It is something every cat rescuer hates seeing, but unfortunately – every year there is a “kitten season” where kittens are found all over.
So, what to do if you find kittens in your own yard?
Below are some ideas and ways to handle the situation to keep everyone safe and as happy as can be.
A few years ago I found a momma cat hiding under a little bump out in our front yard. She had nestled in nice and snug and made a little home for her babies. Thankfully, I found them pretty early on because we live on a busy road and I hate to think what could have happened if they started venturing out!
The kittens were about 3 weeks so not really too mobile yet – so I let them hang there until I noticed they were starting to get more brave and at that point I put up a little gate to keep them confined. When the time was right I started introducing soft food – because I knew no rescue would take them during a busy kitten season before they were ready to eat on their own.
Once they were eating on their own – I took some pictures and asked a local rat rescue friend to help me promote them for adoption and thankfully they all found a home pretty quickly.
But not all kitten findings are that smooth! Below are a few other things to consider if you find kittens in your own yard.
If You See Kittens Alone Evaluate The Situation First!
And when I say evaluate – I mean evaluate from afar! If there is a mom around and she thinks her family is in danger then you risk her moving the kittens to a new location which means more danger could be possible for them!
If you see only kittens and no mom around, do not just automatically assume she abandoned them! Momma cats will venture out and leave her babies behind so she can find food. She will also scatter away if she knows you are around – remember she is still a “scaredy cat” after all – but she is probably close by to make sure you do not hurt her babies.
If the kittens look well cared for and seem to be clean and have full bellies then momma is probably doing her job well and you do not have to worry too much about them being alone for now.
If you are feeling like you should do something, you can try to create a shelter are for them! I love what the people of South Korea did for their strays with the Hood House for example. While you might not be able to be as extravagant, a box or tupperware with a hole in it or some other small space may encourage mom to move them to some new safer digs!
At this stage I would highly recommend you reach out to a local shelter or cat rescue to let them know about the family.
Please start with a cat rescue! They will be more likely to care for the family in the way you would want them to with no risk of euthanasia.
City shelters may be overcrowded and result in them being put to sleep if they do not have staff, space or funds to care for them.
Will A Mother Cat Abandon Her Kittens If You Touch Them?
Typically, no – cats do not abandoned their babies if humans touch them so that should not be a huge concern. So , if the kittens are in an area that may be very risky for them – it is OK to move them without worrying about the mom rejecting them.
Mom might not like it and move them again – but you will be helping them if their spot is not a safe one from predators or elements.
Some reasons a cat might actually abandon one or all of her kittens are:
- Sick or deformed kittens may be rejected to help protect the rest of the litter. If you do see a kitten in the litter that is sick – it is recommended to remove it so the mom does not reject the whole litter.
- Mastitis is a painful infection that happens in the milk ducts and can keep a mom cat (and humans mom!) from wanting to feed since the pain is too much. While not true rejection, without feeding her babies they will not survive.
- If momma cat is still a kitten herself, she may not know how to care for them and just abandon them – or she just may need a few days to get it all figured out.
How Long Can A Mother Cat Be Away From Her Kittens?
There are variances to this answer – but newborn kittens usually need to eat around every 2 hours so if the kittens are very small that would be the maximum amount of time a mom would stay away.
Although most will not stay away that long!
What If There Does Not Seem To Be A Mom?
If you have done your due diligence and kept an eye out for the mom and she does not make an appearance – or if the kittens seem to be weak, dirty and underweight – it is time to take action. If keeping an eye out is not feasible or you do not have a camera to check – another great way is to dust some sawdust, flour or sugar around the kittens and keep an eye out for cat prints!
Now that you have verified mom has not been around you can do the following.
If you are up for it you can begin caring for the kittens in your home! Bring them inside wash them up and find a cozy place to stay. Make sure you use an area with lots of paper and bedding as kittens will pee and poop – A LOT!
Feeding requires the bottle-feeding of special kitten formula every few hours since up until about 6-8 weeks they cannot eat solid food. You can contact a local cat rescue or your veterinarian for more information about “fostering” kittens and they may help you!
Once they are about 6-8 weeks you can contact rescues about helping you to find them homes.
If you do not have time to feed them every few hours – then you will need to contact a rescue to see if they have a bottle-feeder foster family that can take them.
What About Mom?
If the kittens did have a mom to help them grow before you got them into a rescue – it is just as important to try and help mom! In our case we were able to capture here and get her fixed – so no more strays! She was released back into our neighborhood after she healed and is a happy, welcome member of our community.
If you can get the mom – it would be very helpful! You may find she is very social and will actually be able to be adopted, but at the least she should be fixed!
Have You Ever Found Kittens Around Your House?
I would love to hear how you handled it! The more ideas we have the better off our stray kittens can be!