by Brittany Wood
(Burlington Ky America)
On April 7 2011 my cat Baby gave birth to 3 kittens but we noticed that one of them wasn’t latching on and sucking on a nipple so I looked to see if it had any mouth deformities and I noticed that it had a Cleft Palate.
I asked my neighbor who works at a shelter and she said that it is probably going to die today or tomorrow and she is surprised it lasted that long. I have been feeding it Whiskas cat milk and it has been taking it, but my question is can I continue feeding it cat milk?
Also I would like advice on how to care for it and maybe comments on your cleft palate stories. Please help!
Hi Brittany… thanks for visiting and asking.
A cleft palate is a birth defect of the nasal and oral cavities. The palate bones don’t fuse together leaving a hole in the roof of the mouth to the nasal cavity. Kittens can’t nurse as you say.
Whiskas milk does not have the correct composition for newborns and it does not contain the antibodies to fight disease that mother’s milk (colostrum) does so it is inadequate but would seem to be a stop gap measure (see Kitten Development). Kitten milk replacer is required. You can buy this in powder form or premixed. Also some of the milk will possibly pass into the nasal cavity (see tube feeding below).
The newborn kitten absorbs the antibodies from the colostrum which builds their immune system. This is called “passive immunity”. After 6 – 16 weeks of age the cat will have created his or her own antibodies.
Kittens absorb the antibodies best during the first 24 – 36 hours of life.
As to the cleft palate, this can be corrected in an operation – plastic surgery. It might require a “surgical specialist and aftercare may be extensive.” There is risk of complications too.
I know a person who cares for a cat, Buddy, that had a cleft palate and who underwent and successful operation. Here is Buddy:
Buddy also had a cleft palate. Photo: Michael
Her name is Martha Kane and she lives in Malta. She is the number cat rescuer and carer on the island. I will ask her to comment and advise. You can read about Martha Kane’s Kitty Appeal.
I would certainly telephone a vet immediately and ask what to do in the early days to keep the kitten alive other than what you are doing He will no doubt say that survival depends on tube feeding using milk replacer.
Tube feeding means that the tube passes into the stomach. It is not difficult apparently but you will need someone to instruct you and to ensure that the kitten is feed properly and not hurt (i.e the milk formula passing into the lungs if too much is fed).
The tube is passed into the kitten’s stomach and the milk formula pushed down the tube with a syringe. You can mark off the length of tube to insert with a piece of tape on the tube. The stomach is “located at the level of the first rib.”
Raising kittens by hand requires skill and knowledge and I don’t have that in detail but this page may help: Newborn Kitten Care. I hope someone will leave a helpful comment. I’ll ask.
I would also ask your vet as soon as possible for advice on tube feeding and the surgery.
Hope this helps a bit. See also:
All reference are from Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook