It happens every spring,” is a 1949 comedy about baseball. Something else that happens every spring that is no laughing matter, however, is an abundance of kittens. Even with all the education about spay/neuter, far too many cat owners fail to fix their felines. Adding to the "kitten season" problem is the feral cat population, despite the best efforts of feral cat trappers to conduct trap, neuter, return (TNR) programs.
While it can be upsetting to come upon a litter of kittens crying for their mom, don’t assume she has abandoned them or that she has come to some harm. A mother cat may be off looking for food. That’s why the best thing you can do is to first determine if mom is coming back. Mother cats need to feed their babies every three hours. If mom doesn’t come back; then you can take the kittens.
Next determine if the family is in a safe or potentially harmful environment. If you feel they are in danger, try to bring the family indoors by trapping the mom and taking the kittens. It’s important to take the kittens first, however. If mom thinks her kittens are in danger, she will move them and then you may not find them. If however, you think they are in a safe environment, leave the family where it is.
Place food and water for mom and the kittens but leave them at a distance to avoid disturbing them. Also the food should be far enough away from the family to avoid attracting other animals to the area that could harm the kittens.
Kittens should stay with their moms until they are eating on their own, at around four to six weeks. When they are eating on their own, it’s safe to trap the mom and the kittens. Mom can be fixed at that time; kittens should be two months or two pounds before they are spayed or neutered.
Once you sterilize the kittens, you can bring them inside to try to socialize them to make them friendly for adoption. This requires time on your part so you need to be committed if you want to help them find homes. If you aren’t able to socialize them, try to find an organization that can help or see what the policy is at your local shelter. Some shelters have programs for socializing feral kittens.
Whisker Warriors can provide more advice on dealing with feral moms and their kittens. Contact us