May and June often bring kittens. Far too often, those little babies are not welcome. Spay/neuter is the only answer to ending the issue of unwanted feline litters, but that is not what this letter is about. This letter is about taking care of those kittens.
If your cat has kittens and you are not willing to find homes for them yourself, do not take them to the shelter unless they have a nursing queen (adult female) that may be willing to “adopt” the little ones. Neonatal kittens need around-the-clock care for several weeks, and very few shelters are equipped to provide that. A kitten should be allowed to stay with its mom until it is at least eight weeks old, and preferably 10.
If you come across a nest of kittens, do not disturb them for a few hours. The mother may simply be out searching for something to eat or going to the bathroom. If she does not return, that means the nest has been either abandoned (very rare), or something unfortunate has happened to keep her from her litter. Again, do not take the litter to the shelter. In most shelters across the country, very young kittens are generally euthanized upon arrival if there is no way to offer them the necessary care. If luck is on everyone’s side, there may be someone willing to foster the babies. If not, it will be up to you to care for them until you can deliver them to the shelter at 8-10 weeks old.
There is more to caring for very young felines than most people realize. As an example: Did you know that feeding young kittens cow’s or goat’s milk is often fatal for them? Their little systems cannot handle that type of milk, causing severe diarrhea, which in turn causes dehydration, which often results in death. I will not go into all of the very important details regarding the care of young kittens in this letter, but I will give you two excellent resources you may access to learn all you need to know to foster these tiny souls: wisconsinscramble.net will give you a very good overview of what it takes to raise healthy kittens and alleycat.org/KittenProgression will also delight you with photos of kittens at each week of growth from newborn to 10 weeks.
I volunteer at our local shelter, Door County Humane Society, and I’m willing to bet heavily that we will be needing foster homes for kittens before too many more weeks come and go. How about it? Would you like to be a foster parent to a group of fuzzy little balls of fluff until they are old enough to find their very own forever homes? If so, give us a call at 920.746.1111. The satisfaction you get from saving tiny lives will be one of the best feelings you’ve ever experienced. Guaranteed.
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.