Your first priority is warmth for your kitten. Chilly night air can be deadly, especially to a wet kitten. If your kitten is wet, getting him dry becomes paramount. Gently dry him off with a towel and if it doesn’t cause him to be too anxious, blow-dry him with a hairdryer set on low. Avoid the hairdryer blowing in his face. If he becomes restless, then place some dry towels in your dryer and set the heat on low. Let the towels cycle for about 10 minutes and using a warmed towel, wrap your kitten securely, cuddling him to your chest near your heart. Once the towel cools down, replace it with another one that was kept warm in the dryer. Kittens younger than 10 days old are not yet equipped with a shiver reflex, therefore they cannot maintain their own body heat.
Place some soft bedding (blanket or towels) in the bottom of a clean box and place the box in a warm, draught-free spot. If you have a pet heating pad, place this under the bedding, but give your kitten room to move off the heat if it becomes too warm. Never use a human electric blanket or a human heating pad to keep a kitten warm, as it can cause hot spots on the fragile skin and burn your kitten.
If you don’t have a heat pad, you can fill a clean sock with uncooked white rice or white beans until the sock feels firm. Tie a secure knot in the open end and place the sock in the microwave for 60 seconds. Test the temperature before you put the sock heater in with your kitten. Make sure the sock is not too hot. If your kitten is cold, you can curl the sock around him. You can also use a hot water bottle or soda bottle, filled with very hot water and wrapped in a thin towel. Place this in the box next to your kitten. Make sure the soda bottle does not roll on top of your kitten by placing a small object underneath the blanket to stop it rolling.
If you are using these alternative heating methods, you will need to re-warm the sock or refill the bottle with hot water at least every two to three hours. Use another towel or blanket to drape over the top of the box to keep the warmth inside. If you have an air-conditioner in your home, please be sure you do not let your kitten become exposed to the cool air at any time, as a kitten can become chilled quickly and needs to be kept nice and warm. Also, never use a heat lamp on tiny kittens. The light can quickly burn the skin and cause dehydration to set in.
The ideal temperature within the box should be:
- Birth to 3 weeks: 85-88oF (30-31oC)
- Over 3 weeks: approx. 79oF (26oC)
Place a small ticking clock under your kitten’s bedding. This mimics his mom’s heartbeat and helps him settle in easily. If you have a stuffed toy that you don’t mind parting with, put this in the box with him. For an older kitten, be sure the stuffed toy does not have any parts that your kitten can pull off and chew on.
You should consider getting a Snugglekittie for your kitten. This is a special stuffed animal in the shape of a cat. It has a pouch underneath with a battery-operated ‘heart’ and a heartbeat that your kitten can feel and hear. You can also place a disposable or reusable heat pad (both included when you order a Snugglekittie) in the pouch. Snugglekitties are available from SnuggleMe.com or a vet or pet store.
One of the best ways to keep your newborn kitten warm and close to you, is to make a Pouch Potato. Take an old pillowcase and fold over the open ends downward to about halfway. Take a soft cord and place it around your neck and shoulder so the ends of the cords hang down to waist level. Cut the ends of the cord. Take the cord and wrap it underneath the folds of the pillowcase, forming a soft purse. Hand-stitch a quick running stitch to keep the cord in place. Pile soft rags or towels at the bottom of the pouch, and place the pouch over your shoulder and neck, tying the ends of the cord in a knot. The bottom of the pouch should lie right next to your heart. Put your kitten inside the pouch. Take a long sleeved, baggy shirt, put that on and button it about halfway up. This creates a warm, safe cave for your new arrival. He is calmed by your heartbeat as well as breathing in your personal scent. The bonding has begun. This little one can travel with you anywhere now, even to work.