During the spring and summer months, La Plata County Humane Society sees an influx of kittens that require round-the-clock care from dedicated fosters. This year, we are expecting to care for more than 300 kittens.
Here are some tips for what to do if you come across seemingly orphaned kittens this summer:
If you care, leave them there – for a bit anyway. The best caretaker for kittens 0 to 5 weeks is their mom. Kittens that have closed eyes are unstable on their feet, are less than 1 pound, are unweaned and require nursing. Mother cats have to leave their litter frequently to find food and water for themselves. If the kittens look healthy and clean, mom is nearby. As long as the kittens are not in imminent danger, give them some space and time, to see if mom comes back. Your presence alone can keep a mom from returning to care for her kittens, so wait and watch from a distance. If mom has not come back after four hours, then it is time to intervene. If the kittens are lethargic, unresponsive, dirty, emaciated or you know the mother has died, act quickly to help them.
If you decide to try to care for neonatal kittens yourself, seek proper information in order to give the kittens the best chance for survival. Kittens are born blind, deaf and unable to regulate their own body temperature. During the first five weeks, kittens should be kept in a carrier with a heating pad and clean, soft bedding. These kittens need to be bottle fed every two hours for the first two weeks, and every four hours until they are 5 weeks old. Never feed a cold kitten and never feed a kitten cold formula, always warm formula before feeding. After every feeding, kittens need to be burped and stimulated to go to the bathroom by wiping their rear-end with a warm wet cloth.
Kittens older than 5 weeks will have their eyes open, weigh 1 pound or more, be sturdy on their feet and will be exploring their world. These kittens no longer need nursing and can eat wet food. It is important these kittens be properly socialized, vaccinated and do not contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. The best course of action is to bring them to the shelter where they will be given proper care until they are old enough to be fixed and adopted. In addition, try to trap the breeding population in the area where the kittens were found to prevent future litters. You can always call the Humane Society for advice and support for seemingly orphaned kittens or breeding adults in your area.
Colleen Dunning is foster coordinator for La Plata County Humane Society. Reach her at email@example.com.