Is momma cat around?
The sight of seemingly helpless kitties is guaranteed to break anyone’s heart, but there’s no need to assume right away that the little ones you found have been orphaned or abandoned. Mom might have left for a little while – usually no longer than 2 hours – to hunt, take care of nature’s call, or just to get away from the hustle and bustle. Check in on the kittens after a few hours to see whether or not momma cat has returned. Below, you find what to do in either situation.
If momma cat is around
First of all, check if mom has picked a safe spot for her little ones. If there are any hazards around – like the family dog, or poisonous materials – make sure to remove them. If the kittens already are in a safe spot, but don’t have any type of roof above their heads, make sure to build them a shelter. This can be a simple plastic box with a lid and a hole cut out the side. Don’t forget to add a blanket for comfort and — if you live in a cold climate — some straw for insulation. There is absolutely no need to pick up the kittens and place them inside the shelter. Leave this task to momma cat – she will happily move her little ones to this new, safe and comfy place. In fact, only touch or move the kittens as a last resort – when they are in immediate danger for example.
Mom knows best
The saying “mother knows best” goes for humans and cats alike. If the kittens look healthy and active from a distance, and they’re located in a safe spot, all you need to do is make things comfortable for momma cat: provide her with some fresh water and cat food. Feral cats might not express their gratitude by showing affection, but we promise momma cat will greatly appreciate your efforts. Just ask Anne, our former coworker who found a litter of kittens in her garden.
Monitoring and adoption
Though you probably shouldn’t intrude on the kittens too much, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on their health. If you feel anything is wrong, please contact your vet for advice before taking a kitten away from mom. If you plan on keeping the kittens or giving them away to friends, it’s a good idea to try to gain mom’s trust. This will allow you to get near the kittens so the little ones can get used to human contact. If you want to rehome the kittens, be aware that they need to be at least 8 but preferably 13 weeks old before they can leave mom for good. At 12-14 weeks, the little ones are fully ready to move on and thrive inside a loving new family.
Whether you keep the little ones, find them a permanent home, or let them grow up in the wild, it is vital to have them spayed or neutered before they head off to their forever homes. This is the only 100% effective way to prevent more unwanted litters. If the kittens are feral, ask your local rescue centers about their so-called TNR programs. This is a service where rescue organizations set up several traps to capture the feral kittens, neuter or spay them, and return them to the wild once the wounds of the procedure have healed sufficiently.
If momma cat isn’t around
If you monitored the kittens for about 6 hours and momma cat still hasn’t returned, you might have to fear the worst. Cats don’t usually stay away from their kittens for more than 2 hours, so it’s likely that the poor kittens have been orphaned. If you have the time and knowledge to foster the kittens, that would be absolutely amazing. During kitten season, rescue organizations and shelters are flooded with abandoned and orphaned furbabies, so they can use any helping hand. If the kittens are still very young or seem ill or weak, get a checkup at the vet to make sure you give them exactly the treatment they need.