Ways & How

How to Care for a Stray Cat and her Kittens

How to Care for a Stray Cat and her Kittens

The abandonment of domestic animals is considered illegal in many countries; yet every year, thousands of cats are turned out in streets by their owners to fend for themselves. It’s bad enough when these cats are left to scrounge whatever food they can, but it’s positively heartbreaking to see a mother cat and a litter of mewling newborn kittens by a street corner. Sure, you can call the local animal shelter for pick-up but in many neighborhoods that are lucky enough to have one, animal shelters are often filled to overcapacity and are stretched too thin to accommodate more.

If you have room in your home and your heart, you might consider taking the mother cat and her babies in. Providing these furry creatures with food and shelter can go a long way to helping the kittens thrive. Cats are mostly self-sufficient creatures; you won’t have to do much as the mother cat is quite good at looking after her own babies. Here’s how to care for a stray cat and her kittens:

  1. Give the mother cat and her kittens a quiet corner to rest in.

    their bed, you can use a big basket or even a cardboard box lined with some old towels and blankets for warmth. Set the bed in an area away from a high-traffic area. Change the linings at least once a day. During winter, make sure to keep the cats in a warm enough place as kittens easily get cold. If you set the bed in a vacant room like your garage or the basement, you might observe the mother cat repeatedly moving her kittens around the room; this is entirely normal behavior. In the wild, a mother cat would often hide her litter separately in different places to protect them from predators. The mother cat will eventually gather all her babies together when it’s time to nurse.

  2. Keep the mother cat as well-nourished as possible. High-quality, wet cat food is the best thing that you can give her. For the first three weeks, the mother cat will be nursing her litter every 1-3 hours, so she can use all the nutrients she could get. By the time the kittens are a month old, they can begin eating wet food. Make sure that the water bowl is always filled with fresh water.

  3. If the cats cannot freely go outside, you’ll have to provide a litter box. Make sure that you use a non-clumping clay litter while the kittens are still nursing. Until the kittens are weaned, only the mother cat will be using the litter box; she will simply lick her babies clean until they transition to solid food. They can, however, try to lick the litter out of curiosity. Non-clumping litter, unlike ordinary cat litter, won’t turn into clumps when wet, minimizing the risk of intestinal obstruction.

  4. You can handle the kittens and play with them gently as soon as you take them in. Handling them might make the mother cat a little anxious though, so just be considerate of her and maybe give her a treat to help her relax. Handling the kittens is good for them as it teaches them to be social with human beings.

    1. It’s a good idea to bring the cats to a vet by the second week so that they could be scheduled for deworming and vaccinations. The mother cat can be fixed by the time the kittens are 5 weeks or older, while kittens can be safely fixed by the time they weigh about 2-3 lbs.

While rescuing animals is a good thing, make sure that you take necessary precautions for you and your family’s safety. When you see a mother cat with a litter, don’t come close right away. Not all stray cats are domesticated cats that have been abandoned; some are considered wild cats or feral cats who have not been socialized to people. They may interpret your approach as a threat, and they can be quite vicious in protecting their young. It can be difficult to tell a stray cat from a feral cat at first glance. In the United States, a female cat who is pregnant or lactating is more likely to be feral since only 2% of feral cats are neutered. Generally, feral cats won’t approach people, houses, or cars; they will go into a protective defensive stance when you come near (crouching, protecting body with tail; staying low to the ground). They rarely meow, purr or beg; they are more likely to be nocturnal, and may belong to a colony. Feral cats with a litter may be rescued but they cannot be expected to be as friendly as strays.

Knowing how to care for a stray cat and her kittens is an important part of responsible animal rescuing. Animals deserve to be treated with respect and love; providing help to creatures in need is one way to show our appreciation for life.


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