Across the nation, Spring’s end and Summer’s beginning marks the time of year when the many feral kittens are born annually. In central Florida, feral and community cats are a significant segment of the un-homed animal population. Chances are, you’ve seen cats in your own community. Since we are now at the height of “Kitten Season,” being armed with the know-how to appropriately address these little ones is of great importance to the Greater Orlando area.
We at Pet Alliance see a large increase in the number of kittens with bewildered – yet caring – humans wondering what to do with them. Here are our top six tips to help them survive the season.
- Respect the mother. When you see newborn kittens, resist the urge to pick them up and rescue them. Kittens less than four weeks old should not be separated from their mothers and taken to a shelter. Any kittens best chance for survival is with their mother. Like human babies, newborn kittens need a mother’s care and the antibodies from her milk to create a stronger immune system.
- Observe. We suggest watching them from a distance. Look around for the mother. Remember, she will need to leave her litter for brief periods of time to find food for herself. If the kittens are clean and sleeping, mom is simply away finding food.
- Don’t interfere. Later when you check back and the mother has returned, take a nice long breath. This is great. As cute and fragile as they may appear, never interfere with the kittens as long as the mother is around. Please overcome your desire to touch them, create shelter for them or directly feed them. This could cause the mother to get stressed and abandon her litter.
- Feed and hydrate. To do so, place containers at a distance from the mom and kittens to avoid disturbing them. More importantly, food left out may also attract other animals and you don’t want them to discover the kittens. This should be understood but always keep dogs and children away from the area.
- Interact. When the time comes and kittens are eating on their own, this is when you can interact with the litter. If the mom is friendly and handled easily, bring her and the kittens indoors or to a shelter until they are old enough to be spayed or neutered and then adopted into new homes. Pet Alliance offers a virtual kitten nursery that affords kittens the opportunity to develop until they are old enough for adoption. Need more help? Let’s say mom is less willing to work with you as the well-meaning lover of cats. Call us and we can discuss options to trap the cat once she has finished caring for her kittens.
- Now it’s time for an intervention. Finally, the kittens are eating on their own. It is safe to separate them from the mother. It is important to spay the mother and spay/ neuter her kittens to prevent further overpopulation.
Keep an eye out for kittens as you go about your daily activities. We encourage giving care in the wisest way possible. As we celebrate Mother’s Day, it’s the perfect moment to honor mothers of all types: human, felines and, of course, Mother Nature.