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What to do when you find kittens

When you find a litter of kittens, your good-hearted instincts tell you to rush to the aid of these fragile felines. Thankfully, human intervention is typically not required. In fact, the best thing we can do is leave the kittens alone. Mom will likely return soon, and it’s critical that the kittens remain in her care as she offers the best chance for survival.

If you find kittens and are 100% certain that they are orphaned, you can then step in and help by caring for the kittens until they’re old enough to find homes.

There are kittens in my yard! What do I do?

If you see kittens alone outside, know that mom is most likely out hunting for food and will return. The kittens are likely not abandoned. At this point, it is okay to check on the kittens and make sure they are healthy, but you don’t need to scoop them up and pull them inside your home or rush to the nearest shelter.

Watch the kittens. If you don’t see mom for 8-12 hours and the kittens are still where you first saw them, there is a strong likelihood that mom is unable to return. This is when you should take action.

So, the mother cat disappeared. You’ll make a great foster parent!

Consider offering care for the abandoned kittens in your home. During kitten season, shelters are overrun with kittens and often lack the resources and people to successfully care for them all. We need the help of compassionate people to help raise and socialize kittens until they are old enough for adoption.

How do I determine a kitten’s age?

Once you’re certain the mother cat is gone, it is important to determine the kitten’s age.

Click on this chart for excellent information: How to Age a Kitten



The age of the kitten will determine the amount of time and care the kitten will need. The younger the kitten, the more help they require. Once the kittens are old enough to eat on their own, you can find them new homes

For expert advice and informative webinars taking you step-by-step through the kitten raising process, please explore the following resources:

Finding Kittens a Home

Finding homes for kittens is a rewarding experience and allows you to know they have all found good homes. If friends, family, and co-workers are not able to bring a kitten into their lives, there is a free alternative online. Rehome.adoptapet.com, by the Petco Foundation and AdoptAPet.com, helps pet owners find new loving homes for pets. It is free to post animals for adoption. Learn more here.


If the kittens are living comfortably outside and you are unable to foster or socialize them, they are candidates for our TNR program along with their parents. Kittens can be trapped and brought in for surgery as early as two months old, but it is usually best to wait until they are three months old if you plan to send them through our TNR program. That way, they are old enough to receive a rabies vaccine. To borrow traps, contact our Community Cat Coordinator at communitycats@humanecharlotte.org.

Kitten Nursery

If you are unable to provide care for extremely young kittens yourself and mom has not been seen, do not wait! Help the kittens by getting them to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control Kitten Nursery. Once you have moved kittens from where you found them, they need to be cared for and waiting too long could be life-threatening. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control Kitten Nursery was created to help kittens that have no other alternatives. In 2018, welcomed 418 kittens into their Kitten Nursery.


Q: Will mom reject the kittens if I touch them?

Touching the kittens is a requirement of socialization. If you touch them, it won’t deter mom at all. Mother cats are amazing creatures and will not reject kittens because of a new, foreign scent. When she returns, she may hide them in a new location thinking that a predator found her kittens, but she will not abandon them.

Q: What if I want to care for kittens with their mom?

A: Please do so! If you are willing to catch and shelter mom with her kittens in your home until they are weaned, it will provide a much safer environment than being outside. Once they are old enough to eat on their own, they can be separated from their mother. Mom can then be taken to the HSC Spay/Neuter Clinic for TNR and returned to her outdoor home while you continue to socialize and care for the kittens for eventual adoption.

Q: How do I avoid more kittens?

A: Kittens aren’t delivered by a stork. Where there are kittens, there are breeding cats. If you find kittens, please take advantage of our TNR program and loan-able traps to catch the parent cats and bring them to HSC’s low-cost, high-quality spay/neuter clinic. Doing so makes the parents healthier and helps stop the yearly cycle of finding kittens in your yard.