I found a kitten outside, what do I do?

When finding kittens, many of us want to bring them inside or to a shelter for safety. But, sometimes, their mom is right around the corner, and they should not be taken from her. There are several factors to look for when determining what to do in this situation. We recommend you follow the Kitten Lady’s CASA method, and look at their condition, age, situation, and your ability. Read on to learn more!

Kitten’s Condition

If the kitten looks well fed, clean, and does not appear to be in distress, that kitten likely has a mother. You should leave that kitten where it is and watch for mom to come back.

If the kitten is underweight, dirty, and appears to be in distress or medical crisis, that kitten may not have a mother. This kitten needs intervention. Put on gloves and place him in a carrier to bring to your local animal shelter, rescue, or a veterinarian. 

Poster with details outlined in article.

Kitten’s Age

If the kitten is between zero and five weeks old, he needs to remain with mom. This means either leaving the family where you found them, or trapping them altogether to put into foster care. Zero to five week old kittens are uncoordinated, with closed or baby blue eyes, and unweaned, meaning they need to nurse.

Kittens from five to twelve weeks old are a great age to be socialized. They can be fostered  or brought into a shelter or rescue to be socialized and adopted into homes. A kitten of this age is playful, can walk and run, and eats food independently.

Kittens over twelve weeks old may be more difficult to socialize if they are feral. It is best to find a Trap, Neuter, Return program for these kittens so they can be sterilized and returned to their colony. At this age, a kitten weighs over three pounds and has a lankier body.

The Kitten’s Situation

You can decide if you should take the kitten based on whether it is in a safe or unsafe situation. In a safe situation, the kitten’s mother or caregiver is present, and the family has food and shelter. In an unsafe situation, no one is caring for the kitten and he is exposed to extreme weather hazards. 

Every situation is different, and you should use your best judgement to decide if the kitten needs to stay or be removed.

Your Ability

Determine what means and resources you have available so that you can give the kitten the best outcome possible. Ask yourself the following questions.

Are you or someone you know able to provide foster care?

Is there a shelter or rescue in your area with a lifesaving program that can help?

Can you find sterilization services for the family?

Knowing your own ability and your access to resources should factor into how your respond. If you are unsure, call our help desk at (775) 324-7773 ext. 200, or Washoe County Regional Animal Services dispatch at (775) 322- DOGS.

Where there are kittens, there are cats!

Wherever you find kittens, there are likely other community cats around. Always work to sterilize community cats and help with population control. Work together with local shelters and rescues to care for and sterilize the cats in your community. The Nevada Humane Society has a Trap, Neuter, Return program, and we are working on beginning a program, too!


Written by Ana Hurt

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