Found a nest of unattended kittens or a single kitten seemingly abandoned? Don’t jump to the rescue just yet, momma cat may have just gone out for a bite to eat.
To ensure the best chances of survival for “found” newborn kitten(s), Animal Services advises residents to consider the following recommendations:
Watch from a distance
Don’t touch or move them. Instead, observe them from a safe distance to determine if the mother is present. Though the mother stays continually with her litter for the first day or two after giving birth, she will need to leave them for short periods of time to find food so that in turn, she can feed her young.
Also, it is common for a mother to move her kittens to a new “safer” location. This is because establishing a new nest is part of the cat’s instinctual behavior to safeguard her young by not remaining in one place too long.
Above all, do not interfere with the kittens or the space they are occupying and this may stress the mother and actually cause her to abandon her family. If you really want to help, what you can do is provide food and water dishes for the mother far enough away from the nest so that you do not disturb her or her kittens, or draw predators, such as raccoons, to the nest area.
Are they in immediate danger?
If the kittens are in immediate danger or in a dangerous area, such as underneath a car, in an area that is flooding due to rain, etc., look for the nearest safe area to which you can move them that will still allow the mother to find them. Place them in a sheltered area, away from direct sun, rain or traffic and continue to watch for the mother.
When to intervene
If you determine that the mother is friendly (socialized), the best approach you can take is to take her and the kittens indoors until the kittens are old enough to be weaned, sterilized and adopted.
After you have observed the kittens for from 12 to 24 hours and are sure the mother is not likely to return, or if the kittens are clearly in poor health or injured, then by all means pick them up and care for them. Alleycat.org offers great tips on caring for newborn kittens.
Be aware that sometimes, no matter what you do, some neonatal kittens do not survive and can fade very fast. You can only try to be the best surrogate guardian possible and hope for the best.
Visit the Miami-Dade Animal Services website for more information.