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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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