Bathing newborn kittens can be tempting for an owner new to the birthing and post birthing process, but it’s not a good idea. In fact, it’s a very bad idea.
I came across a question in the forums from an owner asking if bathing newborn kittens was okay because her cat had just given birth. The owner said there was blood and the kittens were covered in afterbirth and the like.
This is actually quite normal, but to the uninitiated, it can look like something out of a horror movie. In fact, I believe her specific words were, “There’s blood all over the blankets and the kittens are covered in stuff. They’re crawling all through it.” I could almost here the worry in her voice as I read it, and I had to feel bad. Nothing at all was wrong, but she was obviously a bit freaked out by it.
Why Bathing Newborn Kittens is a Bad Idea
To begin with, there’s an entire physical and psychological process that goes along with the birth and post birth. All of the things that happen during and after the birth are part of nature’s way of ensuring that mom and kittens bond immediately, so interrupting that process in anyway is always a bad idea. That being said, let’s look at the specifics.
When a mother cat gives birth to her kittens, she will immediately being to eat the placenta and chew off the umbilical cords. From there, she will lick her kittens completely clean. While this may seem gross to us humans, it’s an important part of the bonding process, wherein mom gets to know the scent of her kittens and her kittens get to know hers as well. Bathing newborn kittens interrupts that process and can cause the mom to reject them.
Newborn kittens are unable to properly self-regulate their temperatures. The short of it is that kittens need to be in that classic kitten pile and all snuggled up to mom to stay nice and toasty. No matter how careful you are, bathing newborn kittens can, and most likely would, lead to them becoming chilled and possibly getting sick.
What to do Instead of Bathing Newborn Kittens
First and foremost, the best thing to do is not to do anything – at least in the beginning. Let mom and the kittens do their whole get-to-know-you cleaning ritual and give mom a chance to rest and recover from the birth. If she’s recovered but she still hasn’t properly cleaned off the kittens take a clean DRY cloth and gently rub down the kittens to get any excess birth fluid and/or blood off of them. DO NOT bathe them or use any water.
After you finish the dry pat down – or if mom has already gotten the kids clean – gently change out the messy towels for new ones, making sure not to let the kittens catch a chill. Then it’s just a matter of feeding mom a high calorie kitten food. She’ll be nursing quite a few hungry babies, and she’ll need all the calories that she can get.
And there you have it. Bathing newborn kittens is always a bad idea and should never be done. In fact, the entire birthing process is actually quite easy for owners if we do what we should – which is just shy of nothing. LOL. Mother nature got it right without us, so all we really need to do is change out the bedding and make sure mom eats a high quality food. That’s it!