By Sharon Aron Baron
Each year shelters nationwide brace themselves for “kitten season,” and South Florida shelters receive thousands of kittens in the spring and summer months.
When people find kittens outdoors without their mom, their first instinct may be to bring them inside or rush them to a shelter.
Now in the peak of kitten season, Animal shelters throughout Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach warn well intention, good Samaritans that picking up found litters of kittens may be hurting them more than helping them.
Research shows, when kittens are separated from their mother, their chances of survival drop significantly. In most cases, newborn litters of kittens don’t need human intervention and, in fact, taking the kittens is inadvertently creating orphaned kittens.
According to Broward County Animal Care, the best thing is to keep the mother and kittens together to ensure the kittens’ best chances of survival, until the kittens are eating on their own and can be safely removed for socialization and adoption.
If you find a kitten, do not interfere with it as it may cause stress to the mother. If you really want to help, you can provide some food and water for the mother, placed a good distance from the nest.
Observe the kittens from a distance. The mother may be out looking for food, but she will most likely return.
If the kittens are in immediate danger, like under a car or in a flooded area, find a safe place nearby to move them, but make sure they’re still close enough for their mother to find them.
After 24 hours the kittens are observed, and there is no mother you may pick them up and care for them. Newborn kittens need special care.
If the mother comes back and is friendly, wait until the kittens are 2 pounds or 2 months old before bringing them and their mom to a veterinarian or to the Animal Services’ Pet Adoption and Protection Center to be vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
Kittens under four weeks of age need round the clock care which most shelters are not equipped to provide. Shelters rely on volunteer foster programs to supplement the care and needs of these newborn kittens. Unfortunately, when babies are separated from their moms it threatens their ability to thrive and survive, which is more reason to leave kittens with their mom.
Orphaned kittens need to be bottle-fed with special formula every two to three hours, then stimulated to eliminate, cleaned and kept warm because at such a young age they cannot regulate their body temperature. Most shelters will provide you with everything needed to care for the newborn kittens.
Once the foster kitten is old enough to transition to solid food and be spayed or neutered, that is at about 2-months-old or 2 pounds in weight, foster volunteers can bring the kittens back to the shelter so they can be placed up for adoption and find their forever homes.
Want to adopt a cat? There are so many who need homes here.
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