Find Kittens? Wait and Watch. Here’s Help.
As spring returns, the birds, bees, and cats get busy. Warmer temperatures and longer days contribute to what animal rescue organizations call “kitten season,” which is an influx of female cats giving birth to kittens. Soon, kittens will start to appear in local animal shelters, marking the start of “kitten season.” The period usually lasts from April-October, but it can depend on when your climate receives cooler weather which could make the time frame last longer throughout the year.
Found kittens are then “rescued” by concerned animal lovers. “We are coming into that time of year when people begin finding kittens outside,” says Angela Prodrick, Blue Ridge Humane Society’s Executive Director. “If all the kittens found in a community were brought to a local shelter, the shelter would quickly become overwhelmed. If you find a kitten, there are a few simple things that you can do to help save lives.”
Instead of immediately springing into action once kittens are found, wait and watch. If the kittens aren’t visibly sick or injured, move away from the nest and wait to see if mom returns. To do this, stand far away from the kittens. If you stand too close, the mom will not approach. It might also take several hours before the mother cat returns, until she no longer senses the presence of humans near her litter.
If you need to leave before mom comes back, evaluate whether the kittens are in immediate danger: Is it cold or wet outside? Are there dangers like dogs, wild animals or people who are likely to harm kittens? Are the kittens located in an area with heavy foot or car traffic?
To help with your decision, it is important to know that it might take several hours for mom cat to return, and healthy kittens can survive this period without food as long as they are warm. Neonatal kittens are much more at risk of hypothermia than they are of starvation. During spring and summer months, waiting a longer time to see if mom will come back is much safer than during cold months.
The mother cat offers her kittens’ best chance for survival with her milk being the best food for neonatals, so wait and watch as long as you can. Remove the kittens only if they are in immediate, grave danger.
If you discover mom isn’t returning or the kittens are injured, then you should remove them as it’s crucial to the kittens’ survival. The best place for rescued kittens to grow is with a dedicated foster. Blue Ridge Humane provides kitten kits to help kitten rescuers turn into kitten fosters.
“Newborn kittens require around-the-clock care,” says Katie Thomas, Foster Coordinator with Blue Ridge Humane Society. “We offer training for along with supplies, support, and resources for those who wish to foster kittens.” Once kittens are about 6-8 weeks old, a finder can look to get them spayed or neutered and adopted into new homes.
If you find kittens that need care or need supplies or advice, contact the BRHS Foster and Community Support Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org or (828) 393-5832. Animal lovers can also view additional resources about what to do when kittens are found at https://www.blueridgehumane.org/resources/lost-found/kittens/.
BRHS offers kitten care support for volunteers, as well as comprehensive training and support for fosters in the BRHS foster program. To learn more about fostering, visit https://www.blueridgehumane.org/get-involved/foster/ or contact Katie Thomas at email@example.com.