There are few things that squeeze the heart more than the sight of a bundle of wee kittens. And often, the impulse that immediately follows is to attempt to rescue those adorable, tiny felines.
But many people may not know that kittens without a mother cat in sight most often have not been abandoned. A mama cat must spend a significant portion of her time acquiring enough food to feed herself and her offspring (and as a bonus, her hunting is likely reducing the rodent population in your area – demonstrating how unowned cats provide an important benefit to the community).
Before taking the kittens and attempting to find them care, first assess their condition. If they look plump and well-groomed, and are sleeping peacefully, it’s likely that their mama will soon return for feeding time. In these cases, the ideal strategy is to leave them where they are, and came back in a few hours to see if their mother is now present. Kittens have a much better chance at survival if they’re able to stay with their mothers until the weaning process is complete.
However, if the kittens look ill or malnourished, are crying loudly, or the mother cat hasn’t been seen for 12 hours, it’s more likely that they are in need of rescue. If you are able to safely handle them, it would be best to taken them inside and contact an animal welfare organization for assistance. The Louisiana SPCA can provide you with guidance on how to raise orphaned kittens until they’re large enough to be spayed/neutered – at which time you can surrender them to a rescue group to go up for adoption. And if you enjoy raising these little fluff balls, we invite you to inquire about volunteering for our foster program, as we’re always in need of new families that delight in getting these feline comics big enough and healthy enough to find their forever homes! If you’re unable to care for the kittens yourself, and wish to surrender them to us, we will utilize that foster network to do our best to find those babies to a happy outcome.
The kind-hearted kitten savior may not also realize that without making sure that the mama cat is spayed, they will likely be facing the same situation all over again in a matter of months. The Louisiana SPCA can help with that, too – we have a Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) program aimed specifically at sterilizing feral cats. We’re able to loan traps, give trapping advice, and provide spay/neuter surgery, rabies vaccination, and ear-tipping (a universal sign that a community cat has been fixed) for FREE! The result is that the former mama cat is returned to live out her life in the only place she knows as home – but will no longer be producing kittens or any of the nuisance behaviors that accompany the mating process (spraying, yowling, and fighting). It’s a win-win situation for everyone!