As kitten season is here I feel very compelled to share an amazing story that happened this past weekend in hopes that more kittens can remain with their mothers where they belong and ore kittens can be saved from shelters. This story will also provide (at the end) a list of tips for what to do should you find a kitten.On Friday a friend of mine received call about a mother kitten who gave birth in a car at an auto body shop. The car had not been worked on in weeks so the mommy must have thought she found a nice, quiet, warm place to raise her babies. When the mechanic went into the car he scared the mom and she ran away with her 4 babies left in the car. She returned several times while the mechanic was by the car hissing at him each time. When the mechanic finally left the car the Mom came back and took one baby at a time to a new safe spot. When there was only one baby left in the car the worker called my friend and told her what had happened and that one baby was still left in the car. Thinking she was doing the right thing, my friend told the mechanic to take the last kitten quickly before the mom came back. It was 4pm at that point and he brought the 3 day old kitten to my friend. My friend began the task of bottle feeding the kitten and trying to keep him comfortable and warm. In the meantime from 4-6pm the Mommy cat returned to that car 3 times in a desperate attempt to locate her last baby. When my friend emailed me at 7pm and told me what happened and asked for help with the kitten, I immediately asked where Mommy was. She told me what happened and I explained that there is no better place for that kitten than with his Mom. I explained that there are millions of adorable, friendly kittens who are killed at shelters throughout the county every year so why would we bring another kitten into the â€œsystemâ€ ? The kitten was perfectly content where he was and should be with his mom. I told her, â€œYou must get that kitten back to his momâ€. I explained to her that the Mom will continue to search for him for several days so it is not too late. I told her to get a cardboard box and put a sock filled with raw, microwaved rice in it to keep him warm and take him back to the auto body shop. It is a tough balance of keeping the baby warm and comfortable but uncomfortable enough that he will cry for his Mom to hear him. My friendâ€™s terrific husband agreed to sit in his car close by to assure no other animal harmed the kitten. After 2 1/2 hours of waiting the mother cat appeared, searched around the car, jumped into the boxâ€¦ grabbed her baby and took off! Finally, she had all her babies back together. As humans we canâ€™t control everything. We canâ€™t have an attitude that every species is better off with us than with their own family. This attitude is the justification that zoos use when stealing elephants from their mothers. It is the attitude that marine parks use when stealing dolphins from their mothers. Sadly, it was also the argument that was once used for keeping humans as slaves. Humans must change their thinking and remember that we canâ€™t protect and provide for all animals. In fact, as a species we are failing so many animals. I know that some rescuers will use the argument that we should take the kittens out from feral colonies to reduce the feral cat population. With 250 cats being killed in LA city shelters each WEEK we should concentrate on the cats who have NO chance of a life instead of those who at least have freedom, family members and a chance at living. Cats do not need to live with humans in order to have a fulfilled life. If someone calls you and says they found a litter of kittensâ€¦please start asking about the mom and trying to keep the kittens with the mothers. Rescuers are too quick to just take the kittens in and start bottle feeding. I know it is a tough philosophy for some to embrace but progress always requires a change in thinking and acting. I ask you to please just give this some thought. Read the following as well as it may help you understand the importance of leaving the kittens with the mothers and focusing on the shelter cats:
Common thoughts against leaving kittens in feral colonies and justification to leave them:
1. â€œThe kittens are not safeâ€. Clearly if the mother cat is surviving in a location the kittens can survive as well. Cats are amazing moms and will provide everything the kittens need (i.e food, warmth, cleaning, love, etc). It it were not safe outside we would not have millions of feral cats in our country!
2. â€œWe have to take the kittens while they are young to reduce the cat populationâ€. With so many cats being killed in shelters we should concentrate on the cats who are most at risk. If you can provide a foster home for 5 kittens why not rescue 5 from the shelter who are going to be killed instead of five who can stay with their mother? However, be sure to go back and spay/neuter the kittens and the mother when they are old enough but do not take the kittens into your home.
3. â€œI can take care of the kittens better than the motherâ€. This attitude is such an elitist human attitude. No species can care for a baby better than the natural mother. Can a tiger care for a human better than a human? Can a wolf care for a skunk better than a skunk? Why should we think that a human can better care for a kitten better than the mother cat? We canâ€™t and should not unless there is NO other choice.
4. â€œWe have always taken the kittens from feral coloniesâ€. We all know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Clearly, taking kittens from feral colonies is not solving the killing of cats at the shelters. Letâ€™s help the ones who have NO other hope of getting out alive.
5. â€œI wonâ€™t be able to place the kittens in homes if I do not get them young enough to socialize them.â€. The feral kittens HAVE a home outside with the rest of the colony. Again, letâ€™s concentrate on the kittens who are already loving, friendly and WANTING a home. You can help kittens by rescuing the friendly, tame kittens from the shelters.
6. â€œIf you leave the mother cat with one kitten she will be happyâ€. Clearly from the above story mother cats want ALL their babies. Can you imagine a human mother who has several kids being told after an abduction of one of her children â€œwell at least you have the other one!â€ . Cats have shown over and over that they will risk their own lives to save ALL their kittens. They know how many they have and will always make sure they are all accounted for. They are AMAZING mothersâ€¦please do not question that.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A LITER OF KITTENS:
More than likely the mommy cat is close by or off eating. Unlike humans, cats do not abandon their babies.
1. Look at the kittens and make sure there are no bugs crawling on them. If they are covered with bugs and cold to the touch it is more than likely something happened to the mother. Only at that point should you take the kittens. Otherwise, proceed to step 2.
2. Keep a far enough distance that the mom cat wonâ€™t be scared to come back. Sit either in a car or in your house and watch for the mom. If the kittens are already walking around the Mom will leave them for longer periods of time. If the kittensâ€™ eyes are still closed she will only leave them for very short periods of time.
3. If a single kitten crawled off from where the other kittens are, find the rest of the litter if possible and put the kitten with the litter. If you canâ€™t find the rest of the litter you can put the kitten in a box to prevent him/her from crawling away any further. Again, watch from a distance to see if the mom comes back. This can take several hours.
4. If you have already taken kittens from the mom take them back right away!!! It does not matter that your scent is on the kittens and it does not matter if it has been a few hours or days. Unweaned kittens must stay warm so put some uncooked rice in a sock and heat in the microwave until warm (not too hot!). Place the kittens, a towel and the rice sack in a box where you took the kittens from. The box must be small enough that the mom can get her kittens out but large enough that the kittens can move away from the rice sack if they get too warm. Watch from a distance (in a car or in a house) to make sure no other animal harms the kittens. The mom WILL return when she hears the kittens crying. Let the kittens cry so the mom hears them. If she does not return within 3 hours, you will need to bottle feed the kittens, make them go to the bathroom (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need instructions on how to do this) and start again. You must be patient!!!
5. Once the Mom takes the kittens back, be sure to note the location so you can return in the future to trap and spay/neuter the mom and the kittens.
6. . Be sure to provide food and water on a regular basis for the mom.