You hear mewing, go looking for the source—and find kittens! Left all alone! It is kitten season here in Northern Lower Michigan and this scenario is almost commonplace. You rush to be of aid to the tiny family…But Wait. Before swooping in for the rescue, don’t assume they are orphans. Mother cat might be out looking for food or in the process of moving her litter to a new location. As long as the kittens are not sick or in immediate danger, they will be fine until an absent mom returns. Watch from a distance—at least 30 feet—and she should be back within three or four hours. Kittens are healthiest when raised by mom. She provides the right amount of warmth, love, and nutritious milk around the clock. It is best if she does the job since she is the expert. However, if they have to, any animal welfare organization can raise the newborns. Most organizations have tireless volunteers who regularly step in to help abandoned or orphaned kittens survive those first crucial days and weeks. It is a time consuming process requiring around the clock feeding with specially formulated kitten replacement milk. Then there is the potty training, grooming and socializing. It can be a very intense experience, but one that is life affirming and tremendously gratifying. Actually, bottle-feeding kittens can be addictive. Personally, I have had at least one litter of bottle babies each year for what, the last decade? This is my first year without a clowder of little ones in my spare bedroom squeaking and chirping at 3 a.m. I already know that I am missing out on the joy and fun. This year my energies are dedicated to helping my elderly Maine Coon, Rocky, enjoy his rapidly declining sunset years. There will be other years for babies—this one is his. But…back to the babies you found. There are good reasons to intervene. If you find a kitten that fits the following description, do not hesitate to take that baby to your personal veterinarian or to the local county shelter or a rescue organization in your area. The danger signs are:
--The kitten(s) is sluggish and cold to the touch
--has a dirty or matted coat
--is visibly injured
--has eyes encrusted with mucus
--is so infested with fleas its gums are pale
--is in grave danger such as in a road or busy pathway or under attack by another animal
If you have found a healthy litter, try to keep an eye on the family as the kittens mature. When they are approximately 6 weeks old—they will have teeth and be walking and playing—bring them to your local rescue for adoption.
As for feral or abandoned mom, please (PLEASE) consider taking the next step and arranging to have her trapped and spayed. Adult females can become pregnant before they finish nursing their current litter adding to cat overpopulation with all of its attendant miseries. Most county animal control facilities can provide low or no cost spay and neuter services. Many vet offices will work to provide discounted services. Any rescue organization can put you in touch with organizations that can help provide needed humane services. Here at The Center we are proud of our Community Cats Program that provides just such services. Do check out our website and learn about our thriving program. While you are there, you might just see one or two kittens who are in need of loving homes. Come and visit us—we love the company and are proud of our resident pups and kitties. It is spring at The Center and the ground is bursting forth with new life. It’s a time to celebrate and lend aid to those in need. Hope to see you up at The Center soon!