Hand Raising Puppies and Kittens

Artifical Rearing of Neonates

Artificial rearing of neonates (puppies and kittens), where possible, is best avoided. However, in situations where the mother has died or abandoned the neonates, and a foster mother is not available, survival of the neonates is directly dependent on human intervention.


Colostrum: The First Suckle

It is absolutely essential that all neonates receive colostrum from the mother within 12-24 hours. This is a vital source of immunoglobulins, nutrients, and calories. If colostrum is not available from the mother consult your veterinarian. 



A good quality commercial milk supplement is required for feeding the neonates e.g. Divetelact®. Cows’ milk, goats’ milk and / or home-made supplements are not suitable for neonates. This is because they do not provide the appropriate composition of lactose, protein, fat, and vitamins and minerals. The milk should be warmed to body temperature (~39°C) and fed according to the manufacturers’ instructions.


Feeding Schedule

Neonates normally feed every 2-4 hours during the first 5 days of life, and then every 4 hours thereafter. The bodyweight usually doubles within 7-10 days following birth and increases 6-10 times by weaning. (Neonates should be weighed and recorded daily - kitchen scales are very easily used).


Signs of under-nutrition include crying, restlessness instead of sleeping, inactivity, and poor weight gain.


Use a commercial feeding kit that contains a bottle and teat. The milk should be stored in the fridge and only heated just before use. Always thoroughly clean the feeding kit prior to use. The teat aperture should be large enough to prevent the neonate sucking air, but not so large that excessive milk-flow occurs. If the neonate rushes or inhales milk they are at risk of developing pneumonia. Wipe off any spilt milk on the neonate as this could lead to chilling.



Number of Feeds

Per Day

Total Milk Volume

Fed Per Day

Volume Per Feed

Per 100g Body Weight


~ 6 - 12

15 ml / 100g bodyweight

1.25 - 2.5 ml / feed



15 ml / 100g bodyweight

2.5 ml / feed


~ 4

20 ml / 100g bodyweight

5 ml / feed


~ 3 - 4

20 ml / 100g bodyweight

5 - 6 ml / feed


In the first few weeks of life do not feed puppies more than 10-12 ml per feed and kittens 5-10 ml per feed.



Normally the mother will stimulate the neonate to urinate and defecate. This should be done by the care giver after feeding and every 2 hours, and is performed by rubbing the anus / genital region with moistened cotton wool. Once the neonate’s eyes have opened and is walking it is generally no longer necessary to stimulate toileting.



Weaning is a gradual process. Start offering small quantities of kitten/puppy food at 2.5 weeks old. Continue milk-feeding during this time but less frequently and smaller volumes. Continue to monitor weight gains closely - signs of under-nutrition include crying, inactivity, and poor weight gain.