Orphan Kitten Fund
The Orphan Kitten Fund has been set up so we can help save the lives of orphan kittens like: Magic & Merlin, the 3D’s (Dolly, Daisy & Dora), Little Nutmeg and the Car Wash Boyz (Billy, Bob & Bingo).
The Orphan Kitten Fund will allow us to equip Foster Homes with all the supplies needed to handrear these vulnerable creatures and provide veterinary care, if needed.
Every kitten season, hundreds of motherless kittens are at risk of dying when born outside. Without a mother to care for them, these kittens face impossible odds, and can’t survive without specialized care.
A Foster Parent will provide 24-hour care and a loving and enriching environment so the orphan kittens can thrive. Once the kittens are about 8 weeks of age, they will then be put up for adoption.
Learn from the expert!
Hannah has a very useful booklet about Orphan Kittens. Download a copy here.
I also recommend getting a copy of Hannah’s book: Tiny but Mighty: Kitten Lady’s Guide to Saving the Most Vulnerable Felines.
Why might a Mother cat reject or abandon her kittens?
- She may have left the nest to go and find food and a well-meaning person finds the kittens and “rescues” them, thinking they have been abandoned. Something may have happened to the Mother while she was out hunting and she was unable to get back to the kittens. The kittens themselves may have wandered off and got lost or become stuck in a place where the Mother couldn’t get to them.
- Sometimes a Mother will reject a sick kitten to avoid spreading illness to the others. It may not always be the “runt” who is ill. A Mother may even reject a physically deformed kitten, even if the kitten is otherwise healthy.
- The Mother may develop mastitis (an infection of the mammary gland) and find it too painful to let the kittens suckle.
- If the Mother has too many kittens or if she doesn’t have enough milk for all of them, then she may reject some of the kittens, to ensure the survival of the others. The Mother may be undernourished herself which could lead to problems producing enough milk.
- The Mother may be only very young, with poorly developed maternal instincts. Cats can get pregnant when they are 4 months of age.
- The Mother may have been traumatized during the birth, i.e. she had a difficult labour or she had chosen an unsafe location to have her kittens and had been disturbed during the labour. If the Mother was very stressed, she may have found it difficult to relax enough to lie down so the kittens could suckle.
What do you do if you find very young kittens outside?
By very young, I mean still in a nest tucked away in a hedge or quiet corner, along with other kittens and entirely dependent on Mum for warmth, food and toileting stimulation.
They may have been crying or you probably wouldn’t have even known they were there – unless you had seen a cat going in and out of the hedge previously.
Don’t immediately think they are abandoned, just because you can’t see a Mum, it doesn’t mean she isn’t there. Chances are, she isn’t there because YOU ARE! She’s probably keeping her distance waiting for you to leave.
Reach in and feel the kittens:
If they are warm, with plump bellies and look clean, leave them alone and retreat to a suitable distance where you can watch “silently and without fidgeting” to see if the Mum comes back. You may have a bit of a wait!
If the kittens are cold and lethargic then scoop them up and get them warm. Very young kittens can’t regulate their own body temperature until they are at least 3 weeks old and if they are very cold then it is critical to get them warm – put them next to your skin, gently rub them or if you have a car nearby, use the car heater.
Note: Never attempt to feed cold kittens.
If the kittens look dirty and are clearly hungry then they aren’t being looked after. Maybe something has happened to their Mum.
If you need to take the kittens, mark clearly where you found them so you can go back later with a Trap and try to catch Mum if she reappears. It may be possible to reunite her with the kittens. Either way, make an effort to find the Mum and get her spayed or she will just carry on churning out litter after litter.
If the kittens look healthy, are in no danger and you know Mum is around then leave them alone. Is there someone nearby who can keep a check on them and maybe start feeding Mum? Is Mum friendly, nervous or obviously feral? Can Mum keep the kittens until they are weaned then be neutered and the kittens fostered and socialised?
If the kittens are in danger due to their location, move them to a safer spot nearby so the Mum can easily find them when she returns.
Very young kittens are best left with Mum, if at all possible. They need special kitten formula and are unable to toilet by themselves and they need regular feeds day and night. Mum is best equipped to do all of this.
Assess the situation very carefully, before removing any kittens. If they are in danger help them!
What do you do if you are out for a walk and spot a kitten?
If the kitten was born outside and hadn’t been socialized, chances are he is feral and will disappear quickly if you approach. He may growl or hiss with ears down or flattened.
If the kitten was from a home and is lost or had been dumped, he would probably be cautious and back away. If he had been there for a while, he might be hungry or even a bit grubby.
If you want to try and coax the kitten over just sit on the ground sideways on, don’t look directly at the kitten, just use your peripheral vision. Just sit still and quiet. If he is a socialised kitten, curiosity may get the better of him and he may approach slowly and cautiously.
