Have you noticed more and more kittens lately? At Town Cats, we have too, and while you might think they are abandoned or in need, they are not always; read below for some quick tips to identify how you can help all the new kittens we are seeing this spring. For more information on how you can help, visit: https://www.towncats.org/stray-cats/
Step #1 Visual Cues: First, you need to wait and watch. While doing so, try to read the visible cues that reveal the health of the kitten(s). Look for signs to indicate that they may have been without care for a significant amount of time: crying or squalling due to lack of nutrition, fur that is matted or dirty, severely underweight, or significant lethargy. Where did you find them? Are they in a safe, fairly clean, and dry environment?
Step #2 Time and Space: Once you’ve assessed the situation, walk away if there is no immediate danger. Most cats, particularly feral ones, are not likely to return if they smell or see humans. Leave for several hours to give them the time and space to return. You can check on the situation in 4-6 hours.
Note: If you find the kittens are in dire need of medical attention, starving, or vulnerable to predators, then you can remove them.
Step #3 Return Visit:
- After several hours, return and check on the nest.
- If mom has not returned but all looks well, give it more time.
- Try the next day again.
You want to give the mother as much time as possible to return to her litter, giving the kittens the best chance for survival. Not only do nursing kittens need nutrition from their mother, but they also receive antibodies and immune support from her milk.
If Mama does not return to the nest: If the mother doesn’t return to the nest, or you find the kittens in poor health or danger, you may choose to remove the kittens. Before you can do anything else, you want to make sure the kitten is not hypothermic or hyperthermic. Kittens cannot control their body temperature, so help them regulate their body temperature before trying to feed them – especially if they have been exposed to cold temperatures. A heating pad on low, a warm water bottle, or even a sock filled with rice and put in the microwave can all provide a steady but mild heat source to a cold kitten.
NOTE: DO NOT BATHE KITTENS!
If the Mama cat returns to the nest: If the mom returns and the area is relatively safe, leave the kittens with the mom until they are weaned. You can offer shelter and regular food to Mom, but keep the food and shelter at a distance from each other. Mom will find the food but will not accept shelter if the food is nearby because she will not want to attract other cats to food near her nest.
Six weeks is the optimal age to take the kittens from the mother for socialization and adoption placement. Female cats can become pregnant with a new litter while still nursing, so don’t forget to get the mother cat spayed, or you will have more kittens soon!
Sign up to Volunteer, Foster or donate to help us this kitten season!