Do Runts Of Cat Litter Grow To Normal Size?

What is a Runt Kitten?

A runt is a kitten that is significantly smaller or weaker than the rest of the litter at birth. Runts are usually at least 25% smaller than the average kitten size of their litter (1).

The average newborn kitten weighs about 3.5-4 ounces. In contrast, a runt kitten may only weigh 1-2 ounces at birth. They are noticeably smaller, with some runts being less than half the size of their littermates (2).

There are a few reasons why some kittens are born much smaller than others. Runts may have experienced growth issues in utero due to illness, poor nutrition, or overcrowding from a large litter size. They tend to have weaker immune systems and struggle to compete with larger litter mates for food and warmth from the mother cat.

Do Runts Stay Small Forever?

The growth potential of runts varies. While some runts remain smaller than average as adults, others eventually reach normal size with proper care and nutrition (source).

Several factors affect whether a runt will stay small or grow to normal size:

  • Genetics – Kittens born smaller due to genetic factors tend to remain smaller adults.
  • Health issues – Runts with health problems may experience stunted growth.
  • Nutrition – Proper diet supports healthy growth and development.
  • Care – Providing a nurturing environment helps runts thrive.

While some runts have growth limitations, others surprise and eventually reach normal proportions. For example, a kitten named Smokey was 1/3 the size of his siblings at birth. With dedicated care from his owner, Smokey grew quickly and reached a normal 10 pounds in adulthood (source).

Health Issues for Runts

Runt kittens are more susceptible to health problems due to their small size and underdeveloped state. Some common health issues seen in runts include:

Hypoglycemia – Low blood sugar levels can cause lethargy, seizures and even death in severe cases. Runts have trouble regulating their blood sugar and need frequent feedings.1

Hypothermia – Their inability to regulate body temperature puts them at risk of becoming too cold. Providing supplemental heat sources can help prevent dangerous drops in body temperature.2

Respiratory infections – Underdeveloped lungs and airways make runts prone to respiratory illnesses. Proper care and vaccination can help prevent problems.

Heart defects – Runts often have underdeveloped hearts or defects that can impact lifespan if not treated.1

Due to these potential health problems, runts may have a shorter lifespan than normal sized litter mates. However, with dedicated care, early treatment, proper nutrition and socialization, many runts can live normal lifespans.

Feeding a Runt Kitten

Proper nutrition is extremely important for a runt kitten. As the smallest in the litter, runts often have trouble competing with their larger siblings for their mother’s milk. However, mother’s milk provides antibodies and nutrients essential for growth and development.

If the runt is struggling to nurse, try assisting it onto a teat during feeding times. Gently open the kitten’s mouth and guide it to latch onto the nipple. You can also try supplemental bottle feeding with kitten milk replacer or formula. Just be careful not to overfeed.

Nutritional supplements like kitten probiotics and vitamins can also aid growth. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations based on the kitten’s size and health. More frequent feedings, like every 2-3 hours, may be needed.

Monitor the kitten’s weight daily. Keep detailed feeding logs. Don’t force food if the kitten seems full or resists eating. With patience and proper care, most runts can achieve normal adult size.

For more information, see this guide on caring for a runt kitten.

Caring for a Runt Kitten

Caring for a runt kitten requires some extra attention and care, especially in the first few weeks of life. Since runts are smaller and weaker than the rest of the litter, it’s important to take steps to help them thrive.

One of the most vital aspects of caring for a runt is keeping them warm. Runts have difficulty regulating their body temperature, so it’s essential to make sure they remain nestled with their littermates or supplemental heating sources. Monitoring their weight daily and making any necessary adjustments is also recommended. Runts may need supplementary bottle feeding if they struggle to compete with their larger siblings at mealtime.[1]

Bringing the runt for regular veterinary checkups is highly advised. A vet can track their development, address any health issues, and provide tailored nutrition and supplement recommendations. With extra monitoring and care in their critical early weeks, many runts can go on to live long, healthy lives.

Socialization for Runts

Runt kittens need extra socialization from both their mother and humans to ensure they develop properly. Kittens learn important social skills from interacting with their mother and littermates in the first weeks of life. However, the runt may be rejected or bullied by the mother and siblings, missing out on vital socialization opportunities.

It’s important for the breeder or human caregiver to provide additional social contact if the runt is being excluded. The runt should be given plenty of gentle handling, cuddling, and playtime with humans multiple times a day starting from 2-3 weeks old. Positive interactions teach the runt to be comfortable around people. The runt may need bottle feeding by humans if the mother cat rejects nursing.

