Runt Of The Litter Cat Behavior

What is a Runt Kitten?

A runt kitten is the smallest or weakest kitten in the litter, often significantly underweight and smaller than its litter mates. The typical runt kitten weighs 25-50% less than the other kittens. For example, in a litter where the average kitten weighs 100 grams at birth, the runt may only weigh 50-75 grams.

There are a few reasons a kitten may be born smaller and weaker than its siblings:

  • Lack of proper nutrition or oxygen in the womb, which can stunt development.
  • Genetic factors that result in the kitten being smaller or having health issues.
  • Position in the womb – kittens on the ends tend to be smaller.
  • Illness or defects that prevent the kitten from growing at a normal rate.

So in summary, a runt kitten is the smallest in its litter, often with health problems that prevent it from thriving. But with extra care and attention, many runts can overcome their challenging start and grow into healthy, loving cats.

Common Health Issues in Runt Kittens

Runt kittens are more likely to experience health problems due to underdevelopment in the womb. Being much smaller than their littermates, runts often did not receive adequate nutrients or blood supply from the mother cat. This can lead to congenital defects and other issues.

Some common health problems seen in runt kittens include:

  • Heart defects – Due to restricted blood supply, runts may be born with underdeveloped hearts or defects.
  • Lung problems – Runts often have delayed lung development, leading to respiratory distress.
  • Intestinal issues – Nutrient deprivation in the womb can cause intestinal malformations.
  • Hypoglycemia – Runts are prone to low blood sugar due to their small size and feeding difficulties.
  • Weak immune system – Being underdeveloped, runts tend to have weaker immune function and get sick more easily.
  • Failure to thrive – Some runts have difficulty gaining weight and show developmental delays.

Runt kittens require extra care and monitoring to manage these potential health issues. Early detection and treatment is key to helping runts survive and thrive. Special feeding techniques, nutritional supplements, and medications may be necessary.

Behavioral Traits of Runt Kittens

Runt kittens often exhibit behavioral differences compared to their normal-sized litter mates. Since they start out smaller, weaker, and more vulnerable, runts tend to be more timid, shy and fearful than the other kittens in a litter ( The size discrepancy also impacts their feeding behaviors. Runts may be pushed out of food access and have trouble competing with their larger siblings for nutrients. This can lead to the runt acting more anxiously around feeding time or showing food aggression out of fear of missing out.

The runt’s behavioral traits can persist even after they grow bigger. According to cat experts, these kittens seem to maintain some of those survival instincts and cautious behaviors into adulthood ( However, with proper socialization, care, and affection from their human caretakers, runts can become more confident and develop a wonderful personality.

Runt kittens need special care and attention in order to thrive. Their small size makes them more vulnerable to health issues, so extra monitoring and care is required.

Here are some tips for providing special care for a runt kitten:

Special Care Tips for Runt Kittens

Monitor their weight gain closely. Weigh them daily and track their growth rate. Often runts need supplementary bottle feeding with kitten milk replacement formula in addition to nursing. Work closely with your veterinarian to ensure they are gaining weight appropriately.

Keep them warm. Runts have difficulty regulating their body temperature. Use a heated disc pad, warming disc, or heating pad set to low to keep their environment at 85-90 degrees. Make sure they always have soft blankets for snuggling into.

Assist with nursing if needed. Runts may have trouble competing with larger litter mates at feeding time. Be prepared to supplement with a bottle if they have difficulty nursing. Ensure they are latching on and getting milk from the mother.

Schedule frequent vet check-ups to monitor their health and development, especially in the critical first few weeks of life. Runts may need interventions like subcutaneous fluids if they are struggling to thrive.

With extra care and attention, many runt kittens go on to live full, healthy lives. Their small size can require some extra work for caregivers initially, but they can make delightful, spunky pets.

Long-Term Development of Runt Kittens

Although runt kittens often start out much smaller than their littermates, they can catch up developmentally if given proper care and nutrition. According to Cat World, if a runt survives to 6-8 weeks old, they typically continue to thrive and can live a full lifespan. While some runts may always remain on the smaller side compared to average sized cats, their size does not necessarily impact their longevity.

Runts tend to display slower initial growth and weight gain in the early weeks because of difficulties nursing and possible health issues. With supplemental bottle feeding, vet monitoring, and a nutritious diet, runts can gain weight steadily. According to petMD, by 8 weeks old, the difference in size between a runt and normal kitten is less apparent. Although full grown runt cats may max out at a smaller size due to their challenging start, they can still be healthy and active with proper care.

While long-term studies are limited, some sources suggest runts may be prone to dental issues like gingivitis as adults. However, with annual vet exams and diligent dental care, these risks can be managed. With a little extra care and attention in their early weeks and months, most runt kittens can overcome the odds and live full, healthy lives. Their smaller stature does not have to limit their lifespan.

