Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin

Found a Kitten

What is Kitten Season?

Warmer weather acts as a catalyst to bring intact female cats into heat. Therefore, starting as early as late February, finding litters of kittens becomes more common. 

I should always bring stray kittens into a shelter immediately, right? 


The best things for kittens is to stay with their mother. The mother cat offers her kittens’ best chance for survival, and the best food for the kittens is their mother’s milk. Figuring out whether or not kittens need your help can be tricky. It is a good idea to remove the kittens only if they are in immediate, grave danger. Otherwise it is best to leave them with their mother. Here are some helpful hints to help determine if newborn kittens need your help.

1. First Watch, Listen and Wait...

Rather than remove the kittens right away it is good to see if the mom comes back. Kittens have a higher chance of surviving if they remain with their mom. You might have come across the kittens while their mother is off searching for food or is in the process of moving them to a different location. Try to determine if the mother is coming back for them or if they are truly orphaned.

To do this, stand far away from the kittens, 35 feet or more, or leave them completely. It might be several hours before the mother cat returns and may not do so until she no longer senses the presence of humans hovering near her litter.

A good thing to consider when determining whether or not the kittens need help is whether or not they are quiet and warm. A quiet and warm kitten most likely means that they have recently been with their mother and recently fed. This implies that the mother will be coming back for them, so it would be best to leave them there. If the kittens are continually crying or are cold, it is a sign that they have not been fed recently and that they are most likely in need of assistance.


2. If the Mother Does Return…

If the mother comes back for the kittens, it is best to leave the kittens with her. If you can safely catch both the mom and her kittens, then you could bring them all into the shelter. If you are unable to catch the kittens and their mother, then it is best to leave the kittens with her until they are weaned and able to eat on their own, which is usually around 6-8 weeks old. Once the kittens are weaned, it is okay to bring them into the shelter without their mom.


3. If the Mother Doesn’t Return…

If you have waited and the mother has not come back for the kittens, then it is okay to remove the kittens and bring them to the shelter. Things to remember when handling very young kittens is that very young kittens are unable to regulate their body temperature, so it is important to keep them warm, and very young kittens need to eat every couple hours. You can use KMR, or kitten replacement milk, to feed the kittens. Make sure to never feed a kitten cow’s milk or feed a kitten that has a cold body temperature. A cold kitten needs to be warmed up before it is fed. Any sick or injured kittens should be brought into the shelter as soon as possible, and it is good to call the shelter beforehand to let them know.


Consider Fostering

The shelter can get in a lot of kittens, especially during the summer months, and the foster homes can fill up quickly. Foster homes are important because it is better for kittens to grow up in a home environment rather than a shelter environment. They will be exposed to less illnesses and get more socialization. A great way to help out the shelter as well as the kittens is to foster the kittens yourself. Fostering kittens can sometimes be a lot of work but is often very rewarding! Plus the shelter will provide all of the needed supplies and medical attention throughout the fostering period. There is no fee associated with fostering through us, and if you are not sure how to foster, we will be glad to teach you!


Determining a kitten's approximate age


Day Old Kitten 

Eyes are closed and ears are folded




1 Week Old Kitten

Eyes almost completely open, ears are unfolded and kittens are semi-alert




3 Weeks Old Kitten

Kittens are mobile, completely alert, baby teeth are just visible




5 Weeks Old Kitten

Kittens are more active, upper and lower teeth are visible and kittens are able to eat on their own

Upcoming Events

Give a Stray a Story Contest 2019

August 1, 2019 (Submissions accepted until midnight on September 30th) - September 30, 2019

Do you have a creative mind and a love for animals? Take part in our Give a Stray a Story Contest!

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Putts Fore Pups - Presented by Blackhawk Golf Course

September 21, 2019 (9am & 1pm Shotgun Starts) -

Blackhawk Golf Course Presents: Putts Fore Pups! Saturday, September 21st, 2019 4-Person 9-Hole Scramble 9am & 1pm Shotgun Start $35 Per Person

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