If You Find Kittens

It is very important to assess the age of kittens BEFORE handling them. If you pick up a kitten that still has it's eyes closed, chances are the mother will reject the kitten. Babies this young have a very slim chance of surviving with bottle feeding. On the other hand, waiting until a kitten is 6 months old to attempt socialization is also asking for disaster. Here is a guide to age and appropriate action.

Under 2 weeks old

Eyes closed, very uncoordinated- kittens should NOT be handled or taken from their mother. If mom isn't around, she is probably out hunting and will not return if people are near.

If you take in babies this age they need to be bottle fed every 2-3 hours. They need to burped and stimulated to pee and poop after each feeding. They will typically take 1-2 ounces of goat milk or formula. Always feed kittens in an upright position to prevent fluid getting in the lungs. Kittens need to be kept warm with a heating pad.

2-4 weeks

Eyes open, beginning to romp and play but still uncoordinated, not eating solid food- kittens still need to be with their mothers but might be safe to trap mom and babies to be fostered together now.

If you take in kittens this age they still need to be bottle fed every 4-6 hours. They will typically take 2-4 ounces of goats milk or formula per feeding. Around 3 weeks old they will start peeing and pooping on their own and you can introduct a litter box with clay or pellet litter.

4-6 weeks

Will eat wet food/drink water from dish but very messy, still a bit uncoordinated. This is the age most moms will bring kittens out of hiding to let them play. She may leave fresh kills for them to eat. This is the perfect time to start socializing with food and play. But kittens still need mom's milk to thrive. If mom is tame, keep them together. If mom is feral, this is a good time to take in the kittens before mom has a chance to teach them feral behaviors.

Kittens this age do not need to be bottle fed. They can eat wet food mised with goats milk in a dish 3 to 4 times a day. Dry food can also be left out for them. They will use a litter box fairly well but accidents may still happen. This is a very messy age-paws and face need to be cleaned frequently.

6-8 weeks

Beginning to eat dry food, very playful, starting to climb and jump. Kittens are ready to be weaned. This is a safe time to separate from mom, especially if mom is feral. Moms should be given 2 weeks for their milk to dry up and should then be trapped and spayed.

Kittens this age should be eating both dry and wet food. They are keeping themselves clean (mostly) and using the litter box consistently. This is the time to make and appointment for their first vaccination.

8-12 weeks

If left with feral mom, kittens are already starting to show trust issues-hissing, spitting, growling. This is a tricky age to begin socializing. Patience is needed. Unfortunately not all kittens at this age will "tame" up. Use wet food and treats to gain trust.

Over 3 months

With no prior people contact, socialization is very difficult. But it is critical that these kittens get trapped and spayed/neutered immediately. Females can get pregnant as early as 5 months of age. Early spay/neuter can help stop the cycle of over-population.