Kitten season is coming! As temperatures climb in the spring and summer months, more litters of kittens are born to stray or feral mother cats. Sometimes people are alarmed to see litters of unattended kittens in their neighborhoods, yards, or local parks, and they assume the kittens have been abandoned. In an effort to help the kittens, they scoop them up and bring them to SICSA and other animal welfare organizations to care for the litter. However, not all newborn kittens who appear unattended are actually abandoned, and in many cases, individuals who remove them may actually harm the young kittens by taking them away from their mother.
More often than not, the mother cat has just left the area to locate food, relieve herself, or seek a moment of quiet time. Removing the litter can be detrimental to the kittens’ survival because their mother is best equipped to meet their needs – even better than our fine group of staff members and foster volunteers who frequently care for kittens at the adoption center. The mother offers the kittens the best chance of survival. Also, if a mother cat thinks she and her offspring are in danger (including a well-meaning but disruptive human), she will likely seek to relocate her kittens, which can place them at increased risk.
If you come across a litter of kittens who appear to be unattended, we have a few recommendations:
1. First, please leave them undisturbed and refrain from touching them. It’s important to allow the mother cat to return and care for her offspring. Stay far enough away from the litter that you can observe them but not frighten the mother cat from returning to her kittens.
2. We recommend the “Wait and Watch” approach: leave the kittens undisturbed for a few hours (if they are 0-4 weeks old) or overnight (if
the kittens are older) to see if the mother returns.
3. If the mother doesn’t come back, you can safely remove the kittens.
4. If the mother returns, then wait until the litter is weaned (at least 6 weeks old) before you remove them.
5. If the mother cat and kittens are friendly and you want to take them home, please call us at 937-294-6505 for helpful tips before removing them.
6. Placing fresh water and cat food nearby can help the mother cat while she is nursing, but not too close to their location – it may attract other stray cats to the area.
7. If the mother cat or her kittens demonstrate signs of distress or illness, a veterinarian should be consulted.
SICSA offers spay/neuter services for kittens at least 8 weeks old or 2 pounds in weight, as well as trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs for stray and feral cats. It’s important to get the kittens (and the mother cat) spayed/neutered to help prevent even more litters of stray or feral cats. If you’re interested in these services, or for more information, please visit www.sicsa.org/tnr or call us at 937-294-6505.