Advantages of Adopting a Runt Kitten

While runts may face more health challenges, they can make excellent pets for families willing to provide them with extra care and attention. Runts tend to need loving homes the most, as they require more patience and work than the average kitten.

One of the biggest advantages of adopting a runt kitten is their tendency to form extremely close bonds with their owners. Due to requiring extra nurturing, runts often become very affectionate and loyal pets. They appreciate the extra effort their owners put into caring for them. According to veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec, “As they grow, they become eternal toddlers – never forgetting how their owner cared for them when they were small and scrawny.”

So for families looking for an affectionate, people-oriented feline friend, adopting the runt of a litter can be very rewarding. Their small size and underdog status as kittens helps them form deep connections with caregivers willing to give them a chance. While they may start out behind their littermates, runts can catch up developmentally with time, patience, and love.

Challenges of Raising a Runt Kitten

Raising a runt kitten can present some unique challenges that require extra time, attention, and vet care compared to their larger littermates. Due to their smaller size and struggles in the womb, runt kittens are more prone to health issues like respiratory infections, hypoglycemia, and heart murmurs (Runts can be stars of litter but watch for health problems). This often means additional vet visits for medical treatment in a runt kitten’s first few weeks and months.

Runts that missed out on nutrition in the womb may need bottle feeding, nutritional supplements, and help with bodily functions like urinating and defecating. Their caregivers need to closely monitor their eating, weight gain, and development in the early stages. Even after the initial critical period, runts may need ongoing vet care and maintenance medicines.

In addition to potential health problems, runt kittens are prone to behavior issues like timidness, skittishness, and separation anxiety. Their challenging start can make them more nervous, fearful, and anxious compared to normal kittens (How to properly take care of a kitten that’s the runt of the litter). Extra socialization, positive reinforcement training, and caregiver bonding time is often required to help runts overcome their natural timidity.

While rewarding, raising a runt kitten demands much more time, attention to detail, patience, and vet care, especially in their crucial early weeks and months. Their additional needs should be carefully considered before adoption.

Adoption Tips for Runt Kittens

Before adopting a runt kitten, it is important to ask the shelter or breeder about the kitten’s medical history and any special care they may need. Runts often require extra veterinary care and monitoring to ensure they develop properly. According to one Reddit user, “I have 2 runts, 2 year old f and 1 year old m. They are inseparable, play and sleep together. They are healthy and happy. Best cats I ever had!”[1]

Prepare to give a runt kitten extra attention and care, especially in the first few months after adoption. They may need bottle feeding if they are very young and frequent vet check-ups to monitor their growth and development. Be ready for extra vet bills associated with caring for a runt. Providing proper nutrition, socialization and medical care early on will help set them up for a long and healthy life.

Runts often require extra patience and gentle encouragement to build their confidence. Use positive reinforcement with treats and praise when they approach you or explore. Go slow with introductions to new people, pets and environments so they don’t get overwhelmed. Build a secure attachment through regular affection and care.

While challenging at times, adopting a runt can be very rewarding. With extra devotion in the beginning, many runts grow to become well-adjusted, loving pets. Do your research on their needs, and be prepared to give a little extra as an adopter. The bond you form caring for a runt kitten makes the additional effort worthwhile.

Fostering Runt Kittens

When fostering runt kittens, a major focus is providing additional medical care and feeding support in the critical early weeks. Runts often struggle with gaining weight and have underdeveloped immune systems, so they need extra monitoring

Bottle feeding runt kittens is crucial to help them gain weight. Feed them kitten formula every 2-3 hours, while also encouraging nursing from the mother cat. Make sure they stay warm and gain about 10 grams per day.

Socializing runt kittens is also important to prepare them for adoption. Give them plenty of affection and play time. Getting them used to being handled makes them more adoptable. Expose them to sights, sounds and smells around the house.

When the kittens reach 8-12 weeks old, they will be ready for adoption. Network with local cat rescues and screen potential adopters thoroughly. Find homes willing to take on the extra care a runt kitten may need.

With some extra care and attention in those critical early weeks, runt kittens can grow into healthy, well-adjusted cats. Fostering gives them the best chance to thrive. (

Success Stories of Runt Kittens

Runt kittens often beat the odds and thrive when adopted into loving homes. Their small size and underdog status make them endearing. According to one Reddit user, their runt kitten quickly became the “king of the house,” with a big personality despite his small stature (

One YouTube video documents the story of a tiny runt kitten named Piper who had to fight hard just to survive past two weeks old ( Though she started out much smaller than her litter mates, she blossomed into a playful and energetic cat. Her new owner calls her a “little fighter” and says adopting her was one of the best decisions ever.

Runt kittens can thrive and live full, healthy lives when given the proper care and attention. Their underdog stories of beating the odds make them extra special to the families who adopt them.

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