Kitten Season Means Abandoned Newborns: Are You Ready to Help?

Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 9:30am
Kitten drinking out of bottle

In January, our ASPCA Animal Hospital veterinary technicians provided tips for helping your four-legged companions avoid common pet health problems. Now that kitten season is in full swing, we’ve asked our vet techs to share their expert advice on what to do if you or someone you know encounters abandoned kittens while out and about this summer.

Rena: If you find young kittens in a relatively safe area, such as in the grass or on a sidewalk, it’s best to leave them alone. Mom is probably moving her babies or out looking for food. If the kittens are still there after two or three hours, it’s probably time to intervene—but be sure not to scare mom off by hovering during that two-to-three hour window! You’ll want to take the kittens to a vet as soon as possible. If you find the kittens at a time when local vets are closed, please be prepared to feed the kittens every two hours.

Erica: Yes, kittens need feeding every two hours, day and night. Don’t attempt to use a baby bottle made for humans, and don’t feed the kittens human formula or milk. Instead, go to the pet store and get pet nursers and kitten milk replacer (KMR). The nipple of the nurser won’t have a hole, so you’ll need to carefully cut an “X” into the tip. Then turn the bottle over to test whether formula flows. You can warm the bottle of KMR by submerging it in warm water, but do not microwave the bottle.

Temetrias: When you feed a kitten, position the kitten with his feet down, in a standing position, with his head tilted upward. Gently place the nipple in the kitten’s mouth. It may take a few tries for the kitten to latch on and begin to suckle. Sometimes giving the kitten just a drop by squeezing the bottle slightly will help the kitten to begin feeding, and they will usually let you know when they have had enough. After feeding, dip a soft washcloth or a piece of gauze in warm water and gently massage the kitten’s anal and urinary regions. This stimulates excretion, which kittens can't do on their own until their second or third week.

Geniene: Always keep the kittens warm and never feed a cold kitten. A kitten with a low body temperature will have a difficult time digesting formula. If the kittens are dirty, don’t attempt to bathe them. They can easily choke and drown, and don’t regulate their body temperature well at such a young age. Gently wipe the kittens with a damp towel instead.

Manny: Be sure to keep the kittens away from cats or other pets at home. Remember, kittens are not normally weaned until they are four to six weeks old. If you are considering keeping a kitten, it’s important to talk to your veterinarian about his ongoing care needs.

For more information on keeping kittens and pets happy and healthy this summer, visit our Pet Care section.

Three orange kittensWant to receive more information on how to help during kitten season?

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter, ASPCA News Alert - you'll receive important updates on what's going on and how you can make an impact to save animals' lives!