Every spring and fall, animal rescue groups around the valley get flooded with calls from people who have taken in tiny kittens and don’t know how to care for them. Perhaps they were found behind a woodpile, in a garage, or in the bushes. If you find tiny kittens somewhere, please answer the following questions before removing the kittens from the nest:
• Do the kittens feel warm?
• Are they all alive?
• Are they in a relatively safe place?
If the answer to all three questions is “yes” then please leave them where they are. Mother cats often leave the nest to search for food and water, or to stretch their legs. They move their kittens frequently in the first few weeks, and chances are they will be coming back. Check back in 24 hours and answer the same questions again. If you have witnessed the death of a mother cat, or if the kittens are cold or unsafe, then removal is warranted.
If you remove kittens from a dangerous situation, please follow these guidelines:
• Keep them warm.
• Feed them kitten formula with a syringe, dropper, or kitten bottle. Formula and bottles can be found locally at Walmart, Alco, Safeway, and Big R. Do NOT feed them cow’s milk.
• Feed them every 1-3 hours, around the clock. If they are crying, they are probably hungry. If milk comes out of the nose, the milk is coming out too fast.
• Make sure all four of the kitten’s feet are on a horizontal surface. Feeding them when they are upright or on their backs increases the risk of milk going into their lungs.
• Young kittens cannot eliminate on their own during their first few weeks of life. You will need to wipe their bottoms with a damp cotton ball or soft cloth to stimulate elimination.
If you have rescued kittens from an unsafe situation in the San Luis Valley and need help, call one of the animal rescue organizations in the valley for advice, referrals, or potential fostering:
• Valley Humane League: 589-0703
• SLV Animal Welfare Society: 587-9663
• Alpha Humane League: 852-2201
• Conour Animal Shelter: 852-3366
• CROW Cat Rescue: 852-2769
Mothers whose kittens are removed too early risk suffering from mastitis, a painful and potentially deadly infection. The kittens risk death and failure to thrive, since even the best bottle-feeders cannot mimic a mother cat’s care and milk. Mother cats and kittens are healthiest when the kittens are allowed to nurse for at least 8 weeks. In addition, bottle-feeding is a LOT of work. Unnecessary removal of kittens is hard for all involved: mother cats, kittens, and humans.
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