Are They Abandoned? What To Do If You Find Kittens In Your Yard

Posted: May 14, 2021 by Anita

what to do when you find kittens in your yard

You’ve found a bunch of kittens in your yard. And at first glance, you say to yourself, “yuck, they look and smell awful.” But after a second look….hmmm…they are rather cute?

What should you do of you find kittens in your yard?

It might seem like a trick questions, right? Hey, obviously cute kittens (even if they’re smelly) should be rescued.

Ahhhh, not so fast.

In this article, I will be discussing what options to take should come you come across this situation:

  • What to do if you find stray kittens
  • How to tell if a mother cat has abandoned her kittens
  • What do you feed kittens
  • Kitten Behavior
  • Kitten care
  • Resources to go to when you need answers

what to do if you find kittens in your yard

What to do if you find kittens in your yard

What to do if you find kittens in your yard? Your initial reaction might be to “rescue” the baby kittens. Who doesn’t want to be a superhero to baby kittens?

Whoa, hold up!

Most of the time, when you come across a stray kitten or a whole litter, Mama cat is somewhere nearby. She might be waiting for you to leave so that she can continue caring for her babies. And the best thing you can do is allow Mama cat to continue caring for her kittens.

How can I help?

She might have gone off to find food or is looking for shelter for her and the kittens. Here are the steps you should take:

  • Wait to see if Mama cat shows up. Do this by hiding in a spot where you can watch what’s going on.
  • Keep watch for a few hours to see if she shows up
  • If mama shows up, providing food, water, and, if possible, an outdoor shelter for her and the kittens is the nicest thing to do. And I’m sure Mama cat would be okay if you choose to keep an eye on her and her brood of kittens – from a distance.

Click here for neighborly guidelines to follow for feeding community cats and their kittens.

Check out this shelter from Chewy.com by clicking here

To take a look at outdoor cat shelters on Amazon, click here.

How to tell if a mother cat has abandoned her kittens?

Okay, Mama cat hasn’t shown up after hours of you keeping watch. What should you do? How can you tell if the litter of kittens you found in your yard is abandoned?

It’s time to take a look at the kittens and assess the situation.

If the kittens are healthy, it’s still possible that Mama might show up. Healthy kittens can be left alone for several hours along as they are kept warm. Keep an eye out on the kittens and hopefully Mama will eventually return.

If the kittens are unhealthy, in danger or Mama cat never shows up, then of course, by all means, step in and save those baby kittens.

Sick kittens look:

  • dirty
  • are crying continuously
  • look sick (shallow breathing, cold to the touch)
  • Look too thin (ribs and spine are showing)

Here’s another instructional poster from my local humane society on how to tell if the sick and in need of rescuing. Click here.

Should you take them to a shelter?

Newborn kittens require 24/7 care. Most shelters don’t have the resources to take care of them. Most shelters, humane societies, etc., are overcrowded and unable to take in anymore. Baby kittens usually end up being euthanized (killed).

And shelters are not the healthiest places for kittens whose immune systems are not fully developed. So the last place you want to take baby kittens is to the local shelter.

The next option would be to take the kittens in until they’ve weaned and eating solid cat food – which is about 8 weeks old. At that time, you could turn them over to your local shelter to be adopted by a loving family.

Another solution is to try to find a person willing to foster the kittens. Reach out to your local animal rescue organizations to see if they get you in contact with a foster parent for the kittens.

You can also contact the Feral Friends Network (through Alleycat.org) who can also put you in contact with someone locally. Click here to go to their page.

Download a copy (instructional poster) from alleycat.org of what to do if you come across abandoned kittens by clicking here.

what to do if you find kittens in your yard
Theo, right after being rescued from a busy street

Kitten development 0-6 weeks

If you have found abandoned kittens and wish to take them in to care for, here’s everything I know (and all the resources I went to when clueless me took Theo in). I recommend setting up a cozy little nest. This will be the kitten’s home for the next few weeks. Place the nest in a separate room if you have space. And keep the area clean and sanitized because kittens are very susceptible to viruses at this age.

Here’s a great video from the Kitten Lady on how to set up your space for the new kittens.

kitten development
Theo’s kitten’s nest

A whole lot happens during a kitten’s first 6 weeks of development.

1 week old kitten

Newborn kittens come into this world helpless. They require 24/7 care and you will have to do everything for them.

