Unleashed A blog for animals and the people who love them

Found a litter of kittens: Now what?

It’s kitten season, which is the time of year animal shelters are flooded with young cats. It can be overwhelming for shelters, which can lack the space, funding, and the people to care for young kittens, some of which need to be bottle-fed every few hours, and many of which must be weaned, spayed/neutered, and then adopted.

It’s also when well-meaning animal lovers come through the doors with feral litters they’ve found outside.

The experts at Best Friends Animal Society, which runs one of the largest no-kill shelters in the world and works to end shelter deaths of dogs and cats, say that while people have the best of intentions in rescuing stray litters of kittens, it’s not always the best thing to do. Shelter managers do everything they can to save all the pets they receive, says Best Friends, but it’s not always possible, and about 70 percent of cats that enter shelters never leave.

They offer several pieces of advice for those who find litters, especially during kitten season (spring to early summer):

Don’t panic. Keep an eye on the kittens from a distance for awhile. Cats frequently leave kittens for several hours at a time while they look for food, and many litters that look abandoned actually aren’t.

Contact the shelter by phone and report what you’ve seen. They’ll know whether the cats are actually abandoned, whether they might need care, and whether there’s room for them at the shelter. They can also help you decide what to do about the litter and point you toward the best help for them.

If the mother returns, contact a trap-neuter-return organization, which will spay or neuter the cats and leave them in the wild. Most rescue organizations agree this is the most humane way to care for feral cats.

For more information, visit bestfriends.org.

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