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My wife and I have three 10 day old kittens and the mother has gone missing. We haven't seen her since yesterday morning. I can't imagine what could have happened to her because she's a very attentive mother and never takes off like this even when she isn't nursing.

This is her second litter. We have the kittens underneath our bedside table where they were born cuddled up next to a heating pad right now.

We're both experienced cat owners but have never been in this kind of situation before.

We live in a town with a couple animal shelters and a couple pet chain stores. Should we try to find a kitty wet nurse or just buy substitute milk for these guys?

How do you even take care of cats this young?
 

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Sorry to hear momcat went missing.....maybe hit by a car? predated by a coyote? Became ill? A shelter that has a fostering program may be able to take them in if you don't want to have to be busy with 2 hr. feedings. They may know of a female already in milk that could nurse the kittens. But if you have the time and inclination, here's what's involved:


What to Do (and NOT Do) If You Find a Newborn Kitten
 

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Maybe she went into heat again and has gone off to get pregnant... not unheard of, it's an instinctual drive, nothing they want to be doing otherwise. Please get her spayed if she comes back after she finishes nursing.

The kitens must be fed around the clock every few hours or they will die. If you cannot do this then find someone that can.
 

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Yikes, it seems like you're in a spot. If the kittens haven't eaten that whole time it is absolutely urgent that you feed them.

A rescue might not be able to take them right NOW, and they need to eat. At this point they are already at a high risk because they've been without food for so long.

Step one is getting formula for them as a temporary measure at least. You'll also need:

-kitten bottle kit (they're cheap, and even if you can surrender the kittens the rescue could probably use more supplies, so it's a win-win)
-Kitten formula
-food scale (you'll need to weigh them ASAP and then again a few hours after feeding. Kittens who are loosing weight are at very high risk)
-Dropper/syringe (to get them started eating, kittens will very rarely take to a bottle quickly)

That's the absolute minimum, there's a bunch of other things that would come in handy (paper towels, for example) but they're either things you're likely to have around the house, or that aren't worth getting if your plan is to surrender the kittens.

As Ami and Carmel said kittens that age need to eat every 2 hours. In this situation I'd add a tiny little bit (1 tsp or less) of corn syrup to a large batch of kitten formula. They'll need a bit of extra sugar after going without for so long.

Another thing that you need to do now is check them for dehydration. Gently pinch and lift the flap of skin between their shoulders (the scruff) and see how quickly it shrinks back to the right shape. If it's quick and instantly goes back to the way it should look that's perfect. If it slowly slowly shrinks back and a little ridge stays for even a few seconds that kitten is dehydrated, which is a very dangerous situation for kittens.

They will probably also need to go to the bathroom, since kittens that age can't eliminate by themselves. Use a moistened paper towel to gently rub their backsides to help them to eliminate. It shouldn't take much, since they're probably full to bursting.

If you can't commit to round the clock feedings then you should start contacting rescues in your area. After you tell them what has happened ask them: What will you do with the kittens. Many kill shelters simply don't have room or time to care for the babies and with euthanize them. They usually won't lie about it though...but I'd start with rescues rather than shelters if possible.

A rescue worker may also be able to give you tips, or maybe even hands on help, getting started caring for these babies.

Let us know how it goes!!! Good luck!
 

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Yikes.

I just hand raised a kitten in a similar situation. It is a HUGE time commitment, for even just one. If you don't think you can commit to feedings every two hours and constant checking to make sure they are warm, safe, and have gone to the bathroom (kittens this young still need assistance to go #1 and #2) try to find a foster program nearby ASAP or someone willing to help. My kitten found me because someone without the time asked me to take her into my hands (i'm a student currently not in classes, so my free time is higher than average.)

Best of luck!!!! Please let us know how everything goes.
 
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