SO YOU FOUND SOME KITTENS...
"I found kittens.....there is no Mom."
"Mom cat abandoned these kittens."
"I rescued these orphaned babies."
During high kitten season in the spring and summer, it’s not unusual to discover a nest of unattended kittens or a single kitten seemingly abandoned by the mother. You want to help, right? Before jumping to the rescue, consider these recommendations.
First: Wait & Watch
Stand far away and wait. A Mother cat will leave her kittens for hours at a time. She will NOT return if you are standing over her kittens.
The mother cat offers her kittens’ best chance for survival, so wait and watch as long as you can. The best food for the kittens is their mother’s milk. Remove the kittens only if they are in immediate danger.
Quiet, warm, dry kittens are typically fed and cared for and mom cat is probably just out hunting. Noisy, cold, wet kittens may need to be rescued, but always assess the situation thoroughly.
If mom returns and the area is relatively safe, leave the kittens alone with mom until they are weaned. You can offer a shelter and regular food to mom, but keep the food and shelter at a distance from each other. Mom will find the food but will not accept your shelter if the food is nearby, because she will not want to attract other cats to food located near her nest/kittens.
If the mom cat does not return after several hours, or if the kittens are cold, wet, injured, covered in ants or insects, or in immediate danger from traffic or predators it is time to take action! Bring the kittens indoors and get them warm. We recommend using a heat pad or hot water bottle wrapped in a soft blanket. Make sure the kittens are warm before you try to feed them! Neonatal kittens need around the clock feeding, always use kitten formula - never cows milk. KMR is a common kitten formula available at most pet stores and some grocery stores.
For more tips on caring for neonatal kittens check out Kitten Lady's resources: http://www.kittenlady.org/kitten-care
Six weeks is the optimal age to take the kittens from the mother for socialization and adoption placement, kittens under 4 weeks of age should stay with their mom (if possible) so they get proper nutrients to survive and be healthy. After 3-4 months of age socialization is often extremely difficult and time consuming, so kittens four months and older should be TNR'd (spay/neuter, vaccination, ear-tip, and return to their colony).
Female cats can become pregnant with a new litter even while they are still nursing, so don’t forget to get the mother cat spayed or you will have more kittens soon!
How to Determine Kitten Age:
See photos of kitten progression week-by-week
See photos of kitten progression at-a-glance
- Under one week: (3-8 oz) Eyes are shut, ears are folded down, and kittens are unable to walk. They can purr and make tiny noises. The umbilical cord may still be visible.
- One-two weeks: (8-11 oz) Eyes start to open (they are blue) and focus. Ears begin to open and movement is improved to crawling, snuggling, and kneading.
- Three weeks: (7.5-14.5 oz) Eyes fully open and ears are open and standing up. The kitten will start to respond to noises and movement. The first wobbly steps are taken and baby teeth start to come in.
- Four-five weeks: (8-16.75 oz) Running, playing, digging, and pouncing occur often. Kittens will start to wean and will be able to lap up formula, eat soft food, and use the litter box by themselves. Eyes have fully changed from blue to their adult color.
- Eight weeks: (2 lbs) Kittens look like little versions of full grown cats.
For more tips check out Alley Cat Allies information on what to do if you find kittens: https://www.alleycat.org/community-cat-care/finding-kittens-outdoors/
*NOTE* Feral Change focuses on TNR - Trap, Neuter, Return of feral and stray cats. We do not have an adoption space or headquarters to house cats, and we have a limited foster network, we cannot take in very many cats or kittens. Please try to find a foster or adopter in your community if possible, or contact other rescues before asking us to take kittens. We can help get cats and kittens fixed!