• Kelly Daniel

What to Do if You Find Abandoned Kittens

As the weather here in Auburn and Opelika has warmed up, so has the intake of newborn kittens at the Lee County Humane Society. Every day new babies show up at our door, but lately a lot of those tiny kittens are showing up without their moms.

It’s a natural human instinct regarding orphans: When we see a tiny baby kitten alone in the great big world, we want to swoop in and save the little wee thing from the dangers all around. If you find yourself in such a situation, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and check out these tips about helping abandoned kittens.

First, Wait & Watch

Wait and watch to verify that mama has actually abandoned them and isn’t just off searching for food or in the process of moving them to a different location. Do not approach them, do not touch them, do not disturb them. Your actions could cause the wary mama to abandon them!

Instead, stand far away from the kittens — 35′ or more. If you stand too close, mama will not approach her kittens. You may need to go away completely before mama will return to her kittens. It might be several hours before the mother cat returns — until she no longer senses the presence of humans near her litter.

If you need to leave before mama returns, evaluate whether the kittens are in immediate danger: Is it raining? Are dogs, raccoons or people nearby that might harm the kittens? Are the kittens located in an area with heavy foot or car traffic?

Mama may take several hours to return and healthy kittens can survive this period of time without food as long as they are warm. Mama has an instinct about how long she can safely leave them on their own. However, neonatal kittens are much more at risk of hypothermia (cold) than they are of starvation. During our warm spring and summer, waiting a longer time to see if mama returns is much safer than during winter months.

Please remember that mama is the best caretaker for her kittens! Wait and watch as long as you can. The best food for the kittens is their mother’s milk. Without the benefit of the antibodies in their mother’s milk, orphaned kittens are extremely susceptible to infections, hypothermia, and other problems that their tiny bodies can’t handle.

Remove the kittens only if they are in immediate, grave danger. Never use a kitten / kittens as bait for the mama, the mama cat will pick up the kitten and take it away to safety. Never use kittens as bait to get the mama, unless they are in a crate. Put the kittens first in a crate or carrier, cover it, then wait to trap the mama cat when she comes to the kittens.

If the mother cat returns…

If mama returns and the area is relatively safe, leave the kittens alone with mama. You can offer a shelter and regular food to mama to keep her in this location. Keep the food and shelter at a distance from each other. Mama 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.

If the mother cat does not return…

If you determine that mama is not returning or she was hit by a car, then you should rescue the kittens. This is crucial to the kittens’ survival.

Kittens less than three weeks old can’t control their own body temperature and can easily get so chilled. The means they can die, even when outdoor temperatures are warm. A chilled kitten is listless and may actually feel cold to the touch. To get abandoned kittens warm, prepare a nest lined with towels and put a heating pad or hot water bottle under the towels. Be sure to leave a place where they can crawl away if they get too hot, too. Then contact the Lee County Humane Society at 334-821-3222 to get help or instructions on bottle feeding kittens, or to find a foster family willing to help with them.

Weekly Wish: We still are in need of Royal Canin Nutrition Babycat and Royal Canin Nutrition Kitten canned wet food to feed the kittens at the shelter. Please consider dropping some off or having some shipped to our shelter at 1140 Ware Drive, Auburn, AL 36832


Auburn, AL | | 334-821-3222

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