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What to do if you find a litter of kittens

It’s that time of year! During the warmer spring and summer months, animal shelters across the country enter what is often referred to as “kitten season.” While cats can give birth at any time throughout the year, the longer daylight hours act as a catalyst for bringing unspayed female cats into heat, resulting in a large influx of kittens being brought to shelters. In fact, at the Dumb Friends League alone we can have up to 900 cats and kittens in our care this time of year.

So, what should you do if you find a litter of tiny kittens? Well, that depends on a few factors, including how and where you found them, whether the mother cat is around and how old they are.

First, it’s important to understand that young kittens have a better chance at survival when they remain with their mothers. While the Dumb Friends League and some other shelters are able to bottle feed neonatal kittens, many do not eat on their own and their rate of survival goes down. For this reason, we recommend bringing kittens in with their mother when at all possible.

If mom is present, but is not tame (cannot be safely handled)

If the kittens are very young (0-3 weeks old) and not yet mobile: Leave the kittens with mom for a couple of weeks, or until they are able to explore and move around on their own.

If the kittens are located in an unsafe area or where they are in danger of being harmed: It is OK to bring the kittens to a shelter where they can be bottle fed. However, this scenario is unlikely, as mom will typically move her kittens to a safe place.

If the kittens are eating and walking on their own (4+ weeks old): Kittens and mom should be trapped and taken to a local shelter.

For information on cat trap rentals, contact Metro Denver C.A.T. at 844.DEN.CATS or

If mom is present and friendly

Mom and kittens may all be brought to a local shelter together, even if the kittens are still nursing.

If no mom is present

Before scooping the kittens up, determine whether they have actually been abandoned or if the mother is simply out looking for food or hiding. Mother cats do not stay with their kittens at all times, so we recommend monitoring the kittens for two days to see if mom comes back. If the mother does not return, bring the kittens to the shelter.

Keep the kittens as warm as you can, and do not attempt to feed them cow’s milk as this can upset their digestive system. Kittens must be fed a special kitten milk formula.

If you are unsure of what to do or have questions, contact us at 303.751.5772.

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