It is best to leave very young kittens with their mom. The mom may be gone for a time to look for food or relieve herself. Don’t assume that she has abandoned the kittens. Keep watch on the newborns and if mom does not return in 2 or 3 hours, the kittens may need to be taken to a (human) foster parent who can bottle feed them. If you do find an orphaned kitten, DO NOT give the kitten cow's milk. You can find kitten formula and kitten baby bottles at a pet supply store. Please click on this link for more information on kitten care:
Can I tame a feral kitten?
If a kitten is 8 weeks old or younger, you should have success with socializing, if you do it properly. Keeping the kitten contained in a kennel or cat “play pen” and hand-feeding, are key elements to socializing. Every day after 8 weeks of age, it becomes more difficult to socialize. Some young kittens will tame immediately and others may take a few weeks, depending on their age, temperament and prior exposure to humans. If you can commit the time and patience to do this properly and give the kitten a good, indoor life, I think it’s the best thing you can do for the kitten and a great act of kindness. You will save lives and produce a loving and affectionate companion pet. If not socialized properly while young, the kitten will be destined to grow up feral (not socialized to humans) and add to the over-population of homeless cats living on the streets. If the kitten is left outdoors to grow up feral, it will then be necessary to trap the kitten in order to get it spayed or neutered, using the Trap, Neuter & Return* method. If you find a feral kitten or kittens in your neighborhood and decide to take them in and socialize them, please make the extra effort to find the mother, as well as any males in the neighborhood and get them all spayed and neutered through TNR*. For information on proper socialization of feral kittens, please click on the links below:
How can I determine a kitten's gender?
It can sometimes be difficult to tell what the gender is on very young kittens, but as they get older it will become much easier to distinguish male kittens from female kittens. The website below gives some excellent information on how to handle a kitten properly while determining its gender, along with some very helpful pictures that will make sexing your kitten easy.
Can I trap a mom and her litter of kittens?
If you find young kittens that cannot be separated from their mother, you can trap the mom and bring mom and kittens indoors for fostering. When we do this, we put the mom and babies in a large exercise pen (4' x 4' x 36") with a mesh top, and then put a large sheet over the top of the pen, covering the top and 3 sides of the pen. The pen and top can be purchased at Ryan's Pet Supply in Phoenix, or online at Amazon Smile. (Please enter H.A.R.T. as your charity when you order from Amazon Smile!) We also put a large plastic carrier with bedding inside the ex-pen, so mom has a place to nurse her babies. She will feel safe inside the carrier. If you use a bungee cord to keep the carrier door open, she can go in and out as needed. The ex-pen is large enough to allow room for a litter box, food and water bowls and even a scratching post and toys. If the mom is feral, she will probably stay inside the carrier when you enter the room. This will allow you to carefully open the ex-pen door to clean the litter box and give food and fresh water. When the babies are weaned, they can be removed from the pen and separated from mom. After the mom has had some time for her milk to dry up, she can be spayed with an ear tip and returned to the outdoor environment that she came from. For more information on how to determine the best plan of action for a mom and her litter of kittens, please visit this website:
Should I relocate my feral cats to a "safer place?"
Relocating feral cats in not recommended for a number of reasons. Cats are very territorial and have strong bonds with the area they inhabit. There is important protocol that must be followed strictly if a feral is relocated, and this should only be done under extreme circumstances and if all other attempts to negotiate and work out existing problems has failed. It is always best to try to solve the issues that are threatening the cats' presence in their current environment. The grass is not always greener somewhere else, and change is very difficult for cats to adjust to.
Please see below for information about relocating feral cats: