If You Find Kittens

Adoptable kitten

The time between late spring and early autumn is known as “kitten season”. During this time of year, feral and unaltered stray cats reproduce prolifically. As many as 50 cats might be brought into the shelter in a single day. If you encounter a litter of kittens in need of rescue in Multnomah County, use this page to learn how to help them.


Things to Consider if You Find Kittens

A mother cat will periodically leave her nest to hunt for food. If you see young kittens without their mother, it is likely she will return. It is always better for young kittens to remain with their mother. Pre-weaned kittens (under 4 weeks) without a mother are very difficult to care for and have a high mortality rate. The mother should return to the nest within a few hours if you watch quietly from a distance.

A mother cat will also regularly move her nest of kittens instinctively. If you see a single young kitten, it is likely that it’s the first of the group moved to a new location or the last of the group in the old location.

Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon also has some information regarding stray and/or feral kittens.

It is important that you do not take pre-weaned kittens away from their mother. Only take them in if, after watching for several hours, you are 100% certain she is not returning.


Determine Age

Before you do anything with a litter of kittens you've found, you'll want to figure out their age. Alley Cat Allies has a web page to help you determine kitten age. They should remain with their mother for at least 5 weeks.

The best age to begin socializing kittens is at about 5 weeks of age. At 5 weeks, kittens will weigh between 3/4 to 1 pound. They will be curious and playful and will be able to eat cat food.

If possible, the kittens should be socialized by people and still remain with their mother until they are 8 weeks of age. This may mean taking in the mother cat and kittens together. This may not be possible if the kittens are from a feral mother. In this case, the kittens should be taken in without mom at 5 weeks for socialization so that they can become adoptable. Never attempt to confine or house a feral mother cat, as this can be dangerous.


What To Do

If under 5 weeks:

Leave kittens under 5 weeks of age with their mom. If you have watched for several hours from a distance and you are 100% certain that a kitten has been abandoned, you may either:

  • care for the kitten yourself for a few weeks (see resources below)  -OR-
  • bring the kitten into our shelter

If 5-6 weeks:

If the kittens are friendly, you may take them in and provide care and socialization until they are 8 weeks of age. At 8 weeks, you may rehome them or bring them in to our shelter to be adopted out. If you can not care for the kittens yourself, bring them to our shelter and we will place them into foster care.

If the kittens are feral and unfriendly, you may either:

  • bring them inside to care for them. You will need to spend a good deal of time socializing them (see video below) to make them friendly and adoptable. -OR-
  • bring them into our shelter so they can be placed with a special foster home for socialization.

If 6-8 weeks:

If the kittens are friendly, you may bring them to our shelter. We will either place them in a foster home or put them up for adoption.

If the kittens are feral (unfriendly), you may either:

  • bring them inside to care for them. You will need to spend a good deal of time socializing them (see video below) to make them friendly and adoptable. -OR-
  • bring them into our shelter so they can be placed with a special foster home for socialization.

If over 8 weeks:

If the kittens are friendly, bring them in to our shelter. We will place them up for adoption.

If the kittens are feral (unfriendly), bring them in to our shelter. We will assess them and attempt to socialize them so they can be placed up for adoption. However, it is very difficult to socialize older feral kittens, so we may opt to trap-neuter-return (TNR) the kitten and return it to its environment.


Daily limits

Our policy states that county residents may only bring in one of the following per day:

  • one adult cat or
  • one mother cat with her litter of kittens or
  • one litter of kittens

About euthanasia

Unfortunately, cat overpopulation is a significant problem in the Portland metro area and while we rescue as many cats and kittens as we possibly can, we simply do not have the resources to solve this problem alone. When we are beyond capacity, placement partners are beyond capacity, and all of our foster homes are full, the sad fact is that sometimes cats and kittens must be humanely euthanized. However, we do our best to avoid euthanizing healthy animals whenever possible and our statistics are significantly better than the national average.

We have made huge gains in our save rate for cats recently. Our save rate for dogs is around 90% which is amongst the top in the nation for metropolitan open door shelters.

Want to help? Considering becoming a foster parent. Foster parents help us save lives everyday. Visit our Foster web page to learn more.

Are there feral cats reproducing in your neighborhood? Learn about trap-neuter-return at Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon. You can rent a trap and make an appointment to have cats neutered through FCCO. The cats are then returned to live out their lives without reproducing. You can tell which feral cats have been neutered because they have an ear tip (a small notch cut off the top of one ear). The goal is to humanely eliminate the population of feral cats.


Resources

Here are links you may find helpful:

Other agencies that may accept kittens (please check with them directly for space availability):

Our friends at Urban Cat League put together these videos to show you how to socialize ("tame") feral kittens: