I found kittens outside!
Before you do anything, STOP and observe the situation.
Resist the urge to scoop the kittens up and take them home or to touch them. Momma cat may be nearby looking for food or a better nesting spot. If she smells "human" on her kittens, it may take her longer before she thinks it is safe to return to care for her litter. She may move them to protect them from perceived predators (you).
Taking a kitten away from a mother cat at too early of an age can be detrimental to their health. Some may not survive. While kittens are still nursing, they receive vital nutrition and antibodies from mom's milk. Caring for kittens under the age of 4 weeks (called neonates and weighing less than 1 lbs.) without a momma cat is especially difficult and involves clinical around the clock care! Many rescue groups and shelters are not equipped to handle caring for motherless kittens.
So - before you jump into action - observe the kittens carefully to determine appropriate next steps.
Click HERE for help determining age of kittens
The following chart is generously provided by the Kitten Lady for use by shelters and rescues. For more information on all things kittens - please be sure to visit kittenlady.org! It is amazing resource!
Use this chart to help you assess the situation and to determine how to help:
If you have determined the kittens need help or are old enough to take away from mom:
Before you take the kittens be prepared to be their primary care giver until you can find a rescue to take them or until you are able to re-home them yourself. If the kittens are under 5 weeks, you will need to trap momma cat too as she is their best chance for staying healthy, otherwise or be prepared to bottle raise the kittens. Please educate yourself on proper health and feeding care as well as seek assistance if you are left to bottle raise the kittens.
Removing the kittens:
When you first approach the kittens, use caution. It is likely this may be the first time they have had contact with a human and they may hiss, claw, or try to bite you! Wearing leather or canvas gloves and/or using a thick towel or blanket can be helpful in handling the kittens. Cat bites, even small ones, can be harmful and painful. Remember - you are very big and very scary.
You’ll want to have something available to transport the kittens in- preferably a large hard sided carrier lined with blankets or towels, but a cardboard box can work in a pinch.
If the kittens are under socialized and too feisty to handle, you may need a live trap to catch them. A live trap is a type of humane trap that typically uses a pressure sensitive door to trap animals safely when inside.
Visit our friends at Alley Cat Allies for detailed instructions on how to go about successfully trapping cats using a live trap!
We do have offer live traps for rent, but may have one or two to loan - email us to check availability or visit a local equipment rental business to rent your own.
If kittens are under 5 weeks you will need to keep them warm! Keeping small kittens warm is very important as heat loss can quickly cause the kittens health to decline. Heating disks, or a sock full or rice, dried beans or corn microwaved for a minute or two, will help with this. Place your heating source under a blanket in box or carrier and be sure the kittens are able to roll away from the heat source if they get too warm. Have nothing to keep them warm? If the kittens are small enough - placing them inside your shirt next to your skin/chest, can provide them with an adequate amount of short term warmth.
If the kittens are sick or injured immediately take them to the nearest emergency or vet clinic. It is a good idea to call a clinic a head of time as some vet clinics do not have as much experience with tiny kittens and may refer you to another practice.
Taking the kittens home:
You’ll want to put the kittens (and mom if applicable) in a spare room or preferably a bathroom. Kittens (and their moms) at this age don’t need too much space, and you’ll better be able to socialize, monitor, clean and keep them out of trouble in a smaller space. Be sure to keep them warm and hydrated (if nursing - mom needs water). Offer heating disks in their beds and make sure they are not in a room that gets too cold.
Supplies and care instructions you’ll need will depend on the age of kitten. To find information on proper care for all ages of kittens visit kittenlady.org
Contacting Rescues and Shelters for help:
If it's "kitten season" - keep in mind many rescues are overpopulated and may not have the room, resources or experience to care for kittens under the age of 5 weeks. Not all rescues and shelters are no kill. Often when tiny kittens arrive at shelters with no one to take on such fragile babies - they are euthanized.
For itty bitty kittens be sure to reach out to rescue for specialized help/advice in caring for the smallest of cats.
Visit petfinder.com to find rescues near you.
Raise and re-home yourself!
Another option is to care for them yourself! Be prepared though! Caring for motherless kittens can be a bit like caring for a human baby. Regular feedings through the day and night, constant weighing and monitoring health is not only necessary, but critical for survival.
If you have chosen to care for the kittens visit kittenlady.org for all the information you need on raising healthy, strong, and social micro panthers!
When kittens reach 8 weeks, they are traditionally old enough to be spayed/ neutered and re-homed!
For tips on rehoming cats yourself visit our Rehoming Advice page.
Spaying and Neutering
Why is Trap Neuter Return (TNR) So Important?
Saving stray kittens from outside is only a small part of the problem. Where there are kittens, there are unspayed or unneutered cats. Leaving just one unfixed cat in a community can quickly lead to overpopulation.
Did you know?
About 10,000 human babies are born each day in the US, compared to the 70,000 kittens and puppies born each day. With these numbers, there will never be enough loving homes for all the puppies and kitties born. The only way to fight overpopulation is to spay and neuter your pets and contribute to TNR efforts.
Visit our friends at Alley Cat Allies for detailed instructions on how to go about successfully creating a TNR program or to find a TNR program to support near you!
If one unfixed female and unfixed male and all their offspring produce 2 litters per year, with 2.8 surviving kittens per litter these are the results: