Stray and feral kittens are a commonplace occurrence in most countries, and how we deal with them will make a huge difference both to the animals themselves and to the cat population. Between the months of March and September, every shelter gets overrun with kittens, both orphaned litters and those with a mother. Many of these litters are either stray or feral. The difference between a stray cat and a feral cat is that a stray cat is accustomed to people and a feral cat has lived in the wild and has been self-sufficient with little to no contact with people.
What to do if you find kittens
Determine if their mother is around. Even though they are adorable and seem helpless, the best thing to do for abandoned kittens is not to move them unless they are in imminent danger. Keep an eye on them and see if their mother comes for them. Mother cats have their kittens often and she may be in the middle of moving these seemingly abandoned kittens, or she may be our looking for food. It is not unusual for a mom to leave her kittens for several hours looking for food. If you move the kittens, she won’t be able to find them and continue to take care of them.
If there is a mother cat and she is nursing and caring for them, it’s best to leave them with mom until they’re weaned. Kittens begin to nibble wet food at 4 weeks of age and are fully capable of eating on their own at 6 weeks. How can you determine the age of nursing kittens? If they are nursing and their eyes haven’t opened, they are under 2 weeks.
If you have ascertained that the mother cat is not around, you can foster the kittens in your home until they are about 8 weeks of age. If the kittens are not yet eating solid food, they will need to be bottle-fed every 2-4 hours. It’s important not to offer them cow’s milk as this will make them sick. You should give them kitten formula, or lactose-free milk. A kitten normally gains around 100g of body weight per week, so weighing them will give a rough estimate of age. For example, a kitten that weighs 400g should be able to eat solid/wet food. Keeping the kittens warm, safe, and clean is very important. Fostering very young kittens is hard work and should not be attempted unless you can dedicate plenty of time daily to caring for them. There are additionally medical issues to consider, including vaccinations and deworming. However, it is also a very rewarding experience and gives a real sense of achievement. KSPCA can offer advice and leaflets on how to take care of orphaned kittens.
If the mother cat is around, she should be trapped and spayed shortly after the kittens are able to eat on their own. If she is feral, she should be re-released into the wild after her spay recovery. An adult feral cat cannot be placed for adoption and made a pet. It is highly unlikely that she could ever be tamed. When the kittens start eating solid food they should be trapped
and socialized. At this age, they are young enough that they can be well socialized, learning to trust people and becoming loving pets. If you can socialize such kittens, the KSPCA can take them in as owner surrenders once they are better socialized and able to be spayed or neutered. Surrenders are arranged by appointment, and we will do an evaluation of the animal’s health and temperament. Please note that there is a fee to surrender cats and kittens.
Please contact us to learn more about our surrender process and to learn about our space availability.