Found kittens

Determining if kittens have been abandoned by their mother requires careful observation and consideration of several factors. Here are the key signs to look for:

Extended Absence of the Mother

  • Watch the kittens from a distance for several hours (ideally 4-6 hours). Mother cats typically return to their kittens frequently to nurse and care for them.
  • If you don’t see the mother cat return within this period, it may be a sign that she is not coming back.


Condition of the Kittens

  • Feel the kittens’ bodies. Abandoned kittens will often be cold to the touch because they rely on their mother for warmth.
  • Check their bellies. If they appear thin or have wrinkled skin, they may not have been fed recently.
  • Kittens that are dirty or have matted fur might not have been groomed by their mother recently.
  • Do they appear sick or injured?


 Behavior of the Kittens

  • Hungry and distressed kittens will cry frequently. If they are vocalizing constantly and loudly, they are likely hungry and missing their mother.
  • Very weak, lethargic kittens may not have had nourishment or care for some time.


 Surrounding Environment

  • If the kittens are in a dangerous or highly exposed area (e.g., near a busy road, in harsh weather conditions), the mother might not be returning.
  • Kittens found in abandoned buildings or isolated spots may have been left without maternal care.


Physical Signs of the Mother

  • Look for signs that the mother has been around recently, such as fresh paw prints or scat.
  • Unfortunately, if you find a dead adult cat nearby, the kittens might be orphaned.


Age of kittens

  • Newborn/neonatal kittens have folded ears, can’t walk, eyes are still closed. Without a mom, these kittens require round the clock care including bottle feeding.
  • At 5-6 weeks of age, kittens are able to walk confidently, play with siblings, and are starting to look like a small cat.  At this age, kittens can be transitioned to wet food. Although kittens may be removed from their mom so socialization can begin,  it is important to trap the mom to ensure that she gets spayed.


 Immediate Needs

  • If the kittens are in immediate danger from predators, weather, or other hazards, it is important to intervene regardless of the potential for the mother to return.


Monitoring and Decision-Making

  • It’s important to emphasize that a kitten’s best chance for survival is with its mother, so wait and watch for as long as you safely can.
  • If you determine the kittens are abandoned, provide a heat source immediately:  a hot water bottle,  heated sock filled with rice, holding the kitten against your body.
  • Avoid feeding a kitten until it is warm since it cannot digest the food, and only feed foods formulated specifically for kittens.
  • Reach our for help from knowledgable resources.


If you find kittens you suspect  have been abandoned, call or text at 250-537-7567. Orphaned kittens are very fragile, requiring prompt intervention and specialized care.