Hand-rearing a kitten is no easy task! They require constant 24-hour care, including feeding, socializing, and even burping! Burping or belching is the act of releasing gas from the stomach via the mouth, which is essential to prevent gastrointestinal problems. But how do you burp a kitten? When do you need to burp a kitten? Read on to find out!
So, how do you burp a kitten? To burp a kitten, you need to hold it up against you with its stomach resting on your shoulder. Then pat its back in a slow and steady motion until you feel a burp. Alternatively, you can lay your kitten on its stomach and pat its back. This should be done after every feed to reduce the risk of gas build-up.
Remember, young kittens are very fragile, so always seek the advice of a vet if you are concerned or do not feel entirely confident in doing this yourself.
And chances are, you still have a lot of questions regarding burping and want some further instruction for how to do so safely and effectively.
So keep reading to get all the information you will need!
Do Kittens Burp?
Kittens do burp but usually only during the bottle-feeding stage of hand-rearing.
Interestingly, there is a debate among veterinarians as to whether cats need to burp.
Many experts claim that burping is not only rare but also not required because of a cat’s meat-based diet.
Other veterinarians and cat owners claim they have witnessed felines burping after a meal.
Humans burp regularly because we drink a lot of carbonated drinks, and we also tend to talk when we are eating a meal – cats don’t do that!
In rare instances, cats may swallow excess air when treats or medication are given or even during an overzealous play session.
However, the general consensus seems to be that cats can burp on occasion, but it usually signifies a digestive problem if it is performed regularly.
Cats breathe predominantly through their noses, so excess gas entering the gastrointestinal tract is relatively uncommon in cats compared to other species.
The only exception to this rule is young kittens, as they are more likely to accidentally swallow air.
Especially when being hand-fed through a bottle.
This is why it is highly recommended that you burp a kitten after every feed if you are hand-rearing.
Kittens have relatively sensitive stomachs in the first few weeks of life, which can be irritated by drinking through a bottle teat, just like a human baby.
Not all kittens will swallow air when bottle feeding, but it is considered good practice to regularly burp your kittens after every meal until they move onto solid food.
Are You Supposed To Burp A Kitten?
Veterinarians recommend that you burp a kitten after every meal if you are bottle feeding. This should not be necessary if the kittens are feeding from their mother. You should also not need to burp a kitten if you are tube feeding him.
Burping a hand-reared young kitten is essential when bottle feeding as excess air can be swallowed. This can cause gas build-up in the stomach, which can be fatal.
You can try to reduce the risk of your kitten swallowing air by ensuring you buy the correct sized bottle teat and feed little and often.
Teats with elongated nipples are the best option as they are much easier to use.
Below is a handy guide on feeding frequency, depending on the age of your kitten:
- Up to 10 days old: These kittens need to be fed every two hours around the clock (day and night)
- 11 days – 2.5 weeks old: Every 3-4 hours
- 2.5-4 weeks of age: Every 5-6 hours
Remember that feeding too much at once can cause digestive discomfort.
Kittens will usually stop feeding when they are full.
It is also worth noting that young kittens should not be fed with cow or goats’ milk as these do not contain enough fat and protein to aid development.
Instead, you should purchase a specific kitten formula to ensure your young felines get all the nutrients they need to grow into healthy adults.
Additionally, you should make sure you follow the package instructions carefully and seek the advice of a vet if you are unsure.
Be particularly careful when feeding brachycephalic (flat-faced) kittens such as Persians, as these breeds are more susceptible to inhaling milk which can lead to dangerous lung infections.
When it comes to the teats, you can buy ones that are specifically designed for young kittens.
However, you must make sure they fit the bottle properly. If the milk flows out of the teat when the bottle is tipped upside down, then the teat is too large.
If milk does not appear until the bottle has been significantly squeezed, then the teat is too small. Both of these can lead to digestive issues.
The perfect-sized teat will allow milk to drip from the nipple with a gentle squeeze of the bottle.
You should replace teats regularly as the holes can become enlarged over time but bear in mind that a lot of kittens can get attached to one particular nipple!
So, they may need a bit of persuasion to use a new one! As your kittens grow, you can gradually increase the size of the teat.
Do You Have To Burp Kittens?
