Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I took in this tiny kitten that was left outside at a hospital and now I’m lost on how to raise her, or him. The kitten is still very tiny and very skinny, you can feel most of the bones in her little body! She has quite a few teeth though and ate some dry kitten food with no problem. Maybe she’s around 5 weeks old, I’m not sure? She is very friendly, social, and energetic, but she has diarrhea, her butt is a little swollen and she is not going to the bathroom in the litter box. I’m thinking she may have roundworms, she has a little potbelly. I have a 6-year-old cat and a 1-year-old dog so we have been keeping her separate from them in the bathroom when we aren’t around or at night with a litter box, food, water, some toys and a bed until we get her to the vet. She seems perfectly healthy in the way she acts and I have a vet appointment for her in a week, it was the soonest they could get me in around my work schedule. But I’m just concerned about the diarrhea, her swollen butt and how skinny she is. Will she be okay to wait a week? Is there anything I should do until then? Her activity seems normal and she seems to be eating and drinking normally. Also how can I get her to go in her litter box?
Thomas: Well, Chelsea, it seems like right now you’re doing all the right things to help this abandoned kitten. We would recommend that you keep her separate from your other cat until you get her cleared by the veterinarian. Roundworms and other parasites can spread from one animal to another, as can illnesses like respiratory infections.
Bella: As far as the diarrhea and pot belly, we think you’re right that this kitten has roundworms. Just about all kittens and puppies have roundworms, since they pass from mom to kittens in her milk.
Tara: She may have other parasites like Giardia, which can also cause diarrhea–and super-stinky diarrhea, at that!
Thomas: We think she may have trouble getting to the litter box in time because of the diarrhea. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go! And she’s still a tiny girl.
Bella: You didn’t mention whether she’s peeing outside the box, too, though. If she’s not using the litter box for anything, you may have to use a special cat litter to tempt her to use the box. A friend of Mama’s had great luck with Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract when it came to getting a kitty to use the litter box!
Tara: We’d recommend that you feed her soft kitten food instead of kibble because even though she has a lot of teeth, her adult teeth haven’t come in yet and her little jaws may not be strong enough to crunch kibble yet.
Thomas: Also, canned food made especially for kittens has more calories and may help her to put weight on. An abandoned kitten needs all the help she can get to put on weight!
Bella: You can supplement her diet with kitten replacement milk, which is available at pet stores. At five weeks old, she’s not fully weaned yet. Kittens aren’t fully weaned until they’re at least eight weeks old.
Tara: Her butt is probably swollen because of the diarrhea. It hurts to have constant diarrhea.
Thomas: Even when you keep your abandoned kitten isolated, do go into her special room and spend time with her, playing and petting her. You want to make sure she’s well socialized with people. Be sure to wash your hands after you’re done playing with her, so you don’t accidentally transmit any illnesses or parasites to your other cat and dog.
Bella: She’ll probably be okay to wait a week to get into the vet, but if you see any signs that her condition is declining–for example, she becomes lethargic or gets congested and snotty–get her to the vet as soon as possible. Upper respiratory infections and inability to eat can quickly be fatal to a tiny kitten.
Tara: And as for determining your kitten’s age: Does she still have blue eyes? If so, she’s younger than six or seven weeks old … unless she’s a Siamese or strong Siamese mix, in which case her eyes will stay blue for the rest of her life.
Thomas: So, Chelsea, the bottom line is this: Keep your kitten separated from your other pets until she’s seen a vet. Use Cat Attract litter to get her to use the litter box. Feed her special soft kitten food and supplement it with kitten milk replacer.
Bella: If she starts showing signs of respiratory infection or she continues to lose weight, get her to the vet as soon as you can.
Tara: Socialize her to humans by spending time with her and playing with her. But be sure to wash your hands when you’re done, so you don’t accidentally transmit any diseases or parasites to your other furry family members.
Thomas: You’re really wonderful for rescuing this abandoned kitten and making sure she’s safe and getting the vet care she needs.
Bella: What about you other readers? Do you have any tips to help Chelsea take care of this tiny kitten?
Tara: Please share your advice and thoughts in the comments!