My girlfriend and I received a kitten last night from a neighbor whose cat had a litter. It's my first cat (first interactive pet), but she's had experience in the past. According to our neighbor, our kitten is a little over a month old (approximately 6 weeks), and was starting to eat dry food and learning to use the litter box.

When we received her she was crying and cried when we got her home. We comforted her and she eventually fell asleep on me. She woke up a few times and cried a bit, but went back to sleep (we let her sleep in our bed). She seems to like our fluffy, furry blanket, and has been sleeping in it all day, and cries when you move her off of it.

I'm just a bit concerned because she's been asleep all day, except for a few minutes where she woke up and let out a couple of cries and snuggled back under the covers. I've read about cats, kittens especially, needing to eat and drink often and having voracious appetites. I do understand that it's only been a day, and pretty stressful for her having changed environments and all. I just want to make sure I'm not missing any early signs of sickness or anything.

My gut is telling me that she just needs to adjust, and is missing her mom and familiar environment, as the cries don't sound like an animal in pain, and she looks healthy, with no sign of injury or infection, but I want to see what the more experienced folks might think.

UPDATE Wow, I'm overwhelmed at the amount of views and replies I've received. Thank you all, this is definitely a learning experience. I wanted to give you all an update on our kitten's status. She's been eating wet food very consistently(she has quite a little appetite now), and is warming up to us. To assist in hydration, I mixed in a bit of water with her wet food for a few days, and today I caught her actually drinking a bit from her water bowl. She's getting a bit bolder and does some exploring on her own, and she follows us around the apartment sometimes. as well. She's been having bowel movements and urinating, but she doesn't seem to be litter trained, so we're working on that by providing positive reinforcement when she has accidents, and putting her in the litter box a few times per day and helping her to scratch the litter.

She still cries(we're getting a little better at knowing whether she wants something, or is just being cranky) and sleeps a lot, but she's definitely on the right track. We took her to the vet over the weekend, and he gave her a clean bill of health, minus some ear mites, which I've been administering medicine for. She cries a bit when given medicine(as would any baby, kitten or human), but she's been mostly cooperative, and is very tolerant of handling.

I definitely think 6 weeks is too early to separate a kitten from her mother, for future reference, I think 8-10 weeks should be adequate though. She has a fluffy blanket that's been her sort of "home base", and has been suckling on it, and kneading it. She seems to be revealing more of her personality every day, so we will continue to be patient, and loving, and nurture her development and socialization.

  • 15
    Think about getting a second kitten. Cats are very social animals. Escpecially if nobody is at home during the day a second cat to play and cuddle would be nice.
    – Linaith
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 9:50
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    I'd love to do this, unfortunately our lease only allows us a single cat
    – Glenak1911
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 14:38
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    @Linaith - You should adjust your advice to "Think about getting a another kitten" - I can't think of any problems in life that another kitten wouldn't at least make a little bit better, and even if it doesn't solve the problem you can just keep adding another kitten until it does. :) Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 15:56
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    6 weeks old is really young D: Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 16:10
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    Kittens need like 22 hours of sleep a day, IIRC. Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 18:16

8 Answers 8


This seems pretty standard for a kitten that was separated from her mother and siblings maybe a bit too young. 6 weeks old used to be the standard age to send kittens to new homes, and it won't hurt your kitten long-term, but it can produce this sort of mourning period. These days, 8 weeks old is the recommended age for re-homing, after they are independently on solid food and independently using a litter box.

Obviously, there's nothing you can do about it now, and you didn't know beforehand, so there's no use in worrying about an early separation. Instead, watch the kitten closely and be as hands-on as possible. Snuggling and petting will help her adjust to you. You can put hot water in an old soda-pop bottle (or any other container) and wrap it in a towel for her to snuggle with.

Make sure that the food you're offering her is the same as the food that she was getting before, and make sure that it's very close by to the nest she has made with the blanket. You might also try hand feeding her a few bites to pique her interest.

See if you can get her to drink a little water. You might even dip your finger in water and then gently put it in her mouth a few times.

Make sure that she is using the litterbox. If you think she hasn't peed or pooped in the last 24 hours, you should stimulate her by gently rubbing a damp, warm washcloth over her abdomen. Her mother used to do this with her tongue when the kittens were younger, and although a 6-week-old should be able to do her business by herself, she might be having some difficulty.

If more than 48 hours pass without her eating, drinking, or passing waste, take her to the vet right away. But it will likely not get to that.

Best of luck!

