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I brought home four very young (3-4 weeks old?) orphan kittens from our local shelter this week, one very malnourished. (He's been seen by my vet.) I'll be fostering them till they're ready for adoption.

They all look like they've been living pretty rough, with dried food, or maybe feces, stuck to their fur. Lots of missing patches of fur, and the sickly one had a horrible looking clump of something stuck between his toes---it came off yesterday like the skin of a blister. Yuck! He's got no fur at all on most of his tail, just scabby stuff. I gave them all baths and cleaned them up best I could. But they still have dried, crusty stuff stuck to their heads and faces, so I can't just soak it off. And none of them smells very good.

Can anyone suggest something harmless that might dissolve the gunk, allowing it to be washed off? I'd try mineral oil, but don't want to give them loose bowels! Not that any of them is doing much self grooming beyond licking leftover food & milk off their feet. (I think they're too young to be eating food, but the largest one is doing fine on canned food mushed with KMR. He has no interest in the bottle. Two others eat a little food, then finish up with a bottle. The littlest guy gets KMR only.)
 

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Dawn dishwashing liquid. The same stuff they use to clean up birds and others when there's an oil spill in the ocean.
 

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Just an update . . . Dawn was great for bathing, left them all smelling much better but did nothing to get the crust off. A little Vaseline worked pretty well on some of it. I wiped it all off before they had a chance to lick any. Not that they're doing that anyhow; I'm constantly having to wipe stuff off of them. I guess they lost their mom before she taught them to clean themselves.

A patch of fur is gone on the leg of one of them. leaving bare skin. Two have exposed areas of tail that are truly horrible looking, like scabby earthworms with leathery skin. Looks like something from the old horror/sci-fi films my husband likes. I sure hope the fur grows back someday!
 
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