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CLAWgust Spotlight: Hand Rearing Kittens

Raising kittens is difficult, time consuming, and sadly, not always successful. In an ideal world, kittens would always be raised by their mothers, who are best equipped to cater to the needs of their young. However, this sadly isn’t always possible and in some instances experienced animal carers have to step in and attempt to preserve the lives of these little ones. Kittens require feeding every two hours throughout the day and night and encouragement to pass faeces and urine. They need to be kept in a warm, safe area where they can’t hurt themselves, and milk needs to be fed at just the right temperature. Items used to hand rear kittens must be kept clean and sterile to reduce the chance of passing on an infection. It’s also imperative to keep an eye on the general health of the kitten, so prompt action can be taken when needed.

Our centres all have their own stories about kittens that have required extra help because mum was unable, or because they were abandoned and we don’t know who or where mum is. Sometimes people have attempted hand rearing kittens themselves, but turned to our centres once they’ve seen first-hand how demanding and challenging it is.

Scrumpy and SheppyScrumpy and Sheppy

Scrumpy and Sheppy arrived in our care after being found in a skip by the recycling men. The kittens were in a cardboard recycling bin and on their way to the recycling centre before they were rescued. We believe they were no older than two days, and needed round the clock care.

As they grew, we noticed they had a problem with their eyes even before they had opened properly. Scrumpy had fluid build-up behind one of his and Sheppy’s eyes soon followed suit. Luckily, after swift treatment, they healed well and their eyes opened normally. Alas, this wasn’t the only veterinary issue these two had, these adorable kittens also had explosive diarrhoea, not for the faint of heart!

Once Scrumpy and Sheppy were big and healthy enough, they had their first lot of vaccinations and soon found their new forever home.



Recently, Cupcake arrived at our HULA centre after her mum sadly misplaced her kittens on a train. Cupcake’s mum climbed on board a stationary transport train to give birth, and then got off the carriage. The train departed from the station, with Cupcake and her siblings, but sadly, leaving mum behind. National Rail staff did their best to find mum, bringing the kittens back to the area they thought she’d given birth. Sadly, mum was never found. A selection of staff members each took a kitten home to hand rear but shortly afterward, the staff member who was looking after Cupcake brought her to HULA, as caring for Cupcake was becoming very challenging.

Cupcake, around two weeks old when first brought to the centre, required regular bottles of milk throughout the day and night. Now at four weeks, she has started to eat kitten food and has learned how to go to the toilet on her own!

Despite our best efforts, sometimes a kitten comes into our care too small and poorly to make it.

A kitten recently arrived in our care after being rejected by his mother, having only been born that morning. We could see he didn’t look right, and rushed him straight to the vet to be checked over, but sadly he didn’t make it.

Sometimes a kitten might pass away, and we’ll never know why. As tiring and emotionally heart breaking as it is for the team involved, we will always try our best to give each kitten a fighting chance, and those that don’t survive are always remembered fondly.

Princess TiabeanieLittle Bean

Princess Tiabeanie arrived in our care in October, 2018, dehydrated and anaemic. The vets put her on a drip to rehydrate her, but from there on, it was down to her and us!

Little Bean, as she became fondly known, had a tough week ahead. She didn’t take well to the bottle, and needed feeding with a pipette to begin with, which takes a lot of patience at 2am. Luckily, the patience paid off, and Little Bean began to get better and became a typical kitten who adored fuss, playtime and napping. The staff member who hand reared her couldn’t part with her, and Little Bean is now living the dream, with attention on tap, lots of toys and an older brother who is learning to tolerate her.

If you find yourself in the position of needing to hand rear kittens, please considLittle Bean outsideer bringing them to a rehoming centre, where staff are experienced in this very delicate and dedicated work. If you’d like advice on hand rearing kittens, please contact your local veterinary practice.

You can help care for the next kittens who arrive at NAWT in need of hand rearing by donating. As little as £5 will provide young kittens with some of the supplies they need to help them thrive.  

Once a kitten no longer requires round-the-clock care and is old enough to have their vaccinations, they become available for rehoming. Contact your local centre if you’re interested in offering a home to a friendly feline, alternatively, visit our rehoming pages for cats of all ages who are looking for their forever home.

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