Finding kittens in your backyard can be both exciting and stressful. Especially if you are a cat lover, it’s an opportunity for you to spring into action and make a difference in the lives of little felines, although these meowing furballs will surely take up some of your resources. And this is why you may be confused as to what to do if you find kittens in your yard.
When found, kittens below 8 weeks old need not be rescued or adopted if they are with their mother. Even if their mother is rarely seen, young kittens will survive if healthy and sleeping snuggly. After 8 weeks old, kittens in one’s yard may be taken to the shelter or adopted by the property owner.
There is no college course that will teach you what to do if you find kittens in your yard. Because of this, you have no choice but to turn to the internet to know the steps that you may take.
Unfortunately, not everything you can find in cyberspace is accurate and reliable — some of the recommendations you may stumble upon online may do kittens on your property more harm than good!
Below, we will discuss nine of the things that you can do to those teeny four-legged creatures in your yard.
Leave Kittens Alone
Especially if you love just about anything that purrs, it can be tempting to take the kittens inside your home and make pets out of them.
Unfortunately, this act of yours, even though it’s undeniably coming from a place of love, can spell the difference between happy and healthy kittens and sickly and dying kittens.
Refrain from bringing the kittens indoors and feeding them cow’s milk, which you should absolutely avoid doing, if they are younger than eight weeks of age.
That’s because they will still have to rely on their mother’s breast milk. Besides, kittens three to four weeks old cannot pee or poop without their mommy cat’s assistance.
While transferring the kittens to a different area in your yard or on your property is a bad idea, taking them to the nearest shelter is a terrible idea!
This is especially true if the kittens are younger than eight weeks old — shelters do not have programs that enable them to take good care of very young kittens that still rely on their moms for sustenance and everything else.
The kittens in your yard are less than eight weeks old if they don’t look like miniature versions of adult cats, body proportion-wise.
In some instances, it’s a much better idea to move the little kitty cats to a different place than let them stay where they are currently. We will discuss this matter later, so please don’t stop reading now.
When it comes to having kittens in your yard, one of the most important steps you need to take is to figure out whether the little cats have a loving mom.
As mentioned earlier, kittens younger than eight weeks old still count on their mommy cat for survival. Well, they can survive without a mom, too, but it won’t be easy for their human parents.
The most important thing to establish is that the kittens have a mother that visits them.
A mommy cat will not be with its litter on a 24/7 basis. That’s because it also has other things to do than just make sure that its babies are safe and warm — as they say, a girl (cat) has to eat.
What’s important is that the kitten’s mother regularly visits to breastfeed and groom its little ones. Kittens need to breastfeed either every two to four hours or four to six hours, depending on their age.
A mommy cat knows this by heart, which is why you may see it paying its youngsters a visit regularly.
But just because you cannot seem to see the mother of the kittens doesn’t mean that the baby cats are abandoned.
If the kittens look healthy and sleeping cozy and warm, too, you can be certain that their mom is visiting them.
On the other hand, if the kittens are underweight and crying all the time loudly, their mother may no longer be visiting them. If this is the case, read on — in a few, we will talk about what to do with abandoned kittens.
There’s a simple way to tell whether or not a mommy cat is still visiting its litter. Sprinkle flour around the kittens. If you see paw prints after a few hours or the next day, it means that their mommy cat is visiting them.
Check the Cat Mom
If you often see the kittens being tended to by their mom, rejoice! There is no need for you to worry about the kittens not having any breast milk to drink and dying slowly because of malnutrition.
This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that thing will go as smoothly as possible.
Just because the mother cat is present most of the time doesn’t mean right away that the kittens are getting all the love and care that they need.
In some instances, their mom is unable to nurse their little ones properly, thus keeping the kittens in your yard from growing up to be healthy and strong young cats.
Here’s a surprising fact: a female cat can already get pregnant even if it’s just four months old!
A female cat that has gotten pregnant and given birth at a very young age may fail to carry out its motherly roles right. Taking a look at pictures of four-month-old cats on the internet, you will see that they still look like kittens.
Needless to say, a kitten with a litter of kittens will find taking care of its babies confusing and stressful.
Sometimes, it’s not the age of the mother cat that is keeping it from being mom of the year but other reasons. One of them is being sick — a mommy cat that’s not in the pink of health may have a hard time nursing its little ones.
Another probable reason is that the mother cat is suffering from mastitis, which is the inflammation of the breasts, usually due to an infection. Then there is also the possibility that the mommy cat is not producing enough breast milk. Malnutrition and dehydration are common causes, which is why putting out food and drinking water is a good idea.
Later, we will talk about providing provisions to kittens in your yard, so please continue reading.
Keep Kittens Safe
Earlier, it was mentioned that you should refrain from moving the kittens to a different place.
Otherwise, their mother may fail to find them or decide to take them to another location, fearing that her babies are in danger.
It was also mentioned earlier, however, that you may transfer the baby cats to another place if necessary, such as when their lives are at risk.
For instance, you will have to find the kittens a new place if their current nest is close to a fire or body of water, or where flooding is quite common.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when moving kittens to keep them out of harm’s way…
First, make sure that you won’t infuriate their mom.
A cat that has given birth to a litter in your yard is more likely to be a stray cat than a feral cat, which means that it’s friendly to people. If the mother cat lets you touch or carry its kittens, it’s unlikely for it to attack you when you transfer its youngsters to another location.
Second, do not take the kittens far away from their current nest. If you move the kittens without their mom around, see to it that you relocate them nearby where their mother can find them without trouble the minute it returns.
There is no need to worry about the kittens in your yard going hungry if their mother cat is around — they will have all the breast milk they want each time they go hungry.
Besides, very young kittens won’t be able to eat wet or dry cat food, although kittens four weeks of age are already capable of having wet cat food.
When it comes to putting out food and drinking water, your priority should be the mother cat.
As mentioned earlier, malnutrition and dehydration can keep mommy cats from producing enough breast milk for their entire litter of kittens.
This is why if you want to ensure that the kittens will never go hungry and will grow up to be strong and healthy, too, ensure that their mom is properly nourished and hydrated.
The best food for a nursing cat is high-quality cat food. If it’s picky or you don’t have the budget, feel free to offer it canned tuna, salmon or chicken — opt for water-packed and low-sodium variants.
Refrain from giving it processed food products because they contain ingredients that can harm not only the mommy cat but also its little ones.
Never give the mom cow’s milk because most cats cannot tolerate lactose very well. You may give it goat’s milk because it’s lower in lactose.
If the mother cat gets diarrhea, switch it to kitten milk replacer. Even though kitten milk replacer is intended for kittens, it can also benefit a nursing cat.
Kittens four months of age and older can eat solid food. To know which ones are best for their age, click here and check out the very informative article on what to feed a stray kitten.
Take to the Vet (If Necessary)
It was mentioned earlier that you should leave alone the kittens and their mommy cat, too, instead of taking them to the shelter or vet.
However, if the baby cats look like they are in bad shape, it’s a good idea to get them checked by a veterinarian so that the problem can be established and the appropriate treatment can be provided.
Having gunky or crusty eyes is one of the telltale signs that a kitten is unhealthy. It can be due to anything from an infection, allergy, irritation to trauma.
Coughing, sneezing, breathing through the mouth — these are some indicators that there could be a feline respiratory tract infection, which could be due to either bacteria or viruses.
You may also notice a discharge from the tiny four-legged creature’s nose, the color and consistency of which can change, depending on the cause.
If the kitten’s abdomen is large and its rib cage can be seen, it’s not obesity. A distended belly is usually due to intestinal parasites or organ failure.
Unfortunately, mommy cats usually refuse to nurse or abandon sick kittens.
In some instances, it transfers its healthy babies to a new location, leaving the unhealthy baby cat behind and letting it die alone. But do not loathe feline moms — it’s the only way they know how to keep the rest of their youngsters from getting sick, too.
While a vet may do his or her best to treat an abandoned, sick kitten, most of the time, the survival rate is low.
Spay/Neuter and Release
As earlier mentioned, never take kittens below eight years of age to the shelter, which is not equipped to take good care of very young cats. Since the shelter doesn’t know how to supervise these tiny animals, they will be put to sleep.
Young kittens cannot be adopted out since they cannot be spayed or neutered yet. In the US, it’s illegal for shelters to put kittens out for adoption if they are not fixed.
Related Post: Spay and Neuter Cats: All Questions Answered
This is why if you don’t want innocent kittens to be euthanized just because they are too young for sterilization, wait until they are eight weeks old before you take them to the shelter.
Once spayed or neutered, the kittens will be released or adopted out.
Not all kittens taken to the shelters are lucky.
In the US, approximately 6.5 million cats and dogs are taken to shelters. About 1.5 million of them are killed, especially if the shelters are full. The good news is that, these days, there are two kinds of shelters: traditional shelters and no-kill shelters.
Like the name suggests, no-kill shelters do their best to keep animals alive even if they are full. After all, their general consensus is that up to 90% of animals will be adopted.
However, in some instances, they will still euthanize some animals that are taken to them, such as those that are terminally ill and deemed dangerous.
In a nutshell, you have a couple of options that won’t put kittens in your yard in peril. First, wait for them to reach eight weeks of age before taking them to a traditional shelter with a TNR program. Second, take the baby cats to a no-kill shelter, preferably when they are already fully weaned.
Are there kittens in your yard, and you have been dreaming of having feline pets for some time now?
It’s fate — all you have to do is wait for the kittens to be fully weaned and old enough to be spayed or neutered, and you can start living a life surrounded by some curious and adorable fur balls!
Welcoming kittens into your home is one of the nicest things that you can do to a bunch of homeless baby cats.
However, it’s a wonderful idea to have their mother cat spayed, too, to keep it from getting pregnant and giving birth to a litter on your property all over again.
In a year, a female cat can get pregnant up to five times.
Although the average number of kittens per litter is four, a litter can have up to 12 kittens, which is quite common in pedigree breeds such as Burmese, Siamese and Oriental cats. In other words, you could end up with 60 kittens in your yard in a span of one year!
Especially if you want to help keep in check the number of homeless kittens and kittens getting sick and dying unnecessarily, make sure that you have a stray mommy cat spayed.
Similarly, before adopting its babies, get them fixed the moment they reach eight weeks of age.
Ask Around for Interested Parties
Worry not if you cannot adopt all or even one or a couple of the kittens in your yard.
That’s because some of your family and friends and people in your neighborhood may be more than happy to have kittens as pets. All you have to do is let them know that there are lovable kittens available for them to adopt.
But because it’s not a good idea to take young kittens away from their mother cat, especially those that are not yet fully weaned, the little cats will have to stay on your property until they are old enough to be separated from their mom.
However, avoid getting too attached to them — your heart may break when it’s time to give them away!
In the meantime, continue putting out food and drinking water to keep their mother properly nourished and hydrated. And when the kittens are ready to try solid food, usually when they are around four to five weeks of age, you may offer them cat food and some human food, too!
Just Before You Spring Into Action
Kittens are vulnerable creatures. This is especially true for those that are younger than eight weeks old and not fully weaned. The next few steps that you will take upon coming across kittens in your yard, whether their mother is around or not, will have a massive impact on the overall fate of the little felines.
Above, we talked about what to do if you find kittens in your yard — all nine possible steps.
It’s critical that you allow the kittens to be with their mother in a safe and secure environment, such as a safe spot in your yard, until they are eight weeks old, which is a time when they are no longer breastfeeding and have better chances of surviving without their mom.
Being the property owner, it’s entirely up to you what you want to do with kittens in your yard. Just make sure that you refrain from maliciously and intentionally wounding, maiming, torturing and killing them because it is illegal in every state.
In California, for instance, you could end up in jail for a year and pay $20,000 in fines if proven guilty.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.