What to look for

  • kittens are born blind, and death
  • eyes are closed and ears folded
  • no teeth
  • might have its umbilical cord still
  • weight – 7-9 ounces (will fit in the palm of your hand)

Kitten behavior

Five days in, the eyes start to open and are blue initially (really cute). They begin to hear things as their ears begin to unfold. They will sleep a lot during the first week and won’t move much. Kittens this young are not able to regulate their body temperature.

Kitten care

  • At one week old, kittens will need to be bottled fed. Click here to order a nursing kit from Amazon.com. Click here to read my article on feeding baby kittens.
  • Do not give kittens cow milk. Kittens will need to be fed every 2 hours. Kittens need to be Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR) – 2 tablespoons per every 4 ounces of kitten weight per day. For example, 8-ounce kitten = 4 tablespoon of KMR per day = equals 1 teaspoon every 2 hours for 12 feedings a day). Click here to check out the brand I used for Theo. Please feel free to check my math.

For more information on bottle feeding kittens check out the Kitten Lady by clicking here.

  • Kittens should be fed upright and not on their back – click here for more information.
from vcahospitals.com
kittenlady.org
  • Kittens will need to be weighed every day to make sure they are gaining weight and that you are feeding them enough KMR. Click here to download my weight chart.
  • It is important to keep kittens warm at all times. Kittens that are not warm enough will not eat. Recommendation: Snuggle kitty, click here to check out; or snuggle safe, click here for more information.

For more information on how to feed your baby kitten, click here to check out Alley Cat’s article on caring for neonatal kittens.

  • After feeding baby kittens, you have stimulated them to pee. Mama cat usually does this task, but you will need to do this if you have taken over their care. Stimulating the anal/genital area of the kitten with a warm wet cotton ball or bandage will cause them to pee and poop. Be sure to wear gloves when stimulating. I recommend doing this on a doggy pad and have unscented baby wipes nearby. Click here to read and view a video from the kitten lady on how to do this.
  • I was surprised as to how dirty baby kittens get. Use the baby wipes to keep them clean all over, especially after eating. As they get older, you can introduce them to bathing but not now.

Recommendation: Invest in some cheap towels and doggy blanket – you’re going to need them, click here.

2 week old kittens

2 week old kittens will require 24/7 care.

What to look for

  • eyes are open
  • teeth might start appearing
  • skin is pink and healthy
  • weight – 9 – 10 ounces

Kitten behavior

They will begin moving and interacting with their siblings (or you – if you care for just one). They might be a bit more vocal and startle easily. They will sleep a lot. They will still need to be kept warm.

Kitten care

  • At 2 weeks old, kittens will need to be bottled fed every 3-4 hours. Click here to read my article on feeding baby kittens.
  • Kittens need to be fed Kitten Milk Replacer – 2 tablespoons per every 4 ounces of kitten weight per day.
  • Kittens will need to be weighed every day to make sure they are gaining weight.
  • It is important to keep kittens warm at all times.

For more information on how to feed your baby kitten, click here to check out Alley Cat’s article on caring for neonatal kittens.

  • After feeding, kittens need to be stimulated to pee. Click here to read and view a video from the kitten lady on how to do this.
  • Use a warm baby wipe to keep them clean all over, especially after eating. As they get older, you can introduce them to bathing but not now.

3 week old kittens

3 week old kittens still require 24/7 care.

What to look for

  • eyes fully open and blue
  • more teeth coming in – will wanna chew on everything
  • ears upright
  • fur starting to fill in
  • weight – 12 – 14 ounces

Kitten behavior

3-week old kittens are starting to become very active. You will want to handle them more so they can get socialized with humans. Kittens at this age will begin standing, playing but are very unsteady.

Kitten care

  • At 3 weeks old, kittens will need to be bottled fed every 3-4 hours. Click here to read my article on feeding baby kittens.
  • Kittens need to be fed Kitten Milk Replacer – 2 tablespoons per every 4 ounces of kitten weight per day.
  • Kittens will need to be weighed every day to make sure they are gaining weight.

For more information on how to feed your baby kitten, click here to check out Alley Cat’s article on caring for neonatal kittens.

