Orphaned 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!

  1. Are you sure they are orphaned? Are the kittens sleeping comfortably? The mother is probably coming back.
  2. Wait a couple of hours and recheck
  3. Are any of them missing? The mother is caring for them and moving them to a different location (this is normal behavior)
  4. If you can, provide food and water for the mother
  5.  When the kittens are 6-8t weeks, the whole family should be trapped and spayed/neutered. Contact us for help!

If you find crying kittens who are agitated and dirty, it is a pretty sure bet they are truly orphaned and need your help.  The very first step is TO WARM THEM UP! Wrap them in a warm blanket (not towel), and place a warm bottle of water next to them. Or if you have some rice, you can fill a sock and heat up in the microwave. If you have a heating pad, put it on low.  Do not place bottle, rice sock or heating pad directly on the kitten. Make sure kitten can wiggle away from heat source if he/she wants to.

Second step is to provide some GLUCOSE on the gums. You can use Karo syrup – just put a little bit on your finger and rub into the gums. If you don’t have Karo syrup, you can mix a slurry of regular white sugar and water.

Third step – feed them AFTER THEY ARE WARMED UP. It is dangerous to feed a cold kitten. Use Kitten Milk Replacer (you can buy at Tractor Supply, Walmart or at a pet store). If you cannot locate a place to purchase milk replacer, buy canned goat milk at the grocery store. You can feed with a 3-10 ml syringe that you purchase at Tractor Supply. You may be able to get a medication syringe for free at a pharmacy. DON’T HOLD THE KITTEN LIKE A BABY! The kitten should be held upright while feeding (think about how they nurse from their mothers – this is the position you want to emulate). The risk for aspiration into the lungs is high if not held correctly. DO NOT PUSH THE PLUNGER of the syringe. The kitten will suck hard enough to make the plunger go in on its own. ONLY IF THE KITTEN IS WEAK assist by dropping a bit of milk in its mouth. Watch for swallowing before giving more.

Fourth step – help them to eliminate! A kitten does not know how to go to the bathroom themselves. You need to emulate the Mama cat licking the kittens bum. Use a soft tissue to rub their behind to stimulate urination and defecation. You want to stimulate them both BEFORE FEEDING and AFTER FEEDING!

Call the Animal Welfare Center’s phone line 440-462-0008 for additional advise and support.




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 start to eat canned food. They will be fully weaned by 8 weeks.