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Tall Tails: Let Sleeping Kittens Lie!

This week, I received a question via email about the veracity of the common wisdom of not picking up stray kittens. My answer is thus: Let sleeping kittens (and puppies) lie!

It is nearly impossible not to worry when stumbling upon a tiny, blind, deaf, nearly naked, alien-looking creature in the grass. I’m not talking about our Disney friend Stitch here, but a newborn kitten.

Should you be outside and stumble upon that ugly (but adorable) creature described above, PLEASE”¦ leave it be. The situation will be very similar to that of the baby bird discussed last week. Momma Cat is nearby and she is watching you! Unlike a bird, she probably won’t dive bomb you or even make herself known, but she is keeping an eye on her kittens.

Should you feel the need to do something for the kittens, make a note of the location you saw the kitten. Assess the situation: is there traffic or predators (very similar to the questions you asked yourself about the baby bird). In many cases, momma is most likely moving the litter. She probably has a few kittens and she can only carry one at a time. Most (if not all) of the time, she will return for the remaining kittens.

However, if you return to the area in an hour or so and momma has not returned for baby, there are ways to hand raise kittens. Having helped raise three itty-bitty kitties myself, I would caution the faint of heart (or those who enjoy sleeping). It is a long road of hourly feedings, piddling, bathing, socializing, and”¦ basically raising a human baby that is much smaller but equally as noisy and smelly. If that sort of thing is not for you then LEAVE THE KITTEN BE.

Remember what I said about the birds last time? They don’t care if their chicks smell like humans. While cats do have a stronger sense of smell, Momma Cat isn’t going to be offended if you moved her kitten out of harm’s way or gave him a warm blanket to snuggle with while he waits for Mom to come back for him.

If the kitten has been injured, seems sick, malnourished, or otherwise unwell, contact your local veterinarian for an appointment. At the very least, contact a shelter or cat rescue in your area. These groups usually will take the kitten for free, pay for all medical expenses, and then find the little guy (or girl) a loving forever home.

That’s all the goodies I have for you today, Persephoneers! Tune in next week to find out why the turtle crossed the road! (Hint: It is not only to get to the other side!)

Kait is a certified veterinary technician with small and large animal clinical experience. She also worked as a squirrel wrangler and a raccoon herder during a stint in wildlife rehabilitation. Kait has a passion for teaching others about proper animal care and preventative medicine. She currently resides in the frozen tundra known as Minnesota.

The information provided herein should not be construed as a veterinary diagnosis, treatment regimen or any other prescribed veterinary medical advice or instruction. The information is provided with the understanding that the author is not engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine or any other health-care profession and does not enter into a health-care practitioner/patient relationship with her readers. The author does not advise or recommend to her readers treatment or action with regard to matters relating to the health or well-being of their pet(s) other than to suggest that readers consult appropriate veterinary medical professionals in such matters. No action should be taken based solely on the content of this publication. The information and opinions provided herein are believed to be accurate and sound at the time of publication, based on the best judgment available to the author. However, readers who rely on information in this publication to replace the advice of veterinarians, or who fail to consult with veterinarians, assume all risks of such conduct. The author is not responsible for errors or omissions.

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InnatelyKait

I am an art history student extraordinaire doing research on Hellenistic Sculpture in Ancient Greece. I also moonlight as a multitasking office assistant. Yes, I am really that awesome. In a past life (or career really) I was a photographer. Chocolate and ugly baby animals keep me from being as awesome as I could be. I know all the names of the cats in my building (but not the names of their humans) so I guess I am the crazy cat neighbor.

13 thoughts on “Tall Tails: Let Sleeping Kittens Lie!”

  1. Hand raisers be very careful- you’ll have to learn techniques to avoid aspiration. I had a kitten whose mother I owned, but the kitten had trouble latching the first few weeks. You also have to teach kittens how to poop by rubbing their anal glands… definitely not for the faint of heart!

    1. (He was eventually taken in first by a family with an Autistic son, then by the kid’s Aunt. The kitten had some health issues- thus the difficulty latching- and they translated into being too much for a family with small kids. Thankfully the aunt was single and devoted to taking care of a special by then grown up cat. <3 )

  2. My cat was a rescued stray kitten. His momma had them in a shed behind the banquet center where my brothers worked. They found the litter of kittens and called their boss. The boss said to get rid of them or else they had a date with a shovel(!!!), so my bros moved them to a box in the shade outside the shed and blocked it off so that momma cat couldn’t get back in. I stopped by at one point to check on them and most of the kittens were cuddled together not making a peep, but there was one that had different coloring that was just hissing and growling. I’ve never seen a kitten act like that.

    Later in the day, momma came at moved the litter. Well, except for the hissing one. I went over there and picked him up. He came home in a 12 pack diet coke box buckled into the front seat. I found a recipe for emergency kitten formula and had my mom watch and feed him while I ran to the store to get litter box stuff, toys, a bed, real kitten formula, and other supplies. I fed him with an eyedropper because he refused the bottle and showed my family how to feed him and rub him with a washcloth while I was in class.

    He was a little bigger than a chipmunk when we brought him in. Now he’s a ~20 pound monster that is soft like a bunny but will tear you up if you don’t let him do things on his terms.

  3. Gahhh I am so into this column! My littlest girlcat was found outside my workplace at six weeks old, and we know not from whence she came. We got her dewormed and got her shots, introduced her to the other two older cats, and she grew up so quick- now she’s six months old, about to be spayed and spends every night sleeping on my head.

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