  • After feeding, kittens need to be stimulated to pee and poop. However, you can start introducing them to the litter box. I recommend using Nature’s Miracle Clumping Corn Cob Litter because kittens will try to eat everything, including cat litter (worked perfectly for Theo). I used disposable cat litter boxes such as the kitty’s wonder box. Click here for more info.
  • Use a warm baby wipe to keep them clean all over, especially after eating. At this age, you can start bathing once a week to keep them clean. Check out this great video below.
Video from Maddie’s Fund Education

4 week old kittens

At 4 weeks old, kittens are no longer considered newborn. You can still keep them in the nest. Kittens this age can now regulate their body temperature. You can relax a bit, but they still aren’t ready for primetime.

What to look for

  • eyes are blue
  • more teeth
  • ready for their first visit to the Vet for shots and deworming
  • weight – 16 ounces

Kitten behavior

4-week old kittens are becoming very active but are still a little unsteady on their feet. Continue socializing by playing with your young kittens. At this age, kittens will begin grooming themselves.

Kitten care

  • At 4 weeks old, kittens still need to be bottled fed every 5-6 hours, but you can begin the weaning process. Introduce the kittens to slurry – a mixture of KMR and wet food. Click on the video below by the Kitten Lady and her recipe for slurry.
How to make slurry (Kitten Lady)
  • Do not give kittens cow milk. Kittens need to be Kitten Milk Replacer which is basically kitten formula. Click here to check out the brand I used for Theo.

For kitten wet food, check out Iams perfect portions Kitten Wet Food by clicking here.

  • Kittens will need to be weighed every day to make sure they are gaining weight.
  • If you haven’t by now, you can introduce them to the litter box. I recommend using Nature’s Miracle Clumping Corn Cob Litter because kittens will try to eat everything, including cat litter. I used disposable cat litter boxes such as the kitty’s wonder box. Click here for more info.
  • 4-week old kittens are still a hot mess (even though self-grooming has begun). A weekly bath is recommended. Continue cleaning them with either a warm baby wipe or a wet washcloth when the kitten is dirty.
kitten development
Theo’s nest

5 week old kittens

5-week old kittens are still tiny. They will start exploring outside of the nest. At this age, they still need to be kept in one room because you can lose them. Keep plenty of blankets in their nest so they can snuggle.

What to look for

  • eyes are blue
  • ears perky and alert
  • more teeth added
  • weight – 18-19 ounces

Kitten behavior

Kittens at 5 weeks old are biting, scratching little tigers. They will stick to you with their little claws – on your pants, shirt in your hair – everywhere. And those claws are sharp! 5-week old kittens are little stalkers that love to hunt and pounce.

Kitten care

  • At 5 weeks old, should be eating solids or a combination of KMR and wet food – continue transitioning to full solids. Time to add a dish of water along with their food. Click here to read my article on feeding baby kittens.
  • Never feed cats or kittens cow milk.
  • Kittens will need to be weighed every day to make sure they are gaining weight.
  • Your kittens should be using the litter box. You might have to continue wiping them down with a warm baby wipe or warm wash cloth. Continue keeping them clean.

6 week old kittens

6 week old kittens are really active. They are able to climb easily in and out of their nest. However, you still might want to keep them in one room.

What to look for

  • eyes might still be blue
  • old enough to be spayed or neutered
  • More teeth coming in
  • weight – almost 2 pounds

Kitten behavior

At 6 weeks, kittens are very active – time to break out the cat toys. Don’t be surprised if you come into the room and one day and they are on top of their nest. And get your little climbers a scratching post. Click here to see the scratching post I got for Theo. If you plan on adopting out your little kittens – now is a good time.

Kitten care

  • At 6 weeks old, kittens should be fully transitioned to full solids. Make sure there’s a bowl of water along with their food.
  • Never feed cats or kittens cow milk.
  • Kittens will need to be weighed every day to make sure they are gaining weight.
  • Your kittens should be using the litter box. You might have to continue wiping them down with a warm baby wipe or warm washcloth. Continue keeping them clean.
  • Continue to play with your kittens – socialization is very important at this age.

Conclusion

You’ve found a bunch of kittens in your yard. And at first glance, you say to yourself, “yuck, they look and smell awful.” But after a second look….hmmm…they are rather cute?

What should you do of you find kittens in your yard?

In this article, I discussed what to do if you find kittens in your yard:

  • What to do if you find a stray kitten
  • What to look for
  • Kitten Behavior
  • Kitten care
  • Resources for when you need answers

Read more from the Cat Mama: