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  • What to Do if You Find Newborn, Infant and Young Kittens

    Before moving kittens you think have been abandoned, please consider:newborn

    • Newborn kittens are very fragile. These kittens get around-the-clock care from their mother for their first 4 weeks of life. The mother offers her kittens the best chance for survival, but she will likely leave them from time to time to seek food or water and to eliminate. She will likely come back!
    • It is also common for mothers to give birth in protected places, safe from predators. This may include places that are awkward or uncomfortable for her to spend long periods of time. She may come and go just to nurse them, which her body will alert her to.
    • We don’t currently have the resources at our shelter to provide newborn kittens the around-the-clock care they require. We must get these tiny kittens into a foster home or rescue group by 5 or 7 p.m. that same day. If you want to be on our emergency foster list to save these kittens’ lives, please sign up to be a foster parent

    We recommend you:

    • Wait and watch to determine whether their mother is coming back for them or if they are truly orphaned.
    • Observe the kittens from afar – a minimum of 35 feet or more. Do not stand too close! Use binoculars or your camera zoom if needed. You may need to go completely away before the mother cat will return, which could be several hours, or even up to 6 to 12 hours.
    • Avoid checking too often, as continually checking on the kittens can put the mother on alert and keep her away. Healthy kittens can survive this period without her.
    • Assess if the kittens are in immediate danger and weigh risks: Are there reactive dogs in the yard? Are the kittens located near heavy vehicular traffic? Are temperatures dropping dangerously low? Remove the kittens ONLY if they are in immediate, grave danger.

    If the mother cat returns:

    • momma catLeave the kittens with their mother until they are able to eat on their own. Consider providing food and water for the mom while she raises the kittens. Keep the food and water a distance away from the kittens to not attract or concern the mother about potential predators, and so she is not tempted to relocate them.
    • Kittens will begin eating wet food around 4 weeks of age, however, 5 to 6 weeks of age is the optimal age to separate them from a feral mother for socialization. They will tame quickly after being isolated to a large dog crate or bathroom where you can work with them in a controlled environment. By the time the kittens are 5-6 weeks old they can eat solely on their own. If you bring the kittens indoors you can find resources here on how to get their mother altered AT NO COST to you.
    • Older kittens (8-16 weeks and up) require more effort to socialize and some may not become fully socialized. These can be Trap-Neuter-Returned AT NO COST to you. This usually includes spay/neuter, vaccinations and a left ear tip to indicate they have been altered. Learn more at Fix Your Pet.
    • Kittens can go into heat as young as 5 months, and females can become pregnant with a new litter while they are still nursing! We have FREE programs to help. Learn more at Fix Your Pet

    If the mother cat does not return, and the kittens are not old enough to eat on their own:

    • You need to remove the kittens, and while we will always take in a pet in need, please be aware it is very difficult for us to care for newborn kittens. There are many resources available to guide you on how to provide for them until they are old enough to eat on their own. Please see below.
    • If you feel you cannot re-home found kittens on your own, but you are willing to raise and socialize them as a foster parent, thank you! Learn how to become a PACC foster parent . PACC foster parents are provided with training, needed supplies and veterinary care. You will need to care for the kittens until they are approximately 2 pounds or 8 weeks old, which is when they can be altered and adopted.
    • Kittens that are eating on their own, but are not of age and weight to be spayed and neutered for adoption are also at risk in a crowded shelter. They have undeveloped immune systems and in a high density shelter environment, often develop serious respiratory infections which may become chronic, cause damage to an eye or loss of vision, and can even be fatal. Long term kenneling is not good for their socialization and also significantly limits the space available for other incoming cats.
    • If you are willing to re-home adoptable kittens PLEASE get them altered first. Learn how to do it for very low cost or even no cost

    Other points to consider:

    • If there is a single kitten or two, it is possible that the mother is in the process of relocating them. Remember, she can only move them one at a time in her mouth.
    • If the kittens bellies are rounded and feel warm/full then their mother has recently fed them.
    • If the kittens appear sick (i.e. eye and/or respiratory infections, diarrhea) they may need to be removed from their mother’s care for treatment.
    • Unsocialized, wild/feral cats are not considered adoptable as pets in shelters and should be Trap-Neuter-Returned. The same is true for kittens that are too old for socialization in the shelter. Learn about our FREE trap-neuter-return program.

    Additional Resources from other Animal-Welfare Organizations

    Thank you to Jessica Shuman of Tucson CARES and No Kill Pima County for help preparing this guide!

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    Animal Care Center

    4000 N. Silverbell Rd.
    Tucson, AZ 85745
    Phone: (520) 724-5900
    Fax: (520) 724-5960


    Monday - 12 - 7 pm*
    Tuesday - 12 - 7 pm*
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    *Must be checked in to wait list 45 minutes before close to be seen in adoption and admission department.

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    Phone: (520) 387-7502


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