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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

A friend recently found a kitten that couldn’t have been more than a few days old. I have had her for over a week and she is doing great, but today after a feeding every time she meows, she has a wheezy, raspy squeak. Just want to know if she got formula in her lungs or what could be the cause.

~ Carli

Thomas: Your kitten certainly could have gotten some formula “down the wrong pipe,” so to speak — maybe some went down her trachea instead of her esophagus. But that’s not the only possibility.

Bella: You see, tiny kittens are very susceptible to upper respiratory infections.

Thomas: Their little immune systems haven’t fully developed yet, and usually the mama cat’s milk provides them with immunity from diseases until their own bodies catch up.

Bella: But orphaned kittens don’t have that extra immune boost from their mothers.

Thomas: We’d definitely recommend a trip to the veterinarian — not just to rule out any upper respiratory problems but to get some guidance on appropriate weight gain for a bottle-fed kitten.

Bella: Upper respiratory infections can quickly overwhelm a kitten’s body. If you see any signs of sneezing or runny eyes, it’s more likely that your little kitty does have a respiratory infection.

Thomas: But, as I mentioned, formula can get down the trachea (wind pipe) instead of the esophagus, and get into their throats and lungs.

Bella: You can prevent this by feeding your kitten in the correct position and making sure the flow of milk isn’t too fast.

Thomas: Some people feed bottle kittens on their backs, and this is a bad idea because there’s a much higher chance that formula will go into the lungs.

Bella: Think about it: Do kittens lie on their backs when they nurse at their mama’s milk bar? Nope!

Thomas: If you feed a bottle kitten right side up, as shown in the photo above, you run less risk of getting formula into your kitten’s lungs.

Bella: This video from Maddie’s Institute’s library of resources for caring for orphaned kittens is a fantastic quick guide on how to properly feed bottle babies.

Thomas: And boy, are those kittens cute! Mama can I have a kitten?

Bella: I thought I was your kitten! *sniffle*

Thomas: Well, of course, sweetie — you’ll always be my girl. Besides, Mama says no more cats (kittens or otherwise) right now.

Bella: That’s good. I’d hate to get jealous and ruin our perfectly good relationship.

Thomas: Anyhow, Carli, we hope this helps you to help your little bottle baby. We’d definitely recommend that even if she’s healthy, you should take her to the vet for a checkup and some professional guidance on helping her to grow up to be big and strong.

Bella: What about you other readers? Have you nursed orphaned kittens? Please share your tips and experiences in the comments.