Kitten Season is here, and it is in full swing! Spring marks the beginning of Kitten Season, where outdoor female cats continually go through a heat cycle, giving birth to dozens of kittens. It’s not unusual to find kittens or a single kitten seemingly abandoned by the mother. While it can be tempting to scoop them up and bring them indoors, it’s important to know that this is almost never in the kitten’s best interest.
So, what should you do if you find a litter of tiny kittens?
Leave them be, but keep an eye on them!
Even if you see the kittens alone, it is more than likely their mother is nearby. Do not assume that the kittens are abandoned just because you do not see their mother. She may be off searching for food, in the process of moving her babies from one location to another, or hiding nearby until you leave. A mother cat is the kittens’ best possible caregiver and the best chance for survival, so please LEAVE THEM BE! Mama cats are resourceful. There is a reason they survive cold temperatures and continue to breed. They find warm spaces to keep their babies, and they know when their babies are in danger. Taking kittens who are not weaned away from their mother puts the kittens at greater risk.
While it can be hard, walking away is often the best thing to do. As long as the kittens are safe for the moment and you can come back to check on them within a few hours, leave the kittens alone.
If there is a mama cat, it’s best to leave the kittens with the mom until they’re weaned. If you want to help mama cat and her kittens, you can help make them more comfortable as mama cat cares for her kittens. provide regular food and water, an outdoor shelter to create a safe space, and peace and quiet to avoid causing stress. Just make sure to pick up the food at night so it doesn’t attract predators.
Unless the kittens are in danger from other animals, traffic, weather, etc., it’s best to leave the kittens outside with the mama cat.
When the kittens are older, you can help them find homes, but not until they are able to eat on their own. Cats can get pregnant as young as four months of age, so it’s ideal to get the mama cat and her kittens spayed/neutered as soon as possible. Our Keep the Mama, Not the Drama Program, thanks to Orphan Kitten Club, offers free spay surgeries and vetting for mama cats while the kittens are placed in foster or adoptive homes.
If the kittens are indeed orphans, it’s best to act quickly because young kittens are fragile. If you or someone you know is able to provide foster care, a local rescue, like Planned PEThood, can give you tips, tricks, and even supplies to help to care for the kittens. Keep in mind that kittens can be a significant commitment for you, especially if they are unweaned. Local rescues, like us, might have lifesaving programs and foster programs that can help provide care for the kittens. Many shelters cannot take in young kittens since they do not have the resources to provide bottle-feeding or other 24-hour care. It’s best to contact the rescue or shelter before arriving at their location.
Remember, most kittens are not abandoned by their mother. Before you move the kittens, leave them be and wait to see if the mama cat returns. You can drastically help kittens by being educated, knowing when to take action, and getting involved when help is needed!