May 2020 – How You Can Help Orphaned Kittens

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Spring is kitten season. Unspayed cats often have litters that are unwanted and unexpected. Stray and feral cats are experts at finding out-of-the-way places to give birth and raise their young. What can you do if you find a litter of kittens?

For starters, it depends on how and where you find the litter, whether their mother is around, and how old they are. If the kittens have clearly been abandoned in a box along a roadway or park, consider rescuing them, or find someone who can, as they will not survive without your assistance. If they are visibly sick or injured, take them to a veterinary clinic to be checked.

If you find kittens that are clean and resting quietly in a hidden space, you must determine if a mother cat is around. This is best done by waiting and watching. The mother may be out hunting for food or hiding from you. Separating young kittens from their mother will do more harm than good.

If the mother cat returns, try to determine whether she’s a stray who relies on humans for survival or a feral that wants nothing to do with you. Discerning the difference isn’t difficult. If she lets you approach her or is timidly interested in your presence, she’s a stray. A feral will stay far away, despite all your cooing and the temptation of food.

Strays can be rescued and put up for adoption, but your best option with a feral is to leave them where they are with their mother. You can check up on them and provide food, but for now, their mother is their best chance at survival. After the feral kittens no longer depend on their mother, you can contact Color Country Animal Welfare for information about our TNR program—Trap, Neuter, and Return

How can you estimate a kitten’s age? Eyes and mobility will give you a clue. Kittens are 1 to 2 weeks old if their eyes are still closed or just beginning to open. By 2 to 4 weeks their eyes are open and alert, and they start becoming mobile. By 4 to 6 weeks kittens will be quite lively and often vocal. They can eat food at this age. By 6 to 8 weeks they will be very active and playful and will weigh about 1 to 2 pounds. By 8 weeks they are energetic and weigh about two pounds.

Keep an eye on the kittens from a distance (so as not to cause the mother to stay hidden from you if she is fearful of humans) throughout a 12-18 hour period of time. If after that time the mother cat has not shown up, the kittens are most likely orphaned. Once you’ve made the decision to take in stray kittens, it’s your responsibility to do what’s best for them. If you don’t have the time, effort, and funds to give them the care they need, find someone else who does; perhaps a neighbor or friend can help. Taking kittens under the age of eight weeks to an animal shelter should be avoided if possible, since shelters are usually unable to provide the around-the-clock care very young kittens need.

Kittens under four weeks of age need a heat source to keep them warm. They will also need to be bottle fed every three hours with kitten replacement milk. They should not be fed cow’s milk, which can make them sick and give them diarrhea. Give older kittens a warm, dry place to live indoors (a dog crate equipped with a small litter tray works well; kittens can’t escape but can see out). Keep your kittens well-fed with wet cat food. If they don’t eat at first, add warm water and make the food into a gravy, which cab be a kitty favorite. Be sure to play with and cuddle your kittens as much as possible. This will make their transition to living with people much easier.

Unless you decide to keep the kittens, you will need to try and find homes for them. Reach out to friends, neighbors, family, or Color Country Animal Welfare. Get online and post to social media for a wider reach. Once you find homes for the kittens you can feel proud for investing your time and compassion in saving these young creatures’ lives. .

For additional information, call CCAW at (435) 491-2050, click here to email Color Country Animal Welfare, or click here to visit our website.

Our mission is to reduce the number of stray cats and dogs in the Wayne County area and to advocate for the welfare of all animals


Our TNR program aims to reduce the number of community cats in the area. Community cats are trapped, transported to the nearest veterinarian for surgery (in Wayne County, this is Dr. Jake Van Dyke at Fremont River Veterinary Clinic in Lyman), and returned to their community. The vet also administers rabies and other feline vaccines, and while under sedation one of the cat’s ears is ‘tipped’ to identify those who have been fixed. CCAW also offers vouchers to help with the cost. Call (435) 491-2050 for more information.


Color Country Animal Welfare needs to find more people in Wayne County willing to temporarily open their homes for animals in need. Could that be you? If you would you like to be a foster animal parent, please call us for more information, (435) 491-2050, or click here to fill out the form on our website.

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