Extra care should also be taken to prevent the runt from being bullied or isolated from its siblings. Supervise play sessions and make sure each kitten gets access to food and the mother cat. Separate the runt if the littermates become too rough. Provide a safe space where the runt can sleep and eat comfortably away from aggressors. With patience and proper socialization from humans, runt kittens can develop into friendly, well-adjusted cats. But they need attentive care in the early weeks when their small size makes them vulnerable.


Temperament of Runt Kittens

There are some common myths about the temperament of runt kittens. Many people believe that because runts are smaller, they will be more affectionate and attached to their owners. However, there is no evidence that runts are inherently more affectionate than their larger litter mates.

A kitten’s temperament is shaped more by genetics and early socialization than its size at birth. Runts may behave differently than their litter mates, but this is often due to underdevelopment, not personality. Underdeveloped runts may seem more docile and attached simply because they have lower energy levels and activity.

With proper care and socialization, runts can develop normal cat temperaments. Their small size does not prevent them from being trained and integrated into a home. Like any kitten, runts need dedicated socialization starting from 3-4 weeks of age. This early handling is critical to build their confidence and skills around people and other pets.

While runts do face some physical challenges, their spirit and personality can thrive and flourish in a loving home. When given the right care, runt kittens can become well-adjusted cats with plenty of spirit and liveliness. Their size does not determine their future temperament. With time, patience and training, runts can develop affectionate yet independent cat personalities.[1]

Should You Adopt a Runt Kitten?

Adopting a runt kitten can be extremely rewarding, but it’s important to consider if you’re able to provide the extra care these tiny kittens need. Runts may have more health issues and require additional feeding support, so make sure you’re prepared to give them the care they need.

Some key considerations for adopting a runt kitten include:

  • Are you able to feed the kitten every 2-3 hours if needed? Runts may need more frequent feedings.
  • Can you take the kitten to vet checkups more frequently to monitor weight gain and health?
  • Are you prepared for potential health issues like low blood sugar, trouble regulating temperature, and susceptibility to respiratory infections? Runts tend to be more vulnerable to illness.
  • Will you be able to give the kitten extra attention and affection to support healthy social development?

While runts require more care at first, they can grow into healthy, loving pets for an owner who is ready for the responsibility. If you have the time, patience, and resources to provide extra care for a runt kitten, adopting one can be very rewarding. With proper support, these tiny kittens can thrive and live long, happy lives. Just be sure you’re fully prepared before making the commitment.

Life Expectancy of Runt Kittens

Runt kittens tend to have higher mortality rates compared to their normal weight littermates, especially in the first few weeks of life. This is because they can have more health problems and don’t compete as well for their mother’s milk and care. However, if a runt survives past 6-8 weeks old, their life expectancy is often normal.[1]

Most indoor cats live 12-18 years on average. While runts are more fragile as kittens, they can go on to live a full normal lifespan like any other cat. With proper care, feeding, vet checks, and socialization, runt cats can thrive into adulthood and have good quality of life.[2]

Potential owners should be prepared for extra time and care required for a runt kitten initially. But they can make wonderful pets with the right dedicated owner. If given a chance, runts can live happy healthy lives and have similar expected lifespans as standard kittens.

When to Be Concerned

Runt kittens can be more susceptible to health problems, so it’s important to monitor them closely for any signs of failure to thrive. Warning signs include low body weight, lethargy, decreased appetite, and poor growth compared to littermates. Runts may lag behind in hitting developmental milestones. Hypoglycemia, hypothermia, and dehydration are also risks.

If a runt is struggling to gain weight or seems ill, take them to a veterinarian right away for an evaluation. The vet can check for infections, parasites, and other issues that may be causing problems. They can suggest supplemental feedings, subcutaneous fluids, warming techniques, or other supportive care to help the kitten thrive. With attentive nurturing and medical care if needed, many runts go on to live long, healthy lives. Don’t hesitate to seek professional advice if your runt kitten seems to be in distress.

Some key times to monitor runts closely and intervene if necessary include:

  • The first 2 weeks when they rely completely on the mother cat.
  • Weaning around 4-6 weeks when they transition from milk to solid food.
  • Anytime they seem lethargic, stop nursing, or have labored breathing.

While runts demand extra attention, they can make delightful pets with the right dedicated care. Alertness to potential issues balanced with affection can help ensure your special small kitten thrives.

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