Spring time is our busiest time of year, especially for kittens! Cats are seasonal breeders, so we intake an abundance of cats and kittens at this time. During this time of year it is not unusual to find a nest of unattended neonate kittens or a single kitten assumingly abandoned. It is natural to want to help, right? Before jumping to the rescue, please consider these recommendations first.
It is possible you discovered the kittens while the mother is off hunting/looking for food, or preparing to move them to a new location. Try to determine if they are truly abandoned and wait to see if the mother returns for them. To do this you need to be at least 35 feet away from the kittens. The mother will not approach the kittens until she senses humans are gone. The mother will not attend to her kittens if there are humans hovering near them. If you need to leave and return to see if the mother comes back to attend to her kittens, you must determine if they are in immediate danger. Is it raining or snowing? Are there wild animals or dogs around that could harm them? Are the kittens located in an area where they are at risk of being ran over? To help with this decision of if they are in danger or not, keep the following in mind: it may take several hours for the mother cat to return and in the spring/summer months healthy kittens can survive this time away from the mother as long as they are warm. Neonatal kittens are at much more of a risk of hypothermia than starvation. Only remove the kittens if they are in immediate danger, because their mother’s milk is the best food option for them!
If the mother cat returns, you can offer shelter/food/water to the mother while she is nursing the kittens. Remember, the mother will not go to the food if it is near the kittens or the shelter area because she will not want to have her kittens near other cats and the food may attract other cats.
Bottle feeding kittens that are taken away from the mother is a 24/7 job and it is tough on the shelter staff if unnecessary unweaned kittens are brought in without following these steps first!