulate her with a moist tissue. Is this from worms? I haven’t seen any worms.
A: Congratulations on your new baby! Orphan kittens can be fun to raise.
She should go to your veterinarian and have a fecal sample checked for worms and other internal parasites. Most worms are not visible by the naked eye. Kittens should be given a dewormer every two weeks starting at 2 weeks of age.
Hookworms live in the intestines and ingest blood and can cause severe anemia. It is very important to deworm to prevent life-threatening parasite infections. The Companion Animal Parasite Counsel (CAPC) recommends fecal testing at least four times in the first year of life and then twice a year thereafter.
Many bottle-fed kittens will overeat and get very extended stomachs. Sometimes the formula will cause constipation. Normally the mother cat will clean the kitten by licking them all over and stimulating them to urinate and defecate. Human caretakers may not be as effective at stimulating the kitten to have a bowel movement.
1. Try soaking the lower half of her body in a small bowl with warm water. Gently massage her abdomen in soft circular motions.
2. Take her out and use a very soft microfiber cloth to dry her using circular motions around the belly and anal area to stimulate a bowel movement.
3. Avoid overfeeding.
4. Add a little more water to her formula.
5. Stimulate her after every feeding and more often as needed.
6. Encourage her to start moving around more.
7. Start offering her canned kitten food.
Bring your new kitten to your veterinarian and get a good physical examination. She will need to get her first FVRCP vaccination at 6 weeks of age.
She will need a follow-up booster vaccination every three to four weeks until 4 months of age. She can get her rabies vaccination at 12 to 16 weeks. Feline leukemia vaccine can be given at 8 weeks.
She should be spayed before 5 months of age.
Good luck with your kitten.
Live, love, purr!
Dr. Susan M. Baker received her degree at the University of Florida in 1985 and practices veterinary medicine in Palm Beach County, Florida.