So you've found some kittens. First thing's first, let's do a quick physical assessment. Go through these question in your head, one by one.
Are they in a safe place? - This is the first question to ask yourself, because no matter what your answers are to the next questions, if the kittens are in immediate danger (in the road, a construction site, etc.) they need to be moved before completing the assessment.
Are they above or below the 6 week mark? - I will attach a chart to help gauge kitten age at the bottom of this post! Kittens can be safely taken from mum over 6 weeks, although if possible we like to keep them together till 8-10 weeks. If the mum is feral, we separate them so kittens can be socialized. To catch older kittens who are feral, you will need a live trap. Contact your local TNR program (operation catnip) for help trapping mum and kittens!
If they are under 6 weeks, are they clean, well fed, and with littermates? - Kittens who have a mum around will be clean, have full bellies, and be sleeping together. Dirty, malnourished, or single kittens are always a cause for alarm (often means they have been orphaned, or in the case of single kittens, abandoned). If they have all the signs of having a mum, back off and watch for a few hours. She is probably off hunting. If she is feral, you will want to contact your local TNR program to help catch her so she and her kittens can go into foster care together.
Are they warm? - Cold kittens are another huge cause for concern. Kittens can die of hypothermia so easily. Usually, kittens with a mum and littermates will not get cold.
Are these kittens obviously abandoned by humans? - In the spring, it isn't uncommon to find kittens lift in plastic bags, garbage cans, or the ditch. Usually in these cases, a human didn't want to deal with the kittens, and tried to dispose of them. In this case, you can safely assume there is no momma cat nearby.
OK, so you have determined these kittens are orphaned or abandoned. Now what?
Get them inside and warm. Orphaned kittens are usually dirty, but refrain from cleaning them. Just put them in a contained space with lots of blankets and a heat source. A cat carrier or cardboard box with holes cut in it, and a magic bag or hot water bottle under blankets works well. Kittens can get burned easily, so cover heat sources with blankets.
Get them to a professional. Orphaned kittens can go downhill FAST. Do NOT offer milk, as this will worsen their condition. Get them to a rescue as soon as possible. If you are not able to get them to a rescue, they should see a vet. Orphaned kittens can be dehydrated or sick, and should always be seen by a professional first and foremost. Feeding a severely dehydrated animal can can cause death. Feeding a young animals the wrong thing can cause death.
DO NOT allow them to be in contact with your pets. You have no way of knowing if they are carrying deadly parasites or viruses. Wash your hands after handling them, and keep them separate from other animals. We always do a minimum 2 week quarantine.
If you chose to foster the kitten(s) yourself (which we do not ever recommend for kittens under 3 weeks), consider if you have the financial ability to pay for the deworming, vaccines, spay/neuter, snap test, microchip, flea and tick prevention, and any other surprise costs. If you are able to pay for all of this, look up the kitten lady on youtube while you wait for your kitten at the vet, and watch all videos relevant to your kittens age. Kittens under 6 weeks may need to be bottle fed, while kittens over 6 weeks will require a good quality wet kitten food (like Natures Variety - Instinct Kitten Food) available at all times. If you chose to feed dry food as well, you should hold off until about 8-10 weeks. Do not offer young kittens clumping clay litter, as they will sometimes try to eat it (which is deadly). Instead, offer a pellet litter like "yesterdays news".
If you surrender the kitten(s) to a rescue, consider making a small donation to the kittens care if you can! It is expensive to care for these little guys, and while most rescues dont demand a surrender fee, it is great to have people donate when they can.
If you are in the Peterborough area and find a kitten after hours that needs immediate care,
call us at 705-313-4376.
Determining kitten age
The kitten lady