If you have some food toss a little bit towards the kitten but don’t look at him or speak to him. If the kitten eats, then toss some more but closer this time. Use the food as an enticement.
Patience is Key here. Even if the kitten is within reach just wait, don’t grab at him. Wait for the right moment. Be 100% sure you can grab the kitten before you even try. Once you have the kitten hold him against your chest. Tightly, if he tries to escape or gently but firmly if he appears relaxed.
Don’t be complacent, it may be the “freeze response” before the “flight response” kicks in. Try to gently stroke and reassure the kitten. If you think he will try and escape wrap him up in your shirt or jacket or put him in your bag, if you have one.
Have you ever wondered why, in a room full of people, a cat will always go to the person who doesn’t like cats? That person avoids eye contact and basically ignores the cat, so the cat gets the measure of that person a lot quicker!
Magic & Merlin
The 2 kittens Merlin & Magic were found under a hedge. They were cold, wet and hungry. There was no sign of the Mother. It was lucky they were found because it rained that night and they probably wouldn’t have survived. The kittens were 2- 3 weeks of age.
Dolly, Daisy & Dora
Four tiny kittens were found in a hedge. Unfortunately, one had already died. The others were very cold. Two were hardly moving but luckily the kitten with open eyes (Dolly) had a very loud cry and that’s what saved their lives. The people who found the kittens brought them to me where I had a microwave heat pad ready and some blankets. We managed to warm the kittens up. I didn’t think the smallest one (Dora) would make it but thankfully she did. All the kittens had fly eggs in their fur.
The kittens looked to be about 8 days old. All were female. They had some kitten formula once they were warmed up (Never try and feed a cold kitten!).
The family who found the kittens put some food under the hedge and kept an eye out in case the Mum returned. She did eventually and we managed to trap her.
Despite repeated attempts to get her to feed the kittens she just wouldn’t and was getting quite stressed.
Mum looked in good health but she was young, nervous and a bit hissy.
We made enquiries in the village to see if anyone knew of her but no one did.
Mum was spayed and went to live on a smallholding.
Necrosis of the Tail Tip
A neonatal kitten is a kitten at its tiniest, when she is newborn to 4 weeks old.
Neonates are vulnerable, they cannot shiver, they lack insulating fat and are unable to thermoregulate (control their own body temperature). If they get cold, hypothermia will result.
The vessels that supply blood to the skin constrict or narrow in response to cold temperatures. This reaction, called “vasoconstriction,” decreases blood flow to the skin and extremities (limbs, tails, ears etc.) which helps to minimize heat loss from the warm blood and therefore preserve a normal internal or “core” temperature.
Continued cold exposure and vasoconstriction can lead to non-freezing cold injuries from reduced nutritional blood flow leading to necrosis (death of cells or tissue).
The little orphans had been exposed to very cold temperatures and it became apparent that 2 of the little kittens had necrosis of their tail tips.
The tips shrivelled and eventually just fell off. There was nothing that could have been done.
Who knew something like this could happen in June!
Little Nutmeg was about 9 days old when she arrived. She had to go to see the vet because of a very poorly eye. She was given an antibiotic injection and had to have eye ointment twice a day.
Little Nutmeg had a condition called Neonate ophthalmia – an infection of a kitten’s eye before the eye is actually open. This can happen during birth if bacteria are present in the birth canal and an infection can build over the course of several days.
Kittens eyes usually start to open when they are about 8 -10 days old. It can take several days for both eyes to fully open.
Nutmeg’s left eye had started to open on the day she arrived and looked healthy with no crust or discharge. Her right eye was still closed and also looked fine.
On the second day her left eye was fully open and looking healthy, the right eye was still closed and also looked normal.
On the morning of the third day when I went to feed Nutmeg her right eye had what looked like a tiny blob of pus in the corner. I used a warm moist pad to gently wipe it away but the pressure caused a lot more pus to appear.
Normally a kitten’s eyes should never be opened manually, but when an eye is infected, it needs to be opened, drained and treated or there is a risk of permanent damage.
Hopefully the eye ointment will do the trick and Nutmeg will recover from this nasty infection.
The Car Wash Boyz – Billy, Bob & Bingo
They were born on the 27th of August and were found lying in a dirty puddle at a Car Wash in Wrexham. There was no sign of Mum. They were taken to the vets who contacted Paul at Candy & Tibby Trust. He went to the Car Wash and saw a B&W cat, possibly the Mum and also a heavily pregnant torti. Paul tried to Trap the Mum but had no luck.
The kittens came to me that evening. I said I would take them since I was feeding Little Nutmeg at night anyway – what’s 3 more!
They were grubby little urchins, still with their umbilical cords attached. They are eating well, pooping just fine and gaining weight.
Please help the Orphan Kittens. Your kind donations will allow us to set up 24 hour Foster Care and pay for the special Kitten Formula and Kitten food these hungry little babies need.