FEATURE — Each year, thousands of kittens are brought to shelters and rescue groups across the state during a period referred to as “Kitten Season” — and sometimes they are taken from their mothers unnecessarily.
Kitten season occurs when litters of kittens are born, generally beginning with the warmer weather and potentially lasting until the end of the year.
“Caring for kittens takes considerable time and resources, and separating babies from their mother puts both at risk,” Timna Fischbein, Utah Humane Society shelter veterinarian, said. “Research also shows that hand-raised kittens may suffer more health and behavior problems throughout their lifetime.”
The Humane Society of Utah offers the following tips to consider if you find a single kitten or a nest of kittens outside:
Are the kittens clean and quiet or sleeping?
If yes, a mom is likely caring for them, and you should leave them alone.
- The mom may be out searching for food or in the process of moving them to a different location.
- The mom may not return if she senses a human near her nest.
- Once kittens are weaned, around 4-6 weeks of age, contact your local animal control services to ask about trapping mom and her kittens to all be spayed/neutered.
- Kittens can have surgery once they are two months old and weigh at least two pounds.
- A mom cat can become pregnant even while still nursing.
If you are unsure if the mom is around, here is a trick. Create a large circle around the area with flour and leave. Return after a couple of hours to check for paw prints in the flour and reassess the kittens’ condition. If you determine that the mom is caring for her kittens and the area is safe, you may provide shelter and regular food for the mom, but keep the food at a distance from the nest. The mother may not accept your shelter if food is nearby because she might fear it will attract other unwelcome cats to her location.
Are the kittens dirty, crying and cold?
Neonatal kittens are more at risk of hypothermia than they are of starvation. It is safer to wait and see if a mom returns in warmer weather than in colder temperatures.
- If you determine that they appear neglected, hungry or in immediate danger, it is important to take action fast.
- Are you prepared to bottle feed and care for them until they are old enough to be spayed/neutered and adopted? If so, contact Utah Humane Society’s Foster Care Department for information and resources.
- Otherwise, place the kittens in a box with a blanket, preferably with a low-heat heating pad under the blanket, and take them to your local municipal animal control shelter.
Become a foster parent
Utah Humane Society receives kittens with and without their mom nearly every day during kitten season. The foster department is usually in need of dependable foster care volunteers willing to open up their homes to help with precious litters of bottle-feeding orphans and other kittens who still have their mom.
If you are willing to bottle feed, wean, socialize and provide medical care to ensure each kitten can find a home of his or her own, you can become a lifesaver. Contact the Utah Humane Foster Department at UtahHumane.org/foster to learn more about becoming a foster volunteer.
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