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What to do if you find stray kittens

It’s the middle of summer and the height of the kitten season. If you have a feral cat colony in your neighborhood, you might stumble across a litter of kittens. Here’s what you should do if you find them outside.

Identify their age

On the one hand, if the kittens are 8 weeks or younger, separating them from their mothers can be detrimental to their health. Therefore, if the mother is present, it’s best to keep them together. On the other hand, if they’re 4 months or older, it may be too difficult to socialize them properly so that they can live indoors. It’d be better to trap, neuter, and release (TNR) them so that they can live our their lives happily within the colony. You can use the Alley Cat Allies’ handy visual guide to help you determine their age at a glance.

Locate the mother

Mama cats always return to feed their kittens every 3 hours like clockwork. If the kittens look clean and healthy, then mama probably isn’t far. However, if the kittens look dirty, sick, or it’s been longer than 3 hours since you’ve seen their mother, they need to be cared for right away.

Contact your local TNR community or cat rescue

Most shelters will tell you that during kitten season, they usually don’t bring in mothers with their litters due to a capacity issue. However, if mama is friendly and you’re interested in caring for the kittens, you should contact your local TNR community or cat rescue. Even if they aren’t able to take on the kittens themselves, they can point you in the right direction for community vet partners and even loan you no-kill traps to help you bring the litter inside.

Newborn feral kittens require a lot of attention, hard work, and socialization in order to grow up to be happy, healthy, friendly and adoptable indoor cats. Before you take on a litter of kittens, really ask yourself if you are able to commit the time and energy that they deserve.

Do you have a new kitten in your home? Check out other articles on our blog for advice on how to kitten proof your home, for more information on kitten season, and for more information about feral cat resources in New York City.


Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

photo by Christie D. Mallon on flickr

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10 Tips for “Kitten-proofing” your home

Kittens! by London looks

Kittens are doubly curious, as they are both babies and cats at the same time! When you bring a new kitten into your home, it’s wise to take precautions to remove potential hazards in kitty’s new environment.

1) Install permanent screens on windows. Do not rely on window guards for children, use temporary bug screens, or crack the window slightly, as kittens can wiggle through them.

2) Tie cords for window blinds and curtains well out of your kitten’s reach. They may be tempted to play with the strings, but they could accidentally wrap around your kitten’s neck.

3) Store toys (for both cats and children) in a chest or box that closes securely. This is especially important for toys with strings and small pieces that could be swallowed.

4) Remove dangerous house plants. The ASPCA has a list of plants that are toxic to cats. If you’re not sure what species your plant is, it’s best to give it away or keep it outdoors.

5) Keep all medicines and cleaning products locked away. Even if the container is closed, it can still be chewed through.

6) Secure drawers, cabinets, and closets with child safety locks. Otherwise, cats could easily pull open the doors.

7) Secure the knobs on your stove. While jumping up and exploring, a cat’s paw could accidentally turn on the gas or a heating element.

8) Keep the oven, dryer, and dishwasher doors closed. Cats like to sleep in dark, warm places, so this could lead to disaster. Always perform a “kitten check” before starting up these appliances, and leave notes to remind others to do the same.

9) Close the toilet lid after every use. A kitten could fall in and drown, or the lid may close and hurt a cat playing in the water.

10) Store plastic in a dispenser that is kept in a secured closet or cabinet. Chewing on and swallowing plastic could harm your cat’s digestive track, or kitty could get trapped in the bag.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you can read more at the Humane Society, Purina, About Home, and MEOW Cat Rescue.

Are you worried about leaving your kitten alone on vacation? Our pet sitters can come check on your kitty once, twice, or even three times a day to make sure everything is okay! Request a quote for multiple visits for kittens.


Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

“Kittens!” by London looks on flickr

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