The warm spring weather brings cat mating season to Sacramento, leading to thousands of kittens born throughout the city.
Many of these kittens are found by well-intentioned good Samaritans and brought to the Front Street Animal Shelter — but the shelter warns that doing so isn’t always in the best interest of the kittens.
“People’s first instinct when they see kittens is usually to scoop them up, but that’s often the wrong thing to do,” said Ryan Hinderman, communications manager for the shelter. “Even with bottle feeding, kittens have a significantly reduced rate of survival without their mother’s milk. If the kittens are pear-shaped and plump, clean, and not yelling in distress, they have a mom, who may leave her kittens for several hours to get food.”
Here are the shelter’s recommendations if you find kittens:
- Figure out how old they are using this video on Front Street’s website.
- If they’re less than five weeks old, leave them where you find them or return them — they have a higher chance of survival if left with mom. Losing kittens is extremely distressing to the mother, who will return to care for them. The mom will also get pregnant again very quickly without the kittens to care for. When in doubt, sprinkle a wide ring of flour around them, and wait several hours before looking for mom’s pawprints. If there are no pawprints, contact the shelter again for intake.
- Once five weeks old, the kittens can be separated from mom and socialized. Contact the shelter to see if there is capacity for the kittens, or if you’d like to raise and adopt them out yourself, visit KittenLady.org/kittencare.
- If possible, trap the mother and take her to a feral cat spay/neuter clinic to get fixed to stop the cycle of kittens. Free or low-cost spay neuter clinics and more information on trapping can be found here on the City’s website.
For the kittens who do come to the shelter, volunteers are always needed to help care for them.
“We are always in need of more kitten foster parents who can raise them until old enough for adoption,” Hinderman said. “Our greatest need is fosters for the ‘bottle babies,’ who were accidentally taken from their mothers or who, in rare cases, were abandoned by their mothers.”
The shelter struggles to find foster homes for these vulnerable kittens because they require feeding several times a day, which may mean waking up in the middle of the night when they get hungry.
To become a foster volunteer for kittens, visit the shelter’s foster page at https://www.cityofsacramento.org/Community-Development/Animal-Care/Foster-Care