Stop! Don’t touch those kittens … yet!
Kitten season has begun and that means thousands of newborn kittens are starting to be born all around us. It is very important to know what to do – and what not to do – if you discover newborn kittens in your yard, in your neighborhood or around your office.
First, when you see newborn kittens, resist the urge to take them to a shelter. Kittens less than four weeks old have little chance of survival if separated from their mothers and taken to a shelter. In fact, cats and kittens are the most at-risk animals for euthanasia in Palm Beach County.
Most discoveries of newborn kittens don’t call for human assistance. No intervention is generally best until kittens can eat on their own.
Before scooping them up, please remember the phrase “mother knows best.”
The kitten’s best chance for survival is staying with mom. Newborn kittens need a mother’s care and antibodies from her milk. The mother will also train her kittens as only a mother can.
Quietly observe from a distance to see if mother is present. She’ll need to leave her litter for short periods of time in order to find food for herself. If the kittens are clean and sleeping in a heap, mom’s most likely out finding food.
Never interfere with the kittens or their space as long as the mother is around. Do not touch them. Do not create a shelter. Do not try to keep them warm. Do not feed them. This may stress her and she may abandon her family.
However, you can provide food and water. Place containers far enough away from the nest so you won’t disturb mom and kittens, or draw predators (raccoons) to the area. Keep dogs and children far away.
When the kittens are eating on their own, this is the time to act. If mom is friendly and can be handled easily, it’s best to take her and the kittens indoors until they are old enough to be spayed or neutered (so they can’t have babies themselves) and then adopted into new homes. The mother should be spayed (to prevent future kittens) and placed in an adoptive home, or returned to her territory (based on available shelter space, temperament and neighbor sentiment).
If mom isn’t friendly, she needs to be trapped and spayed, but not now. Contact us and together we’ll make a plan for trapping mom and babies. Once kittens eat on their own they can be safely separated from mom. You can begin the socialization process in your home or find someone to adopt them. The mother can then be trapped, spayed, vaccinated and returned to her outdoor home.
Got cats? Learn more at PeggyAdams.org/found-kittens-resources or call (561) 686-3663.
Rich Anderson is the executive director and CEO of Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League of the Palm Beaches, Inc.