For the Love of Cats, Don’t Become a Kit-Napper!

May 2, 2022

Here at Kitsap Humane Society, we love kittens. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s because we love these wonderful tiny creatures so much that we urge you—don’t become a kit-napper!A group of five kittens staring inquisitively up at the camera!

“Wait, what’s a kit-napper?”

A kit-napper is a well-meaning, concerned individual who sees a kitten, or kittens, somewhere all alone and rushes into action to “save” them. They scoop up the little one and bring it to safety as quickly as possible. While we appreciate the concern and willingness to intervene, every year we receive hundreds of perfectly healthy, cared-for kittens whose moms were hiding just a short distance away.

It is perfectly natural for mother cats to leave their kittens unattended for extended periods. Usually, if mom’s away, she’s busy hunting down food to ensure that she and her babies stay well-fed. It’s important not to assume a kitten is orphaned just because you don’t see mom around.

“But KHS is awesome and will care for these kittens so well! Shouldn’t I just bring them in?”

While it is true that our team of veterinary and foster staff, as well as our dedicated foster parents, are amazing, nobody is better at raising kittens than momma cat herself.

Mom’s milk provides vital nutrients and critical antibodies that support a growing kitten’s body and protect against deadly disease. Mom also facilitates most of their important bodily functions during the first weeks of life. When a kitten is prematurely taken away from its mom, it faces an increased vulnerability to illness and disease. While it may seem fun and exciting to rescue a group of young kittens, it is A LOT of work and may not be in their best interest.

Now, don’t get us wrong, we absolutely want to get these kittens (and mom!) safely off the streets, get them spayed or neutered, fully vaccinated, and placed into loving homes of their own. But we want to make sure we aren’t putting kittens at unnecessary risk by separating them from their mom at a critically young age.

“So, what’s a kind-hearted kitten lover to do if I find some kittens?”

If you find kittens, don’t panic! Take a minute to assess the situation and determine if intervention is necessary. Use the following flow chart to guide you:

  • Are the kittens visibly sick or injured?
    • If yes, immediate intervention is needed. Place the kittens into a cat carrier or large plastic tub with a heat source like a heated rice bag or hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. Young kittens cannot regulate their body temperature and can chill rapidly. Contact a veterinary clinic. Remember, kittens may be carrying a disease that could affect the health of you or your pets. It’s best to handle them minimally and thoroughly wash your hands afterward and sanitize anything they have touched.
    • If the kittens appear healthy, proceed to question two.
  • How old are the kittens? Estimate this by their appearance.
    • Kittens appear to be 4-weeks-old or more, are very mobile, and eating on their own. Proceed to question three.Kittens appear to be 4 weeks old or less. [1 to 2-week-old kittens may still have their eyes fully closed or only partially open. Limited mobility.] [2 to 4-week-old kittens may have partially or fully open eyes. Alert and increasingly mobile.]
    • Observe them from a distance (at least 30ft away). Try to locate a nest or hiding spot and wait to see if mom returns.
    • If mom returns, great! Leave the happy family in peace and keep a watchful but distant eye. Staying with mom until they are fully weaned greatly increases their chances of survival.
    • If mom doesn’t return after a few hours, proceed to question three.
  • If you’ve made it this far, it is appropriate to take the kittens into care. Now the question is, who is going to care for these kittens?
    •  You! If you have the experience, time, and financial means to care for the kittens until they are at least 8 weeks old, that’s great! Once the kittens are over 8 weeks old and weigh at least two pounds, you can arrange to bring them to KHS where they will be spayed/neutered, receive critical core vaccinations, and be adopted out to loving homes of their own! Schedule bringing your kittens in by contacting the KHS Admissions Department.
    • If you are unable to care for the kittens, ask a friend, family member, or neighbor if they can care for the kittens until they are of age. Remind them that kittens can be a lot of work, especially very young ones. Nursing kittens need to be fed every 2-3 hours around the clock and must be stimulated to urinate and defecate.
    • If you are unable to find someone to care for the kittens, then contact KHS Admissions Department for assistance.

The KHS Admissions Department can be reached via email at admissions@kitsap-humane.org or by leaving a voicemail at 360-692-6977, ext. 1123. Please note that due to a high volume of inquiries, it may be a number of days before someone is able to get back to you. We appreciate your patience and understanding!

Friendly stray kittens (those that can be safely handled and placed in a carrier) or those requiring urgent medical attention and that were found within Kitsap County can be brought to KHS Admissions any time between the hours of 11a-4p.

“Ok, I’m going to leave the kittens with mom for now. But can I help her in any way?”

Absolutely! If momma cat is around and adequately caring for her kittens, you can choose to help her out by offering food or shelter, but it’s important to do so in a non-intrusive way. Be sure to place any food well away from her shelter/nest location so as not to attract other cats. Mom may feel unsafe returning to her litter if other cats (or humans like you) are nearby.

If mom is caring for her kittens but you are concerned that they’re in an unsafe location, contact KHS Admissions Department. As long as mom is friendly, we may be able to place the entire family into foster care. However, you must ensure that you bring in mom and all the kittens in at the same time. Moms may reject kittens that are away from her for too long. If mom is an unfriendly community cat, we suggest looking into our TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) program to ensure that mom doesn’t have any future litters.

Learn more about spay and neuter options for community cats here: https://www.kitsap-humane.org/resources/community-cats/

“I haven’t found any kittens, but I’d like to help!”

We are always looking for help! Because young kittens require special and sometimes around-the-clock care, we rely heavily on our dedicated foster parents to help us house and care for kittens in need. If you’re interested in joining our team of kitten fosters, please go online to https://www.kitsap-humane.org/get-involved/foster-care/ for more info and to complete an application!

Not able to foster right now? Consider supporting us by donating much-needed supplies: https://www.kitsap-humane.org/support-us/in-kind-donations/