Ahhh, kitten season. It’s that magical time of year when the weather gets warmer, and suddenly, an influx of kittens are born into the world. As kitten season picks up speed, so do phone calls to local animal shelters from concerned citizens wondering what they should do with stray kittens they have found.
What to do if you find warm, clean, stray kittens:
Our answer may surprise you, but most of the time, the answer is to leave stray kittens where you find them. We know this advice can be difficult to heed after so many years of hearing that you should bring stray kittens to the shelter. Still, data from organizations such as Ally Cat Allies and the ASPCA shows that kittens have a much better chance of survival if left where their mother cat can care for them. Even kittens that appear to be unattended likely have a mother cat looking out for them who will be distressed should they go missing.
Here’s a trick to make sure that mom is coming back to look after her litter: take some flour and spread a circle around the kittens, then leave. If a few hours later, there are paw prints in the flour. You can rest assured that a mother cat is keeping an eye on her kittens.
What to do if you find cold, malnourished, or sickly stray kittens:
There are a few cases in which leaving stray kittens where they are may not be the best course of action. If the kittens appear malnourished, sickly, and/or overly dirty, and you have not seen a mother cat return within a few hours of finding the kittens, there are a couple of things you can do.
- Foster: If you feel equipped to care for and bottle-feed the kittens until they are old enough to be spayed or neutered, fostering the kittens may be a good option. Contact our Foster Department for information and resources.
- Contact Your Local Animal Services: Your local animal services will be able to help you determine the next best steps for the kittens. They may have you bring them to their shelter, or they may come and pick them up.
What about Trap Neuter Return?
Another way you can help your local community cats and reduce the number of homeless cats in your area is to see if your local shelter or rescue has a TNR (trap-neuter-return) program. These programs involve humanely trapping stray cats, bringing them into a shelter to be spayed or neutered, and returning them to the area in which they were found. Kittens can participate in TNR programs as young as 8 weeks of age so long as they weigh at least 2 lbs.
Our TNR program is called CATNIP. For more information on CATNIP, humane trap rental, and more, visit the TNR Page on our website.