Mama Knows Best.
So, you’ve found a homeless kitten.
It’s not at all an uncommon thing.
For some, it’s normal to see mothers and their kittens nursing in hidden spots in the yard, bushes, and sheds in the warmer months.
On the surface, kitten season sounds fun. It’s kittens!
However, a mixture of human interference and homeless pet over-population makes this time of year tough on cats and the shelters that care for them. With so many neighborhood cats roaming as the summer months head in, we inevitably receive a steady progression of pregnant moms having a litter, after litter of kittens.
Female cats can have kittens as early as four to six months old, they’re still kittens themselves. Mix that with their ability to go into heat again, just six-eight weeks after giving birth — it’s no wonder there are so many kittens this time of year.
What should you 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 of survival when they are with their moms.
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 to see an “abandoned” kitten. What you should do:
- Find a spot nearby (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 long have the kittens been here?
It can take several hours for the 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 a 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.
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.
If you have waited several hours and are certain that the mom isn’t coming back, you can remove the kittens, but understand, this is no light task.
If you feel unprepared to foster the kittens yourself but are willing, feel free to contact Dorchester Paws for guidance and the next steps.
If you have questions about kitten season or have found a kitten that you’re willing to foster, please call 843-871-3820 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kitten images used from blog Heavenlycats!