Orphaned Kittens | Feral Cats
Have you found tiny babies?
If you have found a litter of tiny kittens, most likely there is a mother cat somewhere caring for them; she is probably just out hunting for their food. If the kittens you find are tiny and seem reliant on Mom cat to keep them warm and nurse them, check their body temperature (yes, you can touch them but carefully and only to see if they feel warm). If they feel warm, watch (from a distance) to see if Mom cat returns.
If the kittens look sick or weak, immediately place them in something very warm and rush them to the vet. If they feel cold, or if Mom cat doesn’t return within an hour or two, pick them up and warm them up. The easiest way to do this is by taking a small plastic water bottle and filling it with hot water (or rice heated until it is very warm). Wrap this bottle in a towel or sock and place the kittens next to it. Surround the kittens with warm towels or blankets. Then call (760) 736-9040 and leave a message (which may not be able to be returned in a timely enough manner), so please take them to a vet right away. Another resource is the San Diego Humane Society Kitten Nursery that is open around-the-clock caring for the orphaned kittens in their charge.
If the kittens get cold, they will very rarely survive so keeping them warm is first and critical. Only after they are warm should you consider carefully trying to feed them if you can and know what and how to – and/or take them to a vet. As wonderful as it may seem to be able to rescue a litter of kittens that appear to be on their own, it is seldom the case that they are and they do much better with their Mom until they are at least old enough to eat on their own.
Have you found cute kittens?
Usually kittens found outside are not used to people. If the kittens are eating on their own, you may want to try to catch them and keep them inside and get them used to people. When kittens are born outside without the benefit of people-interaction, they quite quickly get the idea that people are to be feared. If a kitten hisses, spits, runs and hides, chances are it is a feral kitten that has been raised by its mother to believe that humans are dangerous, keep away!! Once they get that idea, they often do not accept people. As a general guideline, once kittens born in this environment approach 6 – 8 weeks of age, taming them takes time and may or may not be successful. How can you tell how old a kitten is? Click here for a reference guide. The Rescue House can sometimes assist when the kittens are under 6 weeks of age (eyes are usually still blue).
If the kittens are over 6 weeks of age, The Rescue House will not be able to accept them. IF you wish to take in kittens over 6 weeks of age and try to tame them so they are very comfortable with people, then, at that point, we may be able to assist in finding them homes. However, if you do decide to do this, please be aware that it takes a lot of “hands-on” time and even then some or all of these kittens may not become people-friendly and adoptable. The rate of successfully “turning” a feral kitten into a socialized, people-friendly cat drops dramatically after 6 weeks of age.
If the kittens are over 6 weeks of age and you decide not to try to tame them, the other option would be to let them continue growing and then contact the Feral Cat Coalition for assistance with spay/neuter (or find a vet that does low cost spay/neuter), have them altered and then release them back into the environment they know. It would be ideal if you could also put food out for them on an on-going basis. Getting the Mom cat spayed is very important. Again, the Feral Cat Coalition can assist.
How can you tell if a cat is people-friendly?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Has the cat adjusted to comfortably living life with a family?
- Does the cat seek and enjoy interactions with humans?
- Will the cat be able to “handle” being in a cage at an Adoption Center where there are a lot of people visiting and a good amount of “busy-ness”?
- Is the cat emotionally able to handle interactions with the different number of people that will care for it, or is it comfortable only with one person?
If the answer is no to any of these questions: The Rescue House will not be able to assist.
There are organizations that help and work with feral cats to give them the best life possible. Two in our area are:
To help cats that are not people-friendly, please contact one of those organizations. Their websites provide a wealth of information, guidance and suggestions as to how to assist this special group of cats, and a few of their articles are linked here: