It's kitten season: what to do if you find a litter of kittens

Boy holding a Tiny Newborn Kitten

Photo: Getty Images

If you are an animal lover like I am, then you’re going to want to jump in and help if you find a small, helpless animal who looks like it may be in danger -- or cold, hurt or hungry. But that may not be the safest thing for the animal.Here are some tips and life-saving information on “what to do” when you find a litter of kittens during kitten season.

Kitten season is the time of year when unfixed cats procreate and give birth to kittens. As the weather warms, cats go into heat.

According to Best Friends Animal Society, “In most places across America, animals mate and give birth in spring. This phenomenon can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as longer days, better weather and more access to food, which means higher survival rates for the offspring of many species. Unlike other animals, though, cats can keep on reproducing, having litter after litter right up until the weather turns cold again. In many regions, kitten season can last from spring until early winter.”

When community members find a litter of kittens outside, the temptation is to jump right into “savior mode” and “rescue” these tiny cats. This notion has been given the moniker “kitnapping” and all three agencies ask the public to not act on that instinct. Instead:

  • Watch and wait: The mother cat is likely nearby. A kitten’s best chance at survival is to stay with its mother. It may take a few hours for her to return. (Check the age guide provided to determine the best option for the kittens.)
  • If mom returns: Provide support (food, water, shelter) as needed and when the kittens are 8 weeks old, get mom and kittens spayed/neutered and find them homes.
  • If mom does not return: A home is a better option than the shelter. JHS can provide coaching on care instructions and help support your efforts to find the kittens new homes once they are ready.

Kitnapping is not the best option for kittens, mother cats and shelters.

Underage kittens are the most fragile population in shelters and require extra time, labor and resources that are not always available. When underage kittens arrive at the shelter, they most often have to go into a foster home the very same day, putting an extra strain on staff and volunteers. Also, when no one looks for the mother cat, she is left alone to continue reproducing in the community.

Here are some videos which will provide you more information!

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