So, you’ve found a homeless kitten. It’s not as uncommon as you may think. For some folks out there, in the summer months it’s pretty normal to see mothers and their kittens nursing in hidden spots in your yard, in bushes, sheds, or some moms have even walked right into a strangers home to give birth.
On the surface, kitten season sounds like endless fun. However, a mixture of human interference and homeless pet over population makes this time of year tough on cats and the shelters who care for them. With so many cats roaming around neighborhoods as the summer months roll in, it’s inevitable that we get a steady progression of pregnant moms having litter, after litter of kittens. Female cats are able to have kittens as early as four to six month old (while they’re still kittens themselves!).
Mix that with their ability to go into heat just six-eight weeks after giving birth — it’s no wonder they’re are so many kittens this time of year.
What to do when you find kittens
The scenarios in which you can find a kitten are never one size fits all. We have heard of kittens being found with a whole litter with no mom in sight, or it could be just that you found a single kitten on their own.
The rule of thumb is: Leave them be. We all want to help protect these babies, but the truth is that kittens stand a better chance at survival when they are with their mom. Here are some questions to ask before interfering:
- Is mom around? Chances are mom will move her kittens from den to den if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Or mom leaves to grab a quick meal. This is likely the time when a Good Samaritan would have stepped in seeing an “abandoned” kitten. What you should do:
- Find a spot near by (35 feet at least or mom won’t come back) to sit quietly and wait. That way the kitten isn’t completely unsupervised, but you aren’t interrupting.
- Make sure the kitten is safe from any animals loose in the yard, they aren’t near heavy foot traffic, and the weather isn’t too cold, or rainy.
How mom will move her kittens from den to den.
How long have the kittens been alone? It can take several hours for mom to return to her kittens, but as long as they’re warm and healthy they shouldn’t have a problem waiting for her to come back. So wait as long as you are able.
Is the kitten clean and silent, or dirty and meowing? The longer a kitten is without mom, the more signs there are that you can intervene. Healthy kittens who were taken care of by mom recently will look plump, clean, and will be relatively silent (these are the kittens to leave as long as possible). Kittens who are dirty and meowing have likely been left alone for a longer period of time.
- Are they able to eat on their own? Kittens at 8 weeks should be weened from nursing. Some moms will leave their kittens at this age. You can test to see if a kitten is old enough to eat solid food by getting a pate style wet food and see if the kitten eats. If they don’t eat right away but look healthy, please continue to wait for mom. If it’s been over an hour, the kittens look dirty, and they’re eating the wet food, it might be time to intervene.
How to take Care of a Homeless Kitten
It’s only when you have waited several hours and are certain mom isn’t coming back that you can remove the kittens. But that’s not to be taken lightly.
If you aren’t prepared to foster the kittens yourself, there are limited options for taking care of the kittens. At Pet Alliance, we provide our foster parents with Kitten Kits to help take care of them until they are eight weeks of age in their homes. When they get to over eight weeks and are two pounds, we will spay the kittens and put them up for adoption at the shelter. If you have questions about kitten season, or have found a kitten you are willing to foster, please call (407) 351-7722.