Spring is kitten season here in Miami-Dade County, when more feral cats have their babies than any other time of year. Do you know what to do if you find a litter of kittens? Should you touch them? Move them? Bring them to a rescue? Here are some basic tips to equip you to help homeless kittens in your neighborhood.
Step one: Determine if the mother is around
A feral cat is a cat that has not socialized with people, and therefore does not know how to interact with people properly. Additionally, the young kittens, like any baby animals, need their mother! They may still be nursing and severing the parent-infant relationship will starve them.
You may not have time to stay for hours and check to make sure the mother is there, so be resourceful, or come back later, to see if she has returned to her kittens. Ideally, you should not leave the litter of cats on their own for over eight hours.
If eight hours have passed and you determine that the mother is gone and has abandoned her litter, or something has happened to the mother, it is time to act: See step two.
On the other hand, if the mother has returned, contact Miami-Dade Animal Services, the Cat Network, or other rescue groups and inquire about getting help trapping the mom and any other cats for its TNR, or “Trap, Neuter, Return” programs or assistance to ensure the adult cats in the community are humanely trapped and spayed or neutered to avoid continuing pet overpopulation.
Step Two: Pick up the abandoned kittens and provide immediate care
Humans are scary to feral and under socialized cats, especially young ones, so dress appropriately to avoid scratches from the kittens. Once in your care, it is important to keep the kittens warm. Kittens are susceptible to the cold and without a mother looking after them, they cannot easily regulate their own body temperatures. Use a towel or blanket to wrap them up and keep them comfortable.
The kittens will probably be hungry, so it is important to feed them. If they are older kittens, canned kitten food or canned kitten food mixed with kitten milk replacer is best, but if they are younger, they will need milk. A veterinarian can help you determine the age and dietary needs of the kittens. It is vital that you do not feed them cow’s milk as it will make a cat sick. Rather, get “Kitten Milk Replacer” (KMR) or “21st Century Milk Replacement” which can be purchased at pet stores.
Step Three: Make a plan for the litter of kittens
First, you must decide whether to keep these kittens and foster them for yourself or to bring them to rescue so they can be fostered by another household.
If you have decided to foster them yourself, the real work begins now. There are many steps involved in beginning to take care of this new litter of kittens. Among your responsibilities, if you choose to keep these kittens, will be to have them seen by a vet and vaccinated, spayed, neutered, micro-chipped, etc., and to help them find new forever homes. Make sure that you partner with Miami-Dade Animal Services, The Humane Society of Greater Miami or another reputable local rescue to get the supplies and directions you will need to care for these kittens.
Remember: By donating to FoMA and by volunteering alongside us, we can support efforts to protect homeless kittens and all of Miami’s feral cats.