Found Kittens? Don’t Kit-nap Them!

homewardboundcats Community Cats

What is “Kitten Season”?

As the weather starts to warm up and turn into Spring, unaltered female cats will begin to go into heat. Sixty days later, kittens will be born! Kitten Season typically runs from March through October and local shelters and rescues will see hundreds (if not thousands) of kittens come through their doors. So how can you help?

Newborn and young kittens under 6 weeks of age are not able to care for themselves and require round-the-clock care from mom in order to survive. If you find a litter of kittens outdoors, follow the tips below to determine whether they actually need help or not:

Don’t be a kit-napper!

If you find a nest of kittens or even a tiny lone kitten (ones that cannot eat on their own) it is best to leave them where they are. Momma cats go out and hunt for food but they will be back. Tiny kittens have a greater chance of survival if they are able to be with their mom until they are old enough to eat on their own. When should you intervene? 

  • If the kitten or kittens are in severe medical distress.
  • Mom has not returned after 8 hours (do not hover over the area – you will scare mom away). If the kittens are warm and have full bellies, mom has been back at some point – she was just sneaky about it. Please do not kit-nap them!

You have found a nursing mom and kittens:

  • If the kittens are not eating on their own, they really need mom – do not remove the kittens from where you found them. It is best to let mom feed them until they are around 4-6 weeks of age. 
  • Even if mom is friendly and allows handling, bringing a nursing mom to the shelter is very stressful and can be detrimental to the kittens. Please fill out the form below and we can get you pointed in the right direction. 
  • If mom is not friendly and the kittens are not eating solid foods on their own, it’s best to leave them be. Let mom care for them and when they are big enough, the kittens can be brought into the shelter or to a rescue group. For momma cat, please contact a TNR (Trap Neuter Release) program where she will be caught, spayed, and receive important vaccinations.

You have found a kitten(s) without mom: 

  • Most likely mom is still around. Mother cats will go out and hunt, then return to their kittens when they feel it is safe. 
  • If it has been more than 8 hours and mom has not returned, please take a good look at the age chart and fill out the form below.
  • Hundreds of kittens come into the shelter each spring, please consider being a Foster Caregiver!

You found a kitten(s) and brought them home:

DO:

  • Provide a secure, confined space away from other animals. A carrier/kennel/bin/box is ideal for kittens up to 3 weeks of age. Kittens around 4 weeks and of age and older can be placed in a small bathroom or a kennel. 
  • Kittens must be kept warm (especially kittens that are under 2 weeks of age). Provide soft, warm bedding or use a heating pad on a low setting. 
  • Kittens under 3 weeks of age (no teeth) will require bottle feeding with kitten milk replacer only. Kitten must be placed on all four legs while feeding.
  • Kittens under 3 weeks of age will require around-the-clock bottle feedings every 2-3 hours. 
  • Stimulate them to go to the bathroom by rubbing a soft warm cloth on their bottoms.
  • Kittens over 4 weeks of age (have some teeth) will require canned kitten food mixed with some water. Gentle handfeeding may help to get them started.
  • DON’T allow free roaming and interaction with other animals in the home.
  • DON’T feed cow’s milk or any other types of milk that are not formulated specifically for kittens.
  • DON’T bottle feed belly up. Kittens will aspirate this way.

Kitten Care Resources

The Kitten Lady has wonderful resources, video tutorials and photos to help guide you through caring for a young kitten. For her complete guide to kitten care, click here, or see some specifics below:

Need TNR Help?

More Questions?

Leave a message at 702-463-9996 and a team member at Homeward Bound Cat Adoptions will call you back to offer more resources or see how best to help.