Found Stray Kittens
If you have found very young kittens outdoors, the best chance they have to survive is to stay with their mother.
Assess the situation before you act!
- Are the kittens sleeping comfortably? The mother is probably coming back.
- Wait a couple of hours and recheck
- Are any of them missing? The mother is caring for them and moving them (this is normal behavior)
- If they’re often found sleeping, then the mother is caring for them. If the mother is feral and shy, be careful to not disturb the family.
- If you can, provide food and water for the mother, and improved shelter, if needed
- In approximately eight weeks, the whole family should be trapped and spayed/neutered. Contact us for help!
If you have found one or more stray kittens outdoors, the first thing you want to do is decide if they are truly orphans. The mother may just be out hunting for food. The best chance the kittens have to survive is to stay with their mother as they are dependent on the antibodies in her milk. Hand raising kittens who are less than 4-5 weeks old require around the clock feeding, and even with this care they often do not survive.
- Are the kittens sleeping in a bundle and looking plump and well? The mother is most likely around. Abandoned kittens will often be dirty and the nest soiled, and they will be crying because they are hungry.
- If you determine the kittens look well cared for, leave the nest and return after 1-2 hours. It is important to not stay close to the nest or the mother will not return. Do the kittens still look well? If kittens are missing, the mother is most likely in the process of moving them. This is normal behavior for a mother cat to keep the kittens safe.
- If you are still unsure whether the mother is around, you can sprinkle some flour around where the kittens are located and look for mother’s paw prints.
- If you determine that the mother is around, and the mother is friendly, the best is to take mother and kittens indoors to keep them warm, safe and fed. If the mother is feral, leave the family outdoors and provide them with shelter, food and water.
- When the kittens are weaned (around 5 weeks) bring them inside to socialize them, and trap the mother to get her spayed. You can borrow a trap from the Animal Welfare Center.
- When the kittens are at least 8-10 weeks old (at least 2 lbs) they can be spayed/neutered and then they'll be ready to go to a new home. If you need help finding new homes, please contact us.
- If you determine that the kittens are orphans, remove them and take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you wait too long, the kittens can decline beyond recovery – chilling and dehydration are of major concerns. You can search the internet for information on how to care for orphaned kittens, or you can contact us for information and a Kitten Starter Kit.
Tips on determining a kitten’s age:
- Under one week: Eyes shut, ears flat to head, skin looks pinkish. Part of umbilical cord may still be attached.
- 1 week-10 days: Eyes beginning to open, ears still flat. A kitten this age is smaller than your hand.
- 3 weeks: Eyes are fully open, ears are erect, teeth are visible. Kittens this age are just starting to walk and will be very wobbly.
- 4-5 weeks: Eyes have changed from blue to another color and/or kittens have begun to pounce and leap. Kittens this age will be ready to wean and eat canned food.