July 7th
Kitten Health Concerns

It’s kitten season which means that there are plenty of kittens in our foster care program. In our foster care program, we show our wonderful foster volunteers how to provide basic daily care for kittens. Part of this training also includes teaching them to look out for the following health concerns. If your own cat just had a litter of kittens, or you have found a litter of kittens and are caring for them, here are some health concerns to watch out for.

Anorexia or poor appetite

On a daily basis, kittens should be gaining 5% - 10% of their body weight. In other words, they should be eating enough to maintain this daily weight gain. If there’s been one day of weight loss or no weight gain, contact your veterinarian for help.


Kitten urine should be dilute and light yellow/clear in colour. If their urine is not like this, they may be dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to a rapid decline in health. If kittens are dehydrated, seek veterinary care immediately.


Use this chart to determine the appropriate temperature for kittens at different ages.


If kittens are not at the appropriate temperature, rewarm them gradually over 1-4 hours using a heating pad on low. Ensure that the kittens can move towards and away from the heat source in case they get too hot or too cold. Do not feed kittens when they are cold – they will not be able to digest the food.


Diarrhea is very common and can be very frustrating in young kittens. There are many causes for diarrhea:

  • Overfeeding – formula is too concentrated or there is too much formula
  • Dysbiosis – altered intestinal bacteria (gut flora)
  • Dietary sensitivity – formula type or food type
  • Infectious – bacteria, viruses or parasites

Multiple causes means that one treatment may not work for every patient. Discuss treatment options with your veterinarian.


Constipation is also common in orphaned kittens. Stool should be “toothpaste” consistency. If it’s not, discuss formula and possible oral laxative options with your veterinarian.

Upper respiratory infection

If kittens are sneezing, congested and/or have nasal discharge, they may have an upper respiratory infection. There are two types of upper respiratory infections: viral and bacterial. A viral infection is like the common cold. In this case, kittens will have clear nasal discharge. On the other hand, with a bacterial infection, kittens will have green to yellow nasal discharge. Contact your veterinarian to determine the type of infection and treatment options.

Eye infections

Eye infections cause redness, discharge and/or swelling. If you notice any of these symptoms, reach out to your veterinarian.

Anogenital suckling

Some kittens may suckle on their littermates anogenital area. This causes redness, inflammation and/or infection. Separate the kittens and contact your veterinarian.

Above all, it’s important to keep kittens hydrated and warm. Regular vet check-ups are very important and if kittens are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above (or other symptoms), always seek guidance and treatment from a licensed veterinarian.