It’s that time of year again! Days are getting longer and warmer, which means kittens are right around the corner! During kitten season, it is not unusual to find a litter of unattended kittens or a single kitten seemingly abandoned by the mother. Each year, the Humane Society and county animal services get many underage kittens turned into our shelters. Unfortunately, the shelter is NOT an appropriate place for these highly vulnerable, baby kittens that often need around the clock care. So before jumping to the rescue, consider these recommendations.
What should I do if I find a kitten!?
First: Watch and Wait. You might have come across the kittens while their mother is off searching for food, or is in the process of moving them to a different location. Try to determine if the mother is coming back for them, or if they are truly orphaned. To do this, stand far away from the kittens- 35 feet or more. If you stand too close, the mom will not approach her kittens. You might need to go away completely before the mother cat will return to attend to the kittens. It might be several hours before the mother cat returns – until she no longer senses the presence of humans near her litter.
If you need to leave before mom comes back, carefully evaluate whether the kittens are in immediate danger. Are the kittens located in an area with heavy foot or car traffic? Is it raining or are they damp? Kittens are much more at risk of hypothermia than they are of starvation. It is important to know that it might take several hours for the mother cat to return, and healthy kittens can survive this period without food as long as they are warm.
The mother cat offers her kittens’ BEST chance for survival! So please, wait and watch as long as you can. The best food for kittens is their mother’s milk. Remove the kittens ONLY if they are in immediate, grave danger.
Even if you have handled the kitten(s), you can put them back where you found them and mom will still take care of them. Thinking that once a kitten has your scent, the mom will not care for it is a MYTH.
If the mother cat returns…..
Leave the kittens alone with 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 does not want to attract other animals to her kittens. Four to six week of age is the optimal age to take the kittens from the mother for socialization and adoption placement. But it is critically important that mom gets fixed also so the cycle does not repeat! Mom can get pregnant with another litter while nursing! You can use the kittens to help trap mom. The Humane Society offers FREE Trap/Neuter/Release services for feral cats in traps.
If the mother cat does not return…
If for any reason it appears that she is not coming back, then you should remove the kittens. Please call the Humane Society of Ventura County or Ventura County Animal Services for information about foster care.
Starting this year, the Humane Society of Ventura County has a foster program for underage kittens! Want to be a part of this life-saving program? Visit our website www.hsvc.org for more information and contact us at 805-646-6505 to fill out an application. We offer training and necessary supplies.
Can’t foster kittens?
Offer to help the Community Cat Coalition in Ventura County trap the feral cats that contribute up to 80% of the kittens that enter our shelters every year!
Talk to your friends and neighbors about fixing their free-roaming cats. HSVC has programs to help subsidize the cost of spay/neuter for low-income families.
How about donating to our neonatal program? Check out our Amazon Wishlist!