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    Offer her the same as the food that she was getting before. That would be breast milk. I've never had a kitten but I'd say you need some wet food, stat.
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 0:49
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    Actually, the recommended age these days for separating kittens is 12 weeks. Recent experience has shown that some social behavior is still acquired from the mother after 8 weeks. Though it usually doesn't cause major issues, but might make some socialization with other cats a bit challenging at first.
    – Stig Tore
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 8:21
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    "hot water" -> "warm water" -- you don't want a leak to scald the kitten (or you). Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 11:55
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    As below in my answers, I strongly support what @StigTore wrote. This kitten has been seperated from her mother too early, and there will be consequences. It's possible to raise a kitten, my stepmother did so with a kitten that lost its mother at about the same age of this one, but it requires a lot of time and dedication and is definitely not for someone who never had a cat before.
    – Tom
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 12:04
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    If she's not eating well, you don't have to take her to a vet - just bring her back to her mother, at the neighbour's down the street! Her mom should still recognize & help her, it's only been two days, and mother cats don't charge as much as a vet does
    – Xen2050
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 1:02

6 weeks is way too young to be separated from her mother. Unless there is an emergency reason, I strongly suggest returning this kitten to her mother for at least another 6 weeks. Good breeders typically give kittens away at around 14 weeks. There are many important things she still needs to learn from her mother, and she is clearly distressed by the separation.

Wet food is definitely the way to go. You can also mix it with a bit of additional water to make it more liquid. There are different philosophies regarding food. In general, cats do not overeat (unlike dogs), so having food always available is something that a lot of people do (me included). Simply have a bowl of food, always in the same place, and whenever it is empty or near-empty, add a little bit. With time you will figure out how much to add so that not much spoils. You will have to show the kitten a few times where it is, but then she will understand.

Note that cats are picky about food, and that most cat food sold in supermarkets is of low quality. Some research into good quality cat food available in your area is a good investment, and it is usually not much more expensive. Some people also swear on raw feeding.

But again, your kitten has been separated from its mother too early. She is most likely crying for her mother, and even if she is not in physical pain or ill, she is most likely distressed.

If you need to compensate for the mother, contact breeders in your area and ask for advice. They know quite well what a mother teaches her kittens in which week about.

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    Wet food should not be left out too long as bacterial growth could cause issues for your cat. Some people say 20 minutes, but an hour or two should cause minimal issues. Also cats definitely can overeat, but it is very individual, but in this case the rule is valid since kittens can not overeat (there is no amount of food that doesn't cause them to throw up that is too much).
    – Stig Tore
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 13:33
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    When we got our cats (many years ago), they were still much too young, but our neighbor was in a big hurry to get rid of them. This separation probably set back their social development by at least 5 years. Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 19:38
  • @StigTore I have never heard that before. 20 minutes is mental. I've always left food out without worrying about it, and never had an issue with it. Maybe where you live it's very hot or something?
    – Tom
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 6:31

Act soon on hydration.

Dehydration is a big worry - they don't have much in the way of reserves. We nearly lost two after taking them home at barely 6 weeks (we were told 8 but I believe the vet rather than the seller). They ended up needing IV fluids and the early illness could have contributed to the health problems one of them had later.

A lot of sleep is normal for cats at all ages, and babies of most familiar mammal species sleep more than adults (and at odd times), so that's less of a worry.

You can get special milk for kittens (in all big supermarkets as well as pet shops round here) which might be worth a try to give it fluids and nutrition. If you can't get it to take appropriate liquids soon, reckon on getting it to a vet.


A couple of things to be aware of with a meowing kitten: 1) If they are an oriental breed like a siamese, they will be very chatty with you. My oriental shorthair has a large vocabulary of meows at this point, so if the meowing bothers you and it's an oriental breed, you should keep that in mind. 2) Cats meow for the same reason that babies cry: food, water, to use the bathroom, to find you, and because they can. As long as she knows where the litter box and her food are located, she probably only needs attention at this point. Keep the food near where she is sleeping and the smell will help her remember to eat.

Regarding food: Absolutely stick to wet food for a cat. Cats evolved as desert-dwelling obligate carnivores. They naturally have a low thirst drive for that reason--standing water would be scarce, so their kidneys became super-efficient allowing them to get all their needed water from prey. They also evolved to be dependent on their prey for certain nutrients like vitamin E. Humans can make their own vitamin E, but cats have to get it from their food. Cheaper foods will try to use plant-based sources for these nutrients, but cats' bodies can't digest plant matter all that well.

With all that in mind, it is easy to see why dry food is a bad idea. The "glue" holding dry food together is carbohydrates which cats really don't need a lot of, and which is a big reason why cats get fat. The top 3 killers of cats are diabetes, intestinal diseases like cancer, and kidney failure. A meat-only wet food diet got my diabetic cat off insulin and solved two cats' kidney issues.


According to a site I reference frequently for pet questions, "The Spruce Pets", kittens of that age should be fed an average of 4 times a day...with moist kitten food or dry kitten food moistened with cat milk replacement formula. Weighing the kitten frequently will also give a good gauge on their development. If they are the sole cat using the litter box, monitoring of their pee and poo frequency should be fairly easy to do. Any unusual gap in cat box usage frequency or feeding is probably worth a call to the vet because cats' systems are very sensitive to not eating or taking water...they can get direly ill in a very short time for lack of food or water. As others have said, the crying should lessen quickly as they adjust to their new home and family. Best of luck! :-)


It is normal, but you need to give her a lot of care. A young kitten is very different from a not so young one. You will have to spend a lot of time with her for the next 2 to 6 weeks.

