What do you do if you find a kitten on the street? Do you leave it alone? Do you take it? What’s the best protocol?
When doing my post a few weeks ago on kitten rescue kits, I got some excellent pieces of advice from Tammy at Feral Fixers. I would like to share it with you now. Please welcome Tammy! ::applause::
C: Tell us, Tammy. What do you do if you see kittens on the street?
.T: If you find kittens, unless they are in danger – predators, exposed, frantic with hunger, LEAVE THEM ALONE and watch. Do not disturb. Moms leave their kittens for 10 hours at a time. When moving kittens, they might do it in stages, moving from A to B, getting them all to B, then moving to C, their ultimate destination. That can take time.
C: How long do mother cats leave their kittens unattended?
T: We have had kittens alone for 72 hours and they have survived – they tend to go into a comatose state and conserve their energy til mom comes back. But if you disturb them, they wake up and start using their reserves.
C: What if I want to check on the kitten nest?
T: If you keep physically going up to the nest and bothering and the mom observes, she will move the kittens at the first opportunity – where you cannot find them later or may only take one or two because that’s all the alternate living arrangements she has found while she has been gone.
C: Is the ultimate goal to trap both the kittens and the mother? .
T: Yes, that is the ideal: mom doing as much of the work of caring for the kittens as is safe. Mom is best equipped to care for the kittens. It’s possible that bringing them into a dog crate can be stressful and result in illness in mom and kittens and moms can up and decide not to continue to care for the kittens if she is stressed, too, but leaving the mom unspayed to make more is completely irresponsible, so if this is the only opportunity to trap her (she only shows up when she has a litter of kittens), take that opportunity.
C: Which kittens are good candidates for abduction, I mean, rescue?
T: If they are out and walking about with no supervision, and seem to be 5+ weeks old and capable of eating on their own, it may be that mom has cut her losses, decided she can only care for a portion of her litter and abandoned these ones. But, still, waiting to see if mom comes back is ideal.
C: What if I think they really need help. Then what?
T: If you MUST “rescue” the kittens, if they seem weak or lethargic or at their end of energy – DO NOT FEED! No matter what the age, if the kittens are not bouncy healthy, first make sure they are warm. Mom cats are warmer than humans. Give them a heating pad on low setting, fill an Ice Mountain water bottle with hot water and wrap in a towel and set next to them, but your body heat is not enough. Cover and seal in the heat. If you feed a kitten when its cold, you will kill it.
C: We have personally used the method of putting a heating pad on half of their bed so they can avoid getting over heated and move, if necessary. Is that appropriate in this case?
T: Absolutely, Set the heating pad on low and give them enough area that they can move off of it, should it become too warm. Be sure to sandwich the heating pad between two soft pieces of material to preserve the heating pad cover. Kittens are gross and not in control of themselves until they understand litter boxes!
C: Yes, they are a bit yucky. What happens when they’re warm?
T: Once they are warm, the first step is to give them sugar water – doesn’t even have to be Karo syrup. One part sugar to 3 parts water, even 3 mls will help tremendously to get their reserves replenished. Plain water if you have no sugar, just to get their systems going again. THEN you can give them kitten formula (never cow’s milk) or human meat baby food if they are old enough in tiny amounts. Again, its okay to wait a whole day to feed, as long as they are first warm and then hydrated.
C: Any further tips on the kitten housing?
T: Kittens can be housed in small crates,2’x2′ will do until they need room to play. A plastic shoe box type container can be used for litter until they get too big for it, with at least 2″ of litter to keep it heavy enough not to be spilled. Use heavy, crock-type food bowls unless you wish to do lots of laundry!
C: If there anything else you’d like to add?
T: In all, you have to make yourself as educated as possible in advance (why you are reading this now) so that you can make informed, gut decisions when this situation occurs in your yard! Every situation is unique and this is a general protocol, a starting point so that you can make the best decisions for the cats you encounter!
Thanks to Tammy from Feral Fixers for this informative guide and for being out there every day helping homeless cats! It’s a tough job and she deserves a big round of applause! She also suggested this link to Alley Cat Allies for more information on caring for neonatal kittens. Does anyone have any questions for Tammy?
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