What to do if You Find Kittens
If you find young kittens without their mom, it does not automatically mean they have been abandoned by their mother. The mother could be out looking for food, or finding a more suitable home for her kittens. If you find one or two kittens, their mother may be in the process of moving the family and is on her way back for the others. Wait and observe from a distance for an hour or two. Kittens have the best chance of survival with their mother. Ultimately, you have to use your own judgment, depending upon the kittens’ needs and your time and resources.
Please keep in mind that if you bring the cats inside you should keep them separate from your animals until evaluated by a veterinarian.
For proper social development, kittens should be kept with their litter (and mother, if possible) until at least 8 weeks of age.
Kittens Without a Mother
If the kittens are not weaned, and you take them in without a mother, they will require round-the-clock care and routine bottle feeding (every 2-3 hours, even overnight). It is imperative that the un-weaned kittens are fed often as their blood sugar can drop quickly and turn into a life or death situation. Just google “how to care for un-weaned kittens” and you will find a multitude of great resources to help you feed the kittens. Here is a video to show you how to feed un-weaned kittens and another video to show you how to transition kittens to gruel.
Young kittens without their mother need to be kept warm and should not be bathed. Be careful that any heating pads are covered and are on the low setting with an area available for the kittens to move off the pad if they become too hot.
If you, a friend, or neighbor cannot do this, you can call local rescues, limited admission (No-Kill) shelters and vet offices to get advice on who might be able to help. Facebook or posting an ad on Craigslist to find a foster may be additional resources, but if a stranger answers your plea for help, you need to screen the individual and do your Due Diligence in ensuring the person does indeed have life-saving intentions.
It has been proven in each community that has achieved “No-Kill” status (defined as saving over 90% of all the animals that enter the “community open admission shelter (aka: Kill Shelter)” that the majority of community members can be trusted and have noble intentions regarding animals, but be aware that there is a small percentage of humans in every community that does not love animals and therefore could pose a danger for an animal in need (just as there are humans in every community who pose a danger to other humans). WARNING: The “Dark Side” of humanity does exist and those humans could have sinister motives such as using the kittens for snake food or bait for a dog fight. Again, do your due diligence if a stranger offers to help. You will find that most people are trustworthy, so just be aware and cautious if you are entrusting the kittens to a stranger.
What “Due Diligence” should you do when a stranger or unknown organization offers to help? Some ideas are below:
- Get the contact information (phone numbers, emails and address of the stranger). Anyone with noble intentions will understand and cooperate with your requests for basic information. If they refuse to cooperate, they most likely are NOT the person you need, just politely explain that you will seek another avenue to help the kittens and continue to search for someone that can help you. By your reaching out for help and your perseverence, you can (and will) find the person that has life-saving intentions that will understand and agree that you should have information about the person that will take the kitten(s)
- Let them know that you will be coming to their home to do a “home visit” prior to delivering the kittens. You will learn much about a person by the condition of their living environment.
- Get a vet reference and look the number up yourself and call the vet’s office. Explain that you are considering working with this person to save the kittens and listen to the vet’s feedback.
Again, the majority of community members have noble intentions towards animals and they far outweigh the small percentage of humans who have sinister intentions towards animals. Saving the animals in need takes a village of people, not just a handful. Rescuers, Shelters and Good Samaritans all need and receive help from generous animal lovers in the community in the form of Fosters, Adopters and Volunteers. There are people in the community who know how to care for un-weaned kittens, who are willing to do so and can be trusted.
Just do your due diligence when dealing with someone you don’t know. You may create an ongoing friend in the person you connect with to help with these kittens.
Kittens with a Friendly Mother
If the mother does return, and she is friendly, the best approach is to take her and the kittens indoors until the kittens are old enough to be weaned, sterilized, and adopted. Kittens from tame moms should not be removed from mom until the kittens are at least 8 weeks. Mamma should then be spayed and either placed in an adoptive home or returned to her territory.
Did you find a stray cat and have now realized that she is pregnant? Watch this video for help.
Kittens with a Feral Mother
If the mother is feral, the family should stay outdoors with shelter, food and water provided. When the kittens are weaned, they should move indoors for socialization, sterilization, and then be adopted out into forever homes. Mamma should be trapped, spayed and returned.
Kittens are old enough to be weaned around 5 weeks – when they really start to run around. For proper social development, feral kittens should be removed from their mother around 5 weeks of age, and brought indoors. There are many dangers for baby kittens outdoors. Raccoons can and will kill baby kittens. A small percentage of neighborhood children can put the kitten in “harm’s way”. If kittens from a shy or feral Mama Cat are left outside with Mama, the chance to socialize the kittens dramatically reduces each day after 8 weeks of age.
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE! Once the kitten reaches 12 weeks, socializing them may become a long term “project” with no guarantee of success. Typically, a 5 to 8 week old kitten can easily be socialized once inside the home and interacting with humans.
Tips for Judging a Kitten’s Age
- Under one week: Eyes shut, ears flat to head, skin looks pinkish. Part of umbilical cord may still be attached.
- 1 week-10 days: Eyes beginning to open, ears still flat. A kitten this age is smaller than your hand.
- 3 weeks: Eyes are fully open, ears are erect, teeth are visible. Kittens this age are just starting to walk and will be very wobbly.
- 4-5 weeks: Eyes have changed from blue to another color and/or kittens have begun to pounce and leap. Kittens this age will begin to eat gruel or canned food.
- The “average” kitten will gain a pound per month (eg: an 8 week old (2 month old) kitten will weigh about 2 pounds).
When kittens are at least 8 weeks old and have been fully socialized and sterilized (pediatric spay/neuters can be completed at 2.2 pounds), they (and momma, if she’s friendly) are ready to be adopted out.
Greater Cincinnati Area Resources
- OAR Spay/Neuter Clinic – $40.00 Cat Spay/Neuters as of 6/30/14 (May have resources to even lower the $35 spay/neuter cost. Offers transport services to outlying areas. Offers other vetting services (combo test, microchips, vaccinations, de-worming, de-fleaing….) at low cost when the kitty is at the clinic for the spay or neuter.
- UCAN Clinic – $40.00 Cat Spay/Neuters as of 6/30/14 (also offers low cost spay/neuters for dogs). May have resources to even lower the $35 spay/neuter cost. Offers transport services to outlying areas. Offers other vetting services (combo test, microchips, vaccinations, de-worming, de-fleaing….) at low cost when the kitty is at the clinic for the spay or neuter.
- Bethel Animal Health and Spay/Neuter – A private Bethel, OH Vet’s office that offers the public low cost ($40.00 cat spay/neuters as of 6/30/14) spay/neuter services for cats and dogs.
- Clermont Pets Alive’s Vet Resource in Amelia, OH – (Select “Outreach” Department). Only available by contacting Clermont Pets Alive.
- Scratching Post – Cat Spay/Neuter Voucher Program – (Select “Spay/Neuter” tab, then click on the “Application Form” link). Funded by limited Grant Monies, available until gone. Help preserve these monies for the cats and kittens who have no one to help with their medical costs. PLEASE only request this voucher if you truly cannot afford the $35.00 cost.
- League for Animal Welfare – Cat (and Dog) Spay/Neuter Voucher Program. Limited Spay/Neuter Monies each month (best chance of successfully receiving is by calling at the 1st of the month). Help preserve these monies for the cats and kittens who have no one to help with their medical costs. PLEASE only request this voucher if you truly cannot afford the $35.00 cost.