Abandoned Kittens: Some Advice

1/12/2017

Every year, thousands of very young kittens are found in the streets or other, exposed places. It is often very difficult to know exactly what you should do if you come across a seemingly abandoned litter, as the mother could be watching nearby or just out hunting.Because of this, it is important not to jump to conclusions and take the kittens, who will not be weaned and will be deprived of their mother at this crucial time in their lives. Here is some advice on what you should do if you or anyone you know finds an 'abandoned' litter.

1. Look at the environment around the kittens

Source: Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals

If the kittens are strays, it's normal for the mom to leave them, sometimes for hours at a time, to hunt so that she can feed her babies and keep herself healthy. In this case, they will have been left in a safe place, where predators shouldn't be able to find them. Some examples might be a bush, a garage, or atrash site.Come back several times to see if the mom has returned and if they are being fed. If the kittens seem dirty, hungry or more disorientated than normal, then you can move in. You should also try and move the kittens and their mom if they are in danger because of where there den is. In these cases, you may be their only hope.If you are unsure, call an animal welfare group, who will be able to see whether they need to be rescued.

2. Take the kittens to a vet

Source: St. Charles Herald Guide

If the kittens have been abandoned, or are in danger, you need to get them to a vet as quickly as possible. Even if they are healthy, a check up will let you know more about them (age, gender, etc) and how to care for them.You are obviously not obliged to take them home with you as most vets will have a way of finding a foster home. However, as more time passes, so do the kittens' chances if they aren't receiving careful and full time care. Finding a foster home can take time, so if you are able to take them home, that's great!

3. Find a foster home for the kittens

3a. If you can't take them home

Source: Catster

If for some reason (allergies, space, time, young children, etc) you can't take the kittens home with you and the veterinarians don't have anywhere to foster them, you should contact shelters and rescue groups in your area.Some veterinary clinics have the space and time to raise them there, at least until they are old enough to go to a less specialized foster home, but most don't. If the kittens are very young, the same usually applies to shelters, who will try and find a foster home for them if they have the resources.In the U.S.,

3b. If you can take them home

Source: Kittentoob

If you can take them home, how you should care for them depends on how old they are:

  • If they haven't been weaned off their mother's milk (8 weeks or less): Without their mom, an unweaned kitten needs specific care so that they grow properly. They usually only drink from their mother for the first 5 weeks of their lives, so if she isn't with them an alternative must be found. Do not feed them cow's or goat's milk; there are formula mixes adapted especially for kittens being fed by humans. Ask your vet about which to use.From 5 weeks, you can start to feed them solid food, although this should only be a tiny amount 8 times a day.
  • If they are weaned (8 weeks or older): These kittens still need several meals a day, rather than the 2 adult cats can live off, and these should still be given in small quantities at a time. as their stomachs are only about the size of a large nut! They can start to eat kibble, tinned cat food (although these should be special kitten mixes), and meat. You can start getting them down to 4 meals a day.

4. Give them lots of attention

Source: Cat Adoption Guide

Weaned or not, small kittens need lots of attention and affection to become well behaved and socialized adult cats. Their health is fragile and, without an adult cat to teach them, it's up to you to teach them to use a litter box and keep themselves clean.They will also need to be kept warm and will need a constant source of heat, such as a radiator, heater or a fireplace (as long as they are supervised, of course!). Plenty of warm blankets are also a necessity.After a few weeks, they will be more independent and you will be able to catch up with lost sleep!By following these steps, you give the kittens in your care the best starts in life. You may even gain a 4-legged friend along the way! You can also volunteer your services as a foster home by contacting organizations such as the ASPCA in the U.S. or Cat's Protection in the U.K.

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