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While our first instinct is to want to help, taking in kittens born outside to hand-rear is not a decision to be made lightly. It’s crucial to know whether they’re truly orphans, or if their mother simply is away for a few hours to feed herself. Mother’s milk provides kittens with immune system protection that can’t be replaced by formula. Taking unweaned kittens away from their mother may mean the difference between life and death for an individual kitten. 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.
Prepare yourself and avoid tragic mistakes by reading our guidelines on how to tell whether kittens found outside are truly orphans in need of your help, and how to give orphaned kittens the best chance to thrive.
During high kitten season in the spring and summer, it’s not unusual to discover a nest of unattended kittens or a single kitten seemingly abandoned by the mother. You want to help, right? Before jumping to the rescue, consider these recommendations.
Neonatal kittens (under four weeks of age) cannot eat solid food (not canned, not dry) so they must be bottle-fed around-the-clock. Prepare for bottle-feeding and proper care before you take kittens off the street.
Learn the skills needed to successfully bottle-feed and care for orphaned kittens. Find out how to navigate all the stages of kitten care, and what equipment, formula, and bottle-feeding techniques get the best results.