Security and Safety

There Are Stray Kittens in the Backyard. Now What?

By Peter Simek 12.5.19

Homeowners in Texas face challenges with all sorts of bugs, pests, and critters large and small finding their way onto the property or into the house. The threat of home invasion increases in winter months as animals seek shelter.

While some of Texas’s creatures can pose serious health or maintenance problems, others may just need a helping hand. In Texas’s cities, towns, and rural areas alike, stray cats are a fact of life. They may grow up to become helpful pest controllers, but when you find a litter of stray kittens, they are likely fairly defenseless.

So what to do when you find tiny, unbearably adorable stray kittens? Here are a few tips to help you provide the right help to keep them and your neighborhood safe.

Is It Your Neighbor’s Cat?

A kitten may wind up in your backyard for any number of reasons. It may have been born nearby or abandoned. Or, it may have wandered away from home and may have a forlorn owner looking for it.

If you notice there is a kitten on your property, experts say the most important first step is to simply monitor the situation. Is the kitten old enough that it could simply be a neighbor’s pet that has wandered off? You can make sure the cat isn’t lost by checking postings online and in the neighborhood to see if anyone is looking for a lost cat or kitten.

Is It an Orphan?

Is it one kitten or a litter of kittens? Do you see a mother cat nearby? If there’s a litter, wait to see if a mother is nearby. It may take a little time before you can determine if a mother cat is caring for her kittens, but if she is, it is important to allow the kittens to stay outside so that the mother can continue to attend to them.

 Mother knows best, and not only will the mother cat feed and groom her babies, her milk also contains important antibodies that help them survive. If the kitten is alone, it’s possible it’s been separated from or abandoned by its mother and litter. In this case, it may need extra help.

If kittens are orphaned and the mother is not in the picture, they may appear dirty and unkempt. Hungry kittens will cry for food and may seem overly skinny or weak. If this is the case, it is time to act.

Can It Survive Outside?

If the kittens appear to be looked after but you are concerned about their comfort and warmth, you may offer a crate, box, or other shelter so the kittens have a warm place to wait for their mother’s return.

Should You Feed It?

If you want to provide some help for the little cat, you may start by offering some food. Dry cat food is best, as the wet food can irritate a kitten’s stomach. But be careful: If you are feeding the kittens outside, their food can attract other critters looking for a handout.

If the kittens are very young, they may not be ready to eat solid food. Pet stores carry kitten formula, though you can also make a homemade kitten formula by mixing and heating together 1 quart of goat’s milk, 1 teaspoon of light corn syrup, 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt, 1 egg yolk, and unflavored gelatin.

Can You Adopt?

If you are comfortable having a new outdoor (or indoor) friend, you can always decide to adopt.  It’s important that you don’t wait too long to make the decision, especially if you want them to socialize. If kittens go unhandled for their first 12 weeks, they’re unlikely to ever socialize, and they won’t be able to be domesticated or put up for adoption.

If you do adopt, you’ll want to make sure your kitten has a warm, safe place to stay, a regular supply of food, and a trip to the vet.

