They’re cute, cuddly, and desperately in need of your help. Or are they?
If you happen upon a litter of tiny kittens outdoors, it’s natural to want to scoop them up and try to care for them yourself or take them to a shelter. But both of those options might actually place them in more danger.
To give newborn kittens the best chance of survival, follow these steps:
- Leave the kittens alone and try to figure out whether their mom is still around. Observe them from a distance every couple of hours for 10-12 hours. If the kittens seem content and are not fussing, there's a good chance their mom is coming back.
- If the kittens are in danger due to their location, move them to a safer spot nearby so the mom can easily find them when she returns.
- If the kittens are visibly sick or injured, take them to a veterinarian or animal welfare organization immediately.
- If the kittens are dirty or meowing — or if you think they might be underweight, dehydrated, or otherwise unwell — contact a vet or an animal welfare organization (such as a shelter, trap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR) group, or community cat program). They can help you determine whether the kittens are at risk and you should intervene.
- If you spot the mom, leave the kittens alone. When the kittens have been eating on their own for about four weeks or are big enough for surgery (typically when they’re between 2 and 3 months old), humanely trap the whole family and have them spayed or neutered. A local TNVR group might be able to help you with the trapping process. After the cats are fixed, release them at the location where you found them. TNVR is the most humane method of preventing cats and kittens from entering the shelter system.
To learn more about caring for newborn kittens, click here.