I Found a Kitten, Now What Do I Do?
By Diane Fraser
First, assess the condition of the kitten. If you think the kitten needs medical attention, take it to your veterinarian as soon as possible. If you are not sure, you will feel better, once it is checked out by a medical professional.
If you are confident that the kitten is not in need of medical attention or the vet gave the kitten the a-ok, then the next thing to do is to give the kitten food, water and a litter box and a safe place to hang out. You can put it in a bathroom, spare bedroom or if you don’t want to give it too much space to get into trouble, use a dog crate or dog carrier that is size appropriate. Make sure the kitten has a blanket or towel to sleep on. For more detailed information about caring for a newborn kitten, please go to www.feralcat.com. Below are some guidelines to get you started.
Kittens open their eyes at about 8-14 days. Their eyes are blue until they are about 6 weeks old. At about 3 weeks old they are moving around pretty well and can stand up by 20 days old. The ears become erect at about 3 weeks old. Kittens less than 3-4 weeks old may need to be stimulated in order to urinate/defecate. Put warm water on a cotton puffs or cotton tissue and gently swab the genital area to stimulate elimination. Check the bedding as the kitten may urinate in its bedding as it crawls around. You can use A & D ointment on the anal area if irritated. Keep the genital area clean and dry.
The best way to tell a kittens age (if healthy, not malnourished) is by weight.
If the kitten is newborn to about 3-4 weeks old, it may still want/need to be fed by a bottle. There are a few over-the-counter kitten milks available at your pet shop or even your supermarket. Do not use straight-from-the-carton cow milk. Goat milk is okay, but I prefer using KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) by Pet Ag. It comes in dry and pre-mixed cans. While you are at the pet store, pick up a nursing bottle made especially for kittens, along with canned and dry kibble kitten food. Follow the directions given on the KMR can for bottle-feeding. If the kitten is over 2 weeks old, you can try mixing canned kitten food and warmed kitten milk. After you mix the KMR and canned food, see if it will start eating out of the bowl. If not, put a little of the mixture on your finger and put it up to the kitten’s mouth. Draw your finger down to the bowl, so it will eat from the bowl. You can feed the kitten 3 to 4 times a day. Start off with smaller meals. Overeating can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. If the kitten is not gorging itself, you can leave dry kitten kibble out. If the kitten is over 3 weeks old, have a bowl of dry food and fresh water available at all times.
Does the kitten have fleas? It may be obvious. You will see flea “dirt” around the ears and neck or actual fleas crawling on the kitten. Take a flea comb and remove all of the fleas. Have a cup of rubbing alcohol handy to dip the flea comb into, as it will kill the fleas. Most flea treatments can not be used on kittens under 8 weeks. Please check with your veterinarian for recommendations. If it is necessary to bathe the kitten, be sure to dry thoroughly as it could get chilled very easily. Be careful what soap/shampoo you wash the kitten with, some shampoos are too harsh for a young kitten. Find a shampoo that is formulated for kittens.
If the kitten is 3 weeks old it can start using the litter box. Place the kitten into the litter box each time after it eats. Take its paw and scratch the litter, as to show the kitten how to dig a hole. Make sure you use non-clumping litter. Some kittens like to try to eat the litter. If it is the clumping variety, it will clump in the kittens’ tummy and cause a blockage.
If you have other cats or kittens in your home, do not let the new kitten near them. The kitten will need to be isolated for 14 days to ensure the kitten is not carrying a disease or parasite. Make sure you wash your hands after handling the kitten. You can keep the kitten in a pet carrier or in a bathroom, away from drafts. Provide the kitten with a towel or soft blanket to sleep on. Toys are good to have with the kitten as well.
Are you going to keep the kitten? There are many options if you can’t keep the kitten, but now, YOU are responsible for this little life. And you should care about where it ends up.
OPTION # 1
So, you’re going to keep the little fur-ball!
Great! Take the kitten in to your veterinarian to get the kitten on a de-worming/vaccination schedule, plan to test for feline aids and leukemia when age appropriate and the spay/neuter. Your veterinarian will guide you to keep your kitten healthy.
OPTION # 2
Find the kitten a home.
Start by asking your friends, the parents of your children’s friends, your veterinarian, relatives, neighbors, co-workers. Make sure they are responsible pet owners and will care for the kitten, as you would wish. The kitten can be spayed/neutered by the time the kitten is 2 lbs. or 2 months old. Have the adopting family wait until the kitten is old enough to be neutered and have it done prior to the kitten going into the new home. Have the adopting family reimburse you for the medical expenses. The last thing you want is for this kitten to contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. DO NOT PLACE AN AD IN THE NEWSPAPER to find the kitten a home. You will not get the type of home you are looking for. The type of person who can not adopt from shelters (because they have a horrible history with pets) look for “Free to good home” ads. They are also looking to breed the pet, so they will want the kitten un-spayed or un-neutered. This is not what we want or need, as there are too many unwanted pets already.
OPTION # 3
Find a rescue group to take the kitten in….
All rescue groups have different “missions” and all have only a certain number of pets they can properly care for. Make sure you are comfortable with the adoption practices of the shelter…Do you want this kitten to be able to roam outside? Does the shelter spay or neuter the kittens before they are adopted? What are the requirements of the adopting family? Take a look at the groups adoption application. A good place to start is www.petfinder.com to find your local shelters…and start calling to see if anyone can help place this kitten in a good home. You can call us to see if we have space. We will help you if we can.
We hope that this information gives you some guidelines to help care for the rescued kitten for the first day or so. Please, I can’t stress enough, how our veterinarians are our pet health experts. Please contact your veterinarian for any health related questions about your rescued kitten.
Good luck and thank you for doing your part to help the helpless…