So when we moved to our new house the previous owners left us several adult barn cats. One of said cats got pregnant & had a litter & then was hit by a car on the road. My nephew climbed up into the barn just looking for cats the day after she was killed & found her litter (we didn't realize she'd already had them). Being barn cats we weren't really monitoring them very closely.
Anyway, I now have 7 kittens, probably around 4 weeks old. I've been syringe feeding them for 1.5 weeks now & have some questions about how things are going (we tried bottle feeding but it took us 2 full days to find bottles & by then they didn't seem to be able to figure the bottles up so we just continued with the syringes).
1. We have been trying to feed them every 4 hours but it's rather unrealistic & is often stretched out to closer to 6 hours. How long do we need to keep this sort of feeding schedule up?
2. I have just started to try introducing some solid food. I've been mixing some soft kitten food with formula. A couple of the larger kittens seem to sort of being getting it but they constantly stand in it, walk through it, make a BIG mess of themselves in the process. Is this normal? Is there a better style of container for feeding them in (I'm using a shallow lid right now).
3. Which brings us to the mess. I change out the towel every time I feed them as it is disgusting. They are really getting the hang of cleaning each other & I find they are spending a fair bit of time grooming one another. Which is great but they also seem to end up covered in poop quite frequently. Their stool is still very mooshy & really gets matted into their fur. I've tried wiping them with baby wipes - totally ineffective. I was give them full out baths every 2nd day but they still stink much of the time (part of this might be my own heightened pregnant sense of smell). Their nails in particular are nasty & I'm not sure how to clean them. Do they get better? Is there something more I should do?
4. I know I need to introduce a litterbox soon but am a little unsure how to. Should I just set up a small one & put it in their nesting box all the time? Or should I just bring it out after meals? I'm just envisioning this making the whole thing much messier. But I know they need to learn.
5. I feel a little like we are neglecting them. We have 2 older cats (both of whom do nothing but hiss & avoid them) & 2 dogs - one of whom LOVES the kittens but her grooming of them is so insistent I try to limit her time with them & an almost 3 year old boy who struggles with "gentle". So the nesting box lives in the spare room with the door closed. So they are basically only getting interaction & freedom from the box for a half hour or so at every feeding. Is this enough? Should I be trying something different?
Any feedback is much appreciated. This is all very new to me & is more overwhelming than I anticipated. I am also due with dc#2 in 4 weeks so a little worried about the timing.