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It’s National Community Cat month, so all month we’ll be providing tips on how to care for and interact with free-roaming cats. One of the most common problems we encounter is people bringing us litters of kittens that they believed to be abandoned by their mothers. We want to let everyone know that what they are doing is actually kit-napping!
When kittens are first born, they rely on their mothers for absolutely everything – they can’t regulate their temperature, eat, walk, see or eliminate waste without mom’s help! Mother cats stay as close as they can to their babies when they are first born, but mom still has to eat in order to produce milk for them. She may have to leave for a few hours to hunt for food. That’s why we encourage everyone to leave kittens be if you discover them without their mother. The mother cat is likely nearby, and while your intentions for taking the kittens to a shelter might be good, it actually reduces their chances of survival. Humans just can’t do what momma cats do – so let mom do her job!
So here are two important questions to ask yourself when you find a litter of kittens:
If the kittens looks clean and healthy, momma cat is more than likely just out hunting for food – leave them be! However if the babies are covered in fleas, dirty and appear thin, the mother may have already been gone for some time. In that case, you may want to consider taking them in. If at all possible, please avoid surrendering the kittens to a shelter until they are 8 weeks old. You cared enough to pick those kittens up – we think you’d be a great foster parent. Just email our Foster department at email@example.com and we’ll hook you up with everything you need!
Kittens should be fine on their own for several hours at a time. If their mother does not return for more than 8 hours, chances are she is not coming back. At that point, it’s totally fine to take the kittens in. Check in on them (at a distance, so you don’t scare mom off) every few hours to see if the adult comes back to take care of them.
Unless you are prepared to foster them yourself, you might want to avoid trapping the mom and babies until they are weaned (about 10 weeks). Trapping a nursing mother and her litter can be a bit tricky, so be sure to prepare accordingly. If they are part of a colony, you may want to consider getting them all vaccinated and spayed or neutered, then returning them to where you found them.
If you’re up to it, you can interact with the kittens while the mother is off hunting to get them used to people. That way, they can be properly socialized so that they can be made available for adoption once they are over 8 weeks old. After 8 weeks, it’s fairly difficult to socialize kittens – they’ve already learned to be fearful of humans at that point.
More tips about community cats are on the way!
All the doggone news? Cute cat pictures? Ways you can get involved? You bet.
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