How To Be A Found Kitten Hero With A Big Heart And A Little Common Sense

Found kittens are better left alone unless you know they're lost.

While the mating season for felines is nearly year-round, cats in the Western Hemisphere usually mate between March and October. Most pet cats and strays that have not been spayed or neutered will begin searching for partners as temperatures rise between March and May, with reproductive cycles taking place 2-3 times yearly.

As a result, many shelters see hundreds and even thousands of found kittens come through the door every year. Unfortunately, not everyone who turns in found kittens is a hero. There’s an equal chance that these well-meaning people are kit-napping kittens. 

“We have boxes and boxes of kittens left on our doorstep every May,” explains Lori Heeren, executive director of the Nevada SPCA. “But sometimes these aren’t rescues. There is an equal chance these kittens were only left alone so their mother could hunt for them or scout a new nesting area.”

Heeren advises that human intervention shouldn’t be a forgone conclusion. She suggests taking the time to observe the kittens, intervening only if they look to be in medical distress or if the mother hasn’t returned in a long period, usually more than eight hours.

“It’s important not to hover over the area while watching the kittens, or you could be inadvertently scaring her away,” says Heeren. “Generally, if the kittens look healthy and well cared for, it’s best to leave them alone.”

Kittens waiting for their mom to return home after the hunt.

The Nevada SPCA provides advice about found kittens on its website. The instructions are divided into several what-to-do sections, giving good Samaritans a step-by-step guide on how to handle the situation. 

For kittens found with a mom, it’s best to leave them alone and let their mother feed them until they are 4-6 weeks of age. Heeren says it’s best to leave them alone, even if the mother is friendly. Bringing a nursing cat to a shelter or rescue can be stressful and detrimental to the kittens.

The Nevada SPCA has a special form for anyone who finds a mom and her kittens. Once completed, the Nevada SPCA will point you in the right direction. Usually, this means leaving the mom and kittens alone until the kittens are big enough for a shelter or rescue. The same holds true if the mother cat is unfriendly. 

“If you find the kittens without their mom, don’t make assumptions,” says Heeren. “Monitor them at a distance for more than eight hours, refer to the age chart on our website, and fill out the found baby kitten form.” 

If the kittens have already been brought home, Heeren suggests providing them with a secure, confined space away from other pets. A carrier, box, bin, or kennel is best for kittens under three weeks of age, and a kennel or small bathroom can work for kittens around four weeks of age. 

“They have to be kept warm and prefer soft, comfortable bedding,” Hereen said. “Those under three weeks of age will also need to be bottle fed a special kitten formula, usually about every 2-3 hours and never belly up. It takes a lot of time and care.”

Kittens need to be bottle fed as much as every two-three hours.

In those emergencies when kittens need care, the Nevada SPCA is one of several rescues that attempt to provide foster care. Heeren says many of the organization’s staff members are part of their foster program. She said being a true kitten hero has much more to do with volunteering to become a pet foster rather than dropping them off at a rescue. 

Some shelters, including the Nevada SPCA, may be unable to take them due to a recent Panleukopenia outbreak in southern Nevada. Panleukopenia is a highly contagious and fatal viral disease of cats caused by the feline parvovirus. It is very infectious to cats, and kittens are very vulnerable.

“One of the best ways to see if a mom is caring for a nest of kittens is to sprinkle baking flour over the ground,” added Hereen. “If you see paw prints in the flour after eight hours, then you know it might be time to intervene.”

As a general rule, kittens need to be tended to every three or four hours. So if an abandoned kitten is found dirty, unhealthy, or alone, then rescuing it might be the right idea. You might even consider taking the kitten home, visiting a vet, and keeping it as a pet—which is sometimes the best solution. 

Make no mistake. It is a lot of work. Kittens that are under six weeks old require significant care. If kittens are not socialized within the first eight weeks, they will likely remain feral. Feral cats may be neutered and then returned to their territory. 

For pet cat owners, always remember that cats not spayed/neutered should stay indoors during mating season. It is also important to remember that cats reach sexual maturity at four and five months. They can have two or three litters a year with at least three kittens. Unchecked, two mating cats can produce several generations of cats in just five years—as many as 12,288 cats, to be exact!

All About Spot is proud to offer free online records for sheltered pets, rescues, and foster programs. For more information, visit our Pet Rescue page, which is dedicated to helping rescues. If you have found an abandoned kitten and plan to adopt it, contact All About Spot, and you may receive a complimentary trial as a found kitten hero.

Tags :
Cats,Kittens,Pet Rescues

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