We ended up with an abandoned 3 or 4-week old kitten. Cats are not that independent of their mother until 6 to 20 weeks (varies by breed, circumstances and individual cats). While they are dependent on something, that something becomes you when removed from their mother. When they mew they are signalling a need for something. It could be something urgent, or it could simply be they want attention to know you are there to keep them safe.

Things that very young kittens need:

  • Comfort and attention; kittens know they are prey and that without a mother to defend them they are helpless. If talking back to her (your choice of human voice, mew or whatever) and giving her a little fuss does not silence her then try something else. Our now 2 year old cat still responds to her name with a mew, as we would talk to her using it as a kitten.

  • Food; young kittens are growing fast and have little stomachs. We were feeding our very young one every 2 to 4 hours for the first couple of weeks. Thankfully, as she came from a farm, she seems to already have been happy eating wet kitten food and not just kitten milk. Note that there are special kitten foods and kitten milk. Cows' milk is not good for many breeds of cat and causes... gastric distress. If the kitten has not eaten for several hours, you may have a problem. If it has been a day you almost certainly do.

  • Toilet; young kittens may not pass waste unaided. The mother cat signals that it is time to go by licking the kitten's stomach and rear end. I suggest you use a wet towel, flannel or cloth with lukewarm water and try rubbing gently. If the kitten has started to go regularly by itself, you can stop doing this. If the kitten does not pass waste, it is a very serious issue that will need medical attention. Depending on the age of the kitten, several hours without going at all may be a very bad sign.

  • Water or fluids; little bodies have little stores. If you are feeding milk or wet kitten food, then the kitten may need little extra water. If you are using dry food, you will need to give a lot more water or kitten milk (our friends had a kitten that would not touch wet kitten or cat food. We now have this cat and it only ever eats biscuits. They are fussy creatures). If the kitten refuses to drink any water, you have to try offering kitten milk (of cat milk if you must or, at a stretch, cows' milk). Kitten and cat milk is often goat milk based, so that might be better than cows. If it gets difficult, seek veterinary advice, as kittens do need fluid levels kept high.

  • Warmth; as they cannot regulate their own body temperature well. Give the kitten a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel or let her sleep on you. Cats' body temperatures are roughly in line with ours, so you are better than a cold floor. Just try not to fall asleep and roll on her, as they are quite small and delicate.

With all of the above, if you are not sure, seek help (which you have done by coming here). Your neighbour might be able to offer some advice if they have raised kittens before. There may be pet charities in your area that can offer advice. There may be a local vet, and at some stage, you are going to need one, so you may as well involve them soon if you can afford to do so.

Kittens do get more independent over time. As ours grew, the frequency of feeding could go down as the portion sizes went up.

Now there is something to watch with hand-raised cats: they are often horrible to you later. Mummy cats just gave them a bop on the head or a hiss when they misbehave and bite when they should not do something. Human mummies and daddies tend to coo and think such things are cute while they do not hurt. You need to encourage her to play with toys and not to attack your hands and so on soon. If you do not, she will always attack your hands. I now have an 8 kg cat that loves to be held way up in your face and on your shoulder as when he was a kitten this is how we held him. They learn behaviours very early. Consider if you would be happy with a fully grown cat doing something and act accordingly.

Finally, enjoy it! They are so cute and adorable, and ours turned out to be a very devoted and friendly cat. She is still very loud around meal times, or any time you go near a good bowl, or when she wants you to do something. The other 3 cats are mostly silent. It is all normal, as cats vary a lot.

  • I realise I have echoed many of the other answers and they are good. I wanted to offer some personal experiences to help with the OP at ease. Also seeing multiple people give overlapping answers adds some weight to their appropriateness I feel.
    – TafT
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 11:41

When we brought our kitten (now cat) Thor home, he struggled to adjust to the new environment for a bit - he wanted to cuddle a lot and would go to sleep on my shoulder, but didn't eat very much. We took him to the vet when he wouldn't eat for 48 hours; this is very important, especially for kittens, as cats can get ill very quickly when they don't eat, unlike some other animals.

The vet kept him in overnight, and managed to get him eating by using a special high-calorie tinned wet food. We then went through a lot of effort for a few days to encourage to eat this as much as possible, and he recovered very well.

Basically, if she won't eat for a couple of days then definitely get her to the vet ASAP as they can sort this out more easily, the earlier you do it.


If you're concerned about her eating habits, you could try feeding her soft kitten food and see if she'll eat more of that.

As for the constant sleeping, I've had a few kittens who I've gotten at about a month or so old, and they've all slept quite a bit. Not all day, however, but a good chunk of it.

They all whined and cried for about a week, getting more and more used to my family and I, and gradually, they stopped crying. After about 1.5 to 2.5 weeks, they were completely used to us. They're now adult cats, who are doing great.

But, if after a few weeks your kitten still hasn't gotten any more comfortable with you, still sleeps all day and barely eats, you might want to check in with a vet to make sure everything's okay. Especially if she becomes very skinny and/or shows other concerning signs. Or, if you just feel like she could use a checkup.

If you're very concerned and feel like you should, taking her to the vet might not be a bad idea.

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