Found Kittens? Know When (and When NOT) to Help

Categories: Cats

Most people assume that unattended kittens need help, but often, their diligent mother is just momentarily out of sight. She might be hunting nearby, taking a bathroom break, moving her kittens from one location to another – or just waiting in the shadows for you to leave! Since a mama cat’s milk and care give young kittens (up to four weeks old) their best chance at survival, it’s important to recognize when and when not to “rescue” kittens found in the wild.

Are the kittens DIRTY?

Mama cats keep their babies fluffy, clean and dry with frequent grooming. If you find kittens that are wet or crusted with dirt, urine or feces, or their gential areas are inflamed (from urine scalding), they likely need your help.

Are the kittens THIN?

Kittens nurse regularly when their mother is around, so their bellies should have a full, rounded look. If you find kitties with shrunken bellies, visible bones, and pale skin, they may have lost their mama.

Are the kittens SICK or HURT?

Sick kittens often have visible discharge from their eyes and noses. If you see crusted discharge or wounds on their bodies, they may need assistance.

Are the kittens NOISY?

Kittens cry when they’re hungry, but it’s also normal for them to get hungry before their mother gets home to nurse. If you find crying kittens that don’t also meet the other criteria above, leave them alone for 2-4 hours and come back to check. If they’re still crying, they may have been orphaned or abandoned. If they’re quiet, their mama’s still on the job and you should leave her to it!

Are the kittens COLD?

Young kittens can’t regulate their body temperature well, and rely on their mother, their nest, and each other to stay warm. They will naturally tend to lose heat while their mother is away – so unless they’re also dirty, thin, or visibly sick or hurt, you should leave cold kittens alone and check them again in 2-4 hours to see if their mother comes back. If they’re still cold and alone, though, they may need human help.

REMEMBER: Taking very young kittens away from their mother greatly reduces their chances of survival, even if you provide round-the-clock care! So don’t rush to conclusions. Take the time to observe these key details before getting involved . . . leaving them alone might actually save their lives.

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