Unlike human children, who are rarely without a parent in sight, kittens can be left alone for hours at a time and the mom usually isn’t far off. It may be likely that the mom is out looking for food. In fact, the mom may even be just nearby and watching you. People often don’t realize this and tend to automatically assume that mom has left the litter to starve. They then decide to take things into their own hands and “help” which isn’t always in the best interest of the kittens. If you intend to rescue them, you may rescue their mom together as well.

Here’s a few tips to guide you on how to know if the kittens are abandoned and need your help.

  • Unless the kittens are in immediate danger, don’t move them. Mom may just be out getting some food, or taking a break. If there’s a danger (for eg. in the middle or side of a street) and you have to move them, make sure it is nearby where mom can see or hear them calling for her.
  • Keep an eye on the nest from a distance for 12 to 18 hours to determine if they’re truly abandoned. Depending on how old the kittens are, moms can stay away for hours at a time. It can be hard to tell if mom slips in and out when you aren’t looking. A way to help tell if the mom has returned is to sprinkle flour around the area.  If mom comes back she will leave paw prints in the powder.
  • Don’t be alarmed if some of the kittens go missing. This is probably a good sign. Active Moms will move their kittens from place to place if they feel they are in danger.
  • If hours pass and the babies are dirty, fussy and loud, it is safe to consider them abandoned. It’s important to remember to wait an appropriate amount of time and to stay calm. A lot of people panic and want to scoop the kittens up and care for them right away. However, caring for kittens, especially young ones that don’t eat solid food, is a lot of work that most people aren’t prepared to take on. It is also more dangerous for kittens growing up without a mom and the comfort and milk she provides. Whenever possible, keep mom in the picture.

References and Resources

How To Tell If Kittens Are Abandoned