If kittens are eating formula from a bottle, you do need to burp them. Burping bottle-fed kittens is essential to release any air that has been swallowed during the feeding process. If excess air is allowed to build up, it can cause numerous life-threatening health issues for your kitten.
Even if your little feline doesn’t seem like it needs to burp, you should still try – it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to vulnerable young kittens!
How To Burp A Kitten
To burp a kitten after formula bottle-feeding, place your kitten upright with its stomach flat against your shoulder.
Then pat it gently but firmly on the back until you feel it burp.
Alternatively, you can lay your kitten on its stomach against the palm of your hand and pat its back gently.
Bear in mind that you may not hear a burp, so it is important to have your hand on the kitten at all times in order to feel for it.
You should do this after every feed or whenever your kitten takes a break from nursing.
Once your kitten has burped, it should be able to carry on nursing or continue with its daily activities (probably napping!)
If you notice your kitten starting to bloat or become colicky, you can add a few drops of suitable anti-colic drops to the bottle to relieve the symptoms.
You should also weigh your kitten regularly to ensure he is growing at the correct rate. Kittens should double their weight in the first week after birth.
After this, they should gain additional weight steadily.
What Happens If A Kitten Doesn’t Burp?
There are a lot of health issues that can arise from not burping your kitten after feeding, from gastrointestinal discomfort and vomiting to death. If you notice your kitten acting unwell or refusing to feed, you must seek veterinary advice right away.
Below are a few common issues that can arise with bottle feeding kittens and their potential causes:
Diarrhea is often caused by overfeeding or an unclean bottle teat. Diarrhea can be fatal in young kittens as it can lead to dehydration very quickly.
If your notice your kitten has diarrhea, you must contact a vet immediately.
Coughing or Spluttering
This usually means that your kitten has inhaled some of the milk. If it coughs for over a minute, you will need to contact your vet.
Remember to always feed kittens sitting upright, and make sure you burp them immediately after every feed.
NEVER feed a kitten on its back, as this increases the risk of milk inhalation.
Refusing To Eat
If your kitten refuses to drink from the bottle, it could mean that the milk is too cold.
You should always warm up your kitten’s formula to around 95-100oF in a water bath, NOT in a microwave.
Your kitten may also be refusing to eat because it is unwell, so speak to a vet if you are worried.
This can be caused by numerous factors, including overfeeding or an overconcentrated formula. Your kitten may also vomit if the milk is flowing out of the teat too fast.
If this is the case, your kitten may present with a distended stomach too.
Always make sure you buy the correct sized teat as one too large will increase the risk of your kitten swallowing too much air.
Burping a kitten will usually release any digestive discomfort fairly quickly. However, if you notice your kitten is not eating much, then there may be an additional issue that needs addressing.
If a kitten does not take in the correct amount of nutrients, then it could develop Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) which can be fatal if not rectified quickly.
Symptoms to watch out for include depression, muscle twitches, and even convulsions in the most severe cases.
Remember, young kittens are very fragile, so you must contact a vet if you suspect any problem.
Other Suggestions For Burping Your Kitten
- Always be gentle when burping young kittens. Remember, their bones and muscles are still growing, so any harsh movements could potentially cause injury.
- Be patient! Just like newborn babies, kittens may struggle to get rid of excess air in the beginning. So, take your time and introduce the process slowly.
- Talk to your kitten! This may seem a little silly, but it really works! Hand-reared kittens miss out on the socialization benefits of having a mother and siblings around them. By talking softly as you burp your kitten, you are offering reassurance and reinforcing your bond.
- Have a towel handy! Kitten formula is often sticky and messy, so make sure you have a towel or cloth ready for when your kitten burps! It is normal for a little bit of formula to come back up, so just wipe your kittens’ mouth with a damp cloth when it is done.
Kittens do need burping, but only during a particular and early phase of their life.
Generally, if you are bottle-feeding your kitten, burping them is simply a must.
Hopefully, you now know how to safely do so, but if you are in doubt or do require additional support, do contact a veterinarian.
Have other questions related to the diet of your kitten? Then my following guides may be of interest!
- When Can A Kitten Eat Dry Food? [& How To Transition Them]
- How Many Pouches Should I Feed My Kitten? [Per Serving, Per Day]
- How Long Can Kittens Go Without Food? [Before Its Unsafe]
- Why Does My Kitten Eat Cat Litter? [And How To Stop Them!]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.