Let Mom and Kittens Thrive Outside*
When someone finds a tiny kitten meowing under their porch or even a whole litter of kittens huddled under a bush outdoors, they may want to help immediately but not know what to do. Compassion is a good impulse, but our actions must always be guided by what is in a cat’s best interest. That means allowing kittens and moms who are already thriving outdoors to stay right where they are.
The truth is, in nearly all cases, kittens outdoors don’t need to be “rescued.” In fact, removing kittens from their mothers and bringing them indoors can be detrimental to their wellbeing. If you see kittens alone, their mother is likely close by—and her instincts make her their best possible caregiver.
The best thing you can do is LEAVE THEM BE.
Leave Them Be Because Mother Knows Best
There’s a reason that phrase is a key nugget of wisdom—especially in the world of animals.
No matter how many years of experience we gain bottle-feeding and raising kittens, we will NEVER be able to match a mother cat’s instinctual form of care. Plus, it takes monumental efforts on our part to provide the round-the-clock care that unweaned and neonatal kittens (kittens under 4 weeks old) need to survive.
A mother cat who lives outdoors knows just how to protect her kittens and doesn’t need our intervention. Give her a few basic essentials (shelter and food and water) and then let her do her job. Leave Them Be until the kittens are no longer nursing (meaning they are weaned), when they are around 8 weeks old.
If you find kittens outdoors without their mother, do not assume they don’t have one. Watch for 6 to 8 hours to see if mom returns. She is likely out looking for food, is in the process of moving her kittens, or is just taking a little break.
What if kittens DO need help? If you have waited for hours and a young kitten’s mother never returns, you will have to intervene and provide care in her stead. Download our kitten care guide to learn more about fostering your kittens. You should also step in if the kittens or their mother look sick or injured and are clearly not thriving. If this is the case, request an appointment to bring them to the shelter.