March is the official start of kitten season—the time of the year when most kittens are born and Miami-Dade County Animal Services, and shelters nationwide, are busiest with incoming newborns.
If you find 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.
What do you do when you find a litter of kittens?
Watch from a distance
- Don't touch or move them. Instead, watch them from a distance to see if the mother is there. 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.
- It is common for a mother to move her kittens to a new 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.
- Do not interfere with the kittens or their nest since this may stress the mother and cause her to abandon her family. If you really want to help, provide food and water dishes for the mother far enough away from the nest so you do not disturb her or the kittens, or draw predators, such as raccoons, to the nest area.
Are they in immediate danger?
- If the kittens are in immediate danger such as underneath a car, or one that is flooded, find 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, the best approach 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 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.