When You Have to be a Mommy for an Orphan Pet

Raising orphan kittens and puppies is a challenging, but rewarding job.

When you have to be a mommy to an orphan pet (pets,)it takes a great deal of time, patience and the ability to stick to a routine

Orphan kittens and puppies need to be fed on a regular schedule, kept warm and made to defecate regularly.

Being a foster puppy or kitten mom or dad is not for the faint of heart or for someone who is not responsible about sticking to a schedule.

Keeping the schedule of feedings is important, as the baby’s life is dependent on that.

It is important if you find yourself becoming a foster parent to a puppy or kitten that you take it to your vet for a health check.

Your vet can recommend a formula to feed the baby and give you some helpful ideas.

As I write this article, I am currently a foster mother of a baby squirrel. About 14 hours ago a 3 – 4 week old squirrel dropped into my life.

It had literally dropped out of the sky and on to the sidewalk between 2 buildings at the university where I work. How it survived the fall without any broken bones or noticeable damage is a miracle.

Suddenly, I am now on 24/7 squirrel duty and am looking forward to the experience.

This will be the 5th squirrel that I have raised and I will release it when it is appropriate.

An important thing to mention at this point is, if you have found a kitten, puppy or as in my case a squirrel and it is flea ridden or has other buggy things crawling on it, they must be removed.

With the kittens I have found, I have been able to bath them at once and quickly dry them to get rid of most of the fleas and then I would flea comb them to remove the rest.

I never tried bathing the squirrels, my method has been to flea comb when possible, pick off bugs that I could and use white terry towels to lay the squirrel on and eventually what is left crawling around, will get on the towels and into the laundry they go.

Taking care of kittens, puppies or squirrels all fit into the same pattern. If you are dealing with only one member of the species it really isn’t too hard.

Taking care of a litter will require help with the feeding and bathroom routines, but the sequence of care is basically the same.

The number one priority is keeping the baby or babies warm, a chilled orphan can quickly become a sick one.

If your orphan is chilled, wrap it up in a towel and hold it against your body until you can get a heating pad or hot water bottle to provide heat..

Since all situations are different, if it is at all possible, let the puppy or kitten nurse from its mother for as long as it can.

The little ones need the colostrum from the mother’s milk. It has antibodies that will protect the infants and can only be absorbed by them during the first 24 hours after birth.

Whatever the reason is, that you have these orphans or orphan, they need to be kept warm and fed.

For newborns, very young puppies or kittens, a box or a plastic container that is large enough to hold the group or single baby works best. Place clean towels or pieces of a warm blanket inside to make a soft cozy bed. A heating pad set on low or medium should be placed in the bottom and the towels or blankets on top.

I like to make a cozy nest and I also place a cover on top of the very young ones to keep the warmth inside the container.

As they grow bigger and they will rather fast, you will have to find a larger container or a corner of a room, if you are raising a litter, you can block off, this way they are not scattered all around the place..

My favorite place to keep my orphans (I usually have only one at a time) is in a bathtub.

Why, the bathtub?

Well, it is easy to keep them penned in, I always know where they are and usually any other critters that are living at home won’t bother them.

I line the tub with old clean bath mats and then add some old towels or a blanket to make certain it is warm. If necessary add a hot water bottle, but I usually don’t resort to the tub until the baby doesn’t need all the warmth.

Of course, if you only have one tub in the house that presents a problem.

Along with giving warmth and safety to the puppy or kitten, you now have to think of food.

What do you feed the babies?

Feeding the puppies and kittens during the first few weeks of life is a time consuming project, but really fun, if you sit back and relax.

The babies require much more in the way of nutrition than just a bottle of cow’s milk.

There are several brands of substitutes for the mother’s milk on the market. Keep in mind puppies have their own formulas and kittens theirs as the nutritional needs for both are different.

Buying a powdered formula that you mix is really the most practical, as you can mix up only what you need for a day or two. That helps eliminate spoilage. Refrigerate the powdered formula after it is opened, as well as the batch you mix up to use.. Some of the brands that are available are KMR, Just Born and Esbilac, they can be found at your neighborhood pet store, some at your vet’s or on the Internet.

Just be certain to get the product made for your pet.

Now how do you feed the baby?

There are kitten and puppy nursing bottles, but so help me, I have never been able to master feeding my babies with a nursing bottle until they were almost ready to be weaned.

My favorite feeding tools are eye droppers, when they are very young and syringes (without needles, of course) as they get a little older. With these things I feel that I have better control.

I can control the amount that goes in and can slow it down if I feel it is necessary.

Some people have better results with bottle-feeding, so it is up to you to try both, and see which method feels more comfortable for you.

Your vet will be able to direct you into the proper amounts of formula to feed your baby.

The feeding schedule is important. If your baby is a few hours old it should be fed every 2 hours for at least 72 hours, then it can be fed every three hours, with two 4 hour periods at night.

Going into the second week, you can change the schedule to every 4 hours with a 6-hour period at night and follow that schedule until the puppy or kitten is weaned.

By the third to fourth week you can start making some kitty or puppy mush using a good quality kitten or puppy dry food or buy canned kitten or puppy food.

Mix either the dry food or the canned food with some of the formula until it is the consistency of baby cereal and let the kitten or puppy attempt to eat it.

Do not make too much as it gets “yukky” if it sits around very long.

Do this several times during the day along with the schedule of bottle feeding.

By the time the kitten or puppy is 6 to 7 weeks old it should be eating solid food.

The most important thing to remember is to take special care when feeding the puppy or kitten.

Be certain not to feed too fast or with a nipple that has a too large a hole.

If you are using the nursing bottle technique, make certain that the hole is the nipple is small enough to let the milk drip out if the bottle is held upside down. You do not want the milk to flow out.


Puppies, kittens and yes, even squirrels have been known to “inhale the formula,” it gets into their lungs and soon you will either feel or hear a “rattle” and the baby more than likely has pneumonia.

It is okay if tiny bubbles form around the orphan’s mouth, but formula coming out the baby’s nose or running down the sides of its mouth are warning signs that you may be feeding too fast.

You need to stop, check the nipple on the bottle or the technique you are using if you are eye dropper or syringe feeding.

If you feel or hear a “rattle” sound, call your vet at once. The vet can prescribe medication to help the situation.

Believe it or not, it is a good idea to “burp” your puppy or kitten after feeding. Use the same position as you would if you were burping a baby, this will remove any gas that they may have.

As important as feeding is, it is equally important that the baby’s (kitten or puppy,) elimination process is taken care of, too.

As a general rule kittens and puppies will be able to handle this on their own when they are about 3 weeks old. However, until they are that old, it is your very important job as a foster mom or dad.

How do you do it?

It is really rather simple, but it can be frustrating also, as sometimes they do not want to cooperate.

My baby squirrel did not decide to cooperate for almost 24 hours after I found him, though I worked very hard to get his cooperation.

I can say at this time everything is working on schedule.

Now back to how do you do this elimination thing.

For my orphans it worked best after each feeding, I would get a q-tip or a soft tissue, dampen it slightly with warm water and rub the genital area. It usually takes one or two minutes for something to happen. The first time it might take longer, be patient, don’t rub hard (remember the mother’s tongue usually does this.)

Be certain you have extra tissues or a washcloth on hand to catch whatever gift the puppy or kitten is going to give you. It is important you do this after every feeding.

Sometimes the first bowel movement requires an extra amount of rubbing, just do not rub hard. We don’t want any bruises or sores.

The first time you start to do this, it may feel like it will never happen, but once it does, all the other times will be fairly quick and easy.

Just be certain to clean the genital area with warm water.

Once the kitten reaches the stage where it will go by itself, put a cake pan or a low-sided container of some sort in the area where you are keeping the kitten and fill it with some litter.

You may have to play mom and scratch in it to show kitty what is expected of it, but in most cases, kitty will know all by itself what to do.

Puppies aren’t so well trained and you will have to clean up after them.

Well, we got rid of the fleas, learned how to feed our orphans, got the plumbing working, took them to the vet and now there is one last thing you need to do as a foster mom or dad.

Socialize them.

Puppies and kittens need to be socialized in order to fit into the everyday world. They need to be handled gently, loved and played with.

It is important to have people around them including children (under supervision – never by themselves.) Even having an association with any of your family pets is a good thing, too.

Being exposed to regular household noises is very important, as you do not want to raise a fearful kitten or puppy.

I may have made this all sound like a lot of hard work and sometimes it feels like it, but the end result when you see a kitten, puppy or squirrel respond and grow under your care. What can be more fulfilling?