By: Terry Stancheva, Founder at PawsomeAdvice.com
Having a pet is one of the best feelings in the world. They are loving, loyal, and keep you company. Therefore, it’s no surprise that 67% of US households have pets.
However, if you’re homeless, having a pet is a bigger challenge. Unfortunately, since you’re on the streets, chances are you’ll see an abandoned litter of neonatal kittens and feel the need to help.
Here’s what you can do.
What to Do If You’re Homeless
If you’re homeless and you stumble upon a litter of kittens, don’t act on it immediately.
When a cat gives birth, she tends to leave her kittens to eat or drink occasionally. However, she’ll most probably return, so the best thing to do when you find newborn kittens is to wait.
She knows when she needs to feed her babies and keep them warm. On the other hand, if she doesn’t come back, you’ll have to react. However, keep in mind that taking care of newborn kittens is more challenging than you might think.
If you’ve spent enough time on the streets and know the neighborhood, try asking around if people know the mother cat. Try not to touch the kittens or move them to a new place—their mom knows where she left them.
If she doesn’t return, the best thing you can do is take newborn kittens to a vet or animal shelter. Explain your situation and offer to volunteer to take care of them. Shelters are likely to accept your offer, and you’ll get to be close to the kittens.
Another thing you can do is ask your friends who have homes to help you out. Kittens that small should always be well cared for. Unfortunately, you won’t be in a position to provide everything they need until they’re old enough to find a forever home.
Finally, offer to take care of a kitten or two once they’re old enough. Remember to stay compliant with the laws related to your pets and homeless shelters.
Determine How Old the Kittens Are
If the mother cat doesn’t return in about an hour, you can consider taking the kittens with you. This is how you’ll determine their age:
- A kitten with an umbilical cord is up to seven days old
- If kittens’ eyes and ears are closed, they’re seven to 14 days old
- If their eyes and ears are still closed, but they’re wobbly, they’re two to three weeks old
- If their eyes are ears are fully open, they’re three to four weeks old
- If they act like kittens (run, play), they’re between four and five weeks old
- If they look like miniature cats, they’re probably around eight weeks old
Consider Contacting a Vet
If this is your first time taking care of newborn kittens, you should consider reaching out to a vet to get instructions. Vets can also prescribe medication if necessary or even take the kittens in if they have incubators.
Still, know that taking such small kittens to the vet might be dangerous for their health. If you’re lucky, the kittens have already taken colostrum from their mom’s milk, which should boost their immune system. As a result, they should be somewhat protected from diseases.
However, you can’t possibly know how fragile the kittens are. Therefore, taking them to a vet’s office might expose them to bacteria and viruses as well.
Keep the Kittens Warm/Cool While Taking Them Home
Neonatal kittens can’t regulate their body temperature, so you’ll have to do it instead. Depending on the season, you should keep them away from the sun.
Never try to cool them down, especially with water. Bathing such small kittens can seriously jeopardize their health. Instead, keep them in a cool area and take their temperature.
If it’s cold outside, you’ll want to keep the neonatal kittens warm. The colder the kitten gets, the faster its organs will shut down. Use your jacket or armpit to keep them warm until you get home or a vet visit.
Prepare the Nursery
If you have a place to stay and you want to keep the babies, you’ll have to prepare a safe and warm place for them. The best thing to use is a simple cardboard box and a few towels. Remember that kittens this small are too sensitive, so you’ll want to wash the towels before use. Also, avoid using softeners as they can cause issues with kittens’ respiratory systems.
Once you’ve placed the clean towels, take a plastic bottle and fill it up with hot water or use a heating pad. Place it under the towel or wrap it in another cloth so that the kittens don’t come in direct contact with it.
Make sure the box is big enough so that the kittens can move away from the source of heath—they’ll know when to do it instinctively. You can also place a room thermometer inside the box to make sure the temperature is just right. The ideal temperature is between 85 and 90 ℉.
Remove External Parasites
Most kittens you find on the street may be infested with fleas and other parasites. While you can’t clean such tiny kittens from internal parasites just yet, it’s crucial to remove all the fleas since they can cause anemia due to blood loss.
Use a simple flea comb to remove most of the fleas. Don’t use any powders or other chemicals early in kittens’ development. However, if the infestation has gone too far, you’ll have to use a mild pet shampoo.
While it’s not recommended to get the kittens wet, this is the only way to prevent anemia. First, warm up the room where you’ll bathe the kittens and do it quickly. Next, use a warm towel to dry them and use a hairdryer on low. You’ll want the kittens completely dry and warm before returning them to their box.
Get the Necessities
If you take care of the kittens in your home, you’ll want to prepare the following items:
- Pet feeding bottles
- Gram scale
- Cotton balls
- Baby rectal thermometer
- Kitten milk replacement
- Proper antibiotics, if necessary
If you don’t have access to KMR, use the following formula:
- 7 oz milk
- 7 oz water
- One tablespoon of sweet cream
- One fresh egg yolk
Lactose-free milk shouldn’t be diluted with water. Instead, water down regular milk since kittens can hardly digest whole milk.
Feed the Kittens
The general rule is—never feed a cold kitten formula and never feed cold formula to a kitten. If it’s cold, it means it can’t digest the food. Warm up the kitten first and make sure that the formula is also heated to 100 ℉. Another essential thing to remember is never to feed the kittens on their backs. They can breathe in the formula and suffocate.
Place the kitten flat on the surface and prevent it from squirming. Don’t squeeze the bottle. Just keep it at an angle so that air bubbles stay in the bottle. Once the kitten is done eating, make sure to burp it by gently massaging its back.
After the feeding is done, stimulate the kitten’s belly and anal area with a warm wet cloth to help it urinate and defecate. You’ll likely stop with the stimulation at about three weeks since the kitten should have normal bowel movements. This is also the time to start introducing solid food.
What Else You Need to Know
- Neonatal and young kittens are fed on a schedule, and depending on their age, they’ll need different amounts of formula.
- You’ll need to measure kittens daily and track progress. Kittens should gain half an ounce every day or four ounces per week.
- Keep track of how every kitten behaves. Since they’re small and fragile, they are in extreme danger of Fading Kitten Syndrome. Stay informed on why it’s happening and how to handle it since there’s hardly a cure for it.
Having pets is wonderful but also a huge responsibility. Keep in mind that if you’re homeless, chances of you helping neonatal kittens are slim. Now that you know what they need to survive, you should contact someone who can provide adequate care.
Remember to keep them safe in different temperatures until help arrives. After all, if you find abandoned kittens that are three weeks or older, chances are you can safely feed them and keep them with you.
Terry Stancheva is a Founder at PawsomeAdvice.com, where the passion for pets unites the team in delivering professional advice to pet owners. She’s a curiosity-driven person, addicted to SEO, UI design as well. When she is not working you can find her playing with her lovely fluff Bella somewhere in the world.