I picked them up, brought them inside, and called the Humane Society. They asked me a few questions and told me not to try to feed them. I was told to return them to exactly where I found them and wait a few hours to see if the mother came back. I hated to do that but followed their instructions and a few hours later the kittens were gone, and I have not seen them since. How do I know that some other animals didn’t come by and just grab them. Was that good advice? It seems sort of heartless to me.
Imagine if you were a mother cat fending for yourself and your kittens outdoors and you leave them in what you think is a safe place and go off to hunt down some food. (Remember cats living on their own don’t have grocery stores or babysitters.) When you come back from doing what you must to keep your babies thriving, they are gone. Does that seem heartless to you? Not to make you feel guilty, exactly, but the reality is that unless you see a dead mama cat hit by a car in the road, it is very likely that she has every intention of returning for those babies, to feed them, and possibly to move them to a safer place, which is probably what happened with these babies.
So, it is always good advice, especially if there is no imminent danger to the kittens (and most mother cats do not leave their kittens where there is imminent danger), to wait, for several hours usually. Find a place where you can keep an eye on them but not be close enough to scare their mother away. The mother cat offers her newborn kittens their best chance for survival, so wait and watch if you safely can for her to return before doing anything more drastic. They will not starve in the meantime.
If she comes back and seems to be inclined to stay there, put some food or water out for her, not too close so you don’t frighten them away, but close enough that she can find it and maybe stay there while you come up with a plan for her and the kittens when they are older. You can call the Humane Society for help with that. How to proceed to help these cats in the long run will depend on how tame the mother cat is and that may not be obvious at first. But that’s another column.
While you are waiting and watching, you can use that time to talk to the Humane Society about what to do if she does not return. The Humane Society can help with that too.
But remember that mother’s milk provides kittens with immune system protection that can’t be replaced by formula. Taking unweaned kittens away from their mother unnecessarily may mean the difference between life and death for them. So, caution is always a good idea. In cases where very young kittens do need human care, bottle-feeding to the weaning stage takes a lot of time, dedication, and energy, and it can be devastating to the caretaker if kittens don’t make it. Newborn orphaned kittens require 24/7 care, and many do not survive despite your best efforts.
We hope we haven’t discouraged you too much from your good intentions. We need more people like you, but we also need you to know as much as possible about how to put your good intentions to good use.
### About Oswego County Humane Society
We provide services to promote and strengthen the human-animal bond through fostering-to-adoption programs, spay/neuter clinics, and humane education. The Oswego County Humane Society is designated under IRS code 501(c)3 as a charitable organization: 161586001 and registered with the New York State Charities Bureau: 06-70-81. Our registration number with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is RR239.