Because we are a TNR group and not a rescue or sanctuary, we take kittens in only in exceptional circumstances. Although we might be able to provide help and support, we might not always be able to take the kitten for you. You should thus take into consideration the option of taking responsibility for the kitten and looking after it yourself until the owners or a new home are found. If this is not an option, you should try to find someone who could take care of the kitten; ask your friends, workmates or family members to help you out. Remember that the kitten might be owned, so it is recommended to follow the steps highlighted in the lost and found section. The following tips will help you to make the right decision and to judge of the emergency of the situation.
First of all, try to estimate the age of the kitten. If the eyes are still closed, the kitten is probably less than 10 days old. If the ears are not completely lifted up, it is probably less than 2 weeks old. Is the kitten weaned or does it need to be bottle-fed?
You should also try to determine if the kitten is sick. Often, feral kittens may have cat flu, easily recognisable because of the gooey eyes, and they will need to receive veterinary attention.
With young kittens:
You should wait before picking up a kitten that is not weaned as it is possible that his mother will come back for him. If your scent is on the kitten she will most likely reject him. However, you should not waste time either as a young kitten needs feeding every 3 hours and lack of food will result in the kitten’s death. You should thus get organised about what you should do if the mother does not return for him.
The best for a kitten who is still feeding of its mum is to put him with a surrogate mother. Contact all your local rescue groups and vets to ask if they would know of a nursing queen and put as many appeals as possible on Facebook.
If you cannot find a nursing mother, you will need to consider hand-rearing the kitten. This is a difficult task that requires a lot of dedication and even though you give all the care and attention needed, the kitten might still die. Do not give regular milk as cats are lactose-intolerant; it would give the kitten diarrhea, causing dehydration and certain death. Instead, you can find kitten formula at most vets and in pet shops; they will also sell kitten bottles. Royal Canin’s kits, which are available in Maxi Zoo, contain a bottle. Again, if you cannot find any formula, you should contact local rescues as they most likely stock some.
Hand-rearing very young kittens is quite demanding and requires time, patience and dedication. It can be emotionally draining as kittens might get sick or die for no obvious reason. As most rescues are often over-loaded, you should consider bottle-feeding yourself, or asking a friend to help, and we would be more than happy to provide support, but you must be aware that it is a 24-hour job.
With older kittens:
With kittens who have started weaning, it is usually easier as they do not need to be fed as often. Depending on their age, they will need to be fed 3 to 5 times a day. Kittens usually start weaning at 4 weeks old; however, it is still recommended to give them kitten formula as it helps to build up their immune system. You should then slowly introduce them to wet and dry kitten food (Royal Canin Babycat 34 is an excellent dry food as it contains the necessary nutrients for the kitten and the kibbles are really small). Do not change the food too quickly as it will upset them and will cause diarrhea.
You should also look for any sign of sickness: cat flu, ring worms, diarrhea, constipation, etc and consult a vet if you have any doubt. The kitten will also need to be wormed from 3 weeks old. Do ask the vet for the appropriate treatment for the kitten’s age (Parazole is often used for young kittens).
Once the kitten has grown up, you may then consider rehoming him/her. Please, insist that the kitten should be neutered/spayed as soon as possible (see our page on neutering), but also vaccinated. You may actually consider having it done yourself prior to rehoming. Do not hesitate to ask for a small contribution from the adopter as it will make him/her more responsible and it will help you to cover for the food and vet treatment. Please read our section on private rehoming for information and tips about how to rehome a kittens/cat.
Rescue groups would love to help; however, it is important to understand that it is not always an option if they are already looking after too many kittens. You should not assume that they will automatically take the kitten off your hands and you should really consider in what ways you can help in what has become everybody’s responsibility. If they are able to take the kitten, please, remember that they are voluntary organisations and that a small donation to help covering for the costs is always appreciated as they run solely thanks to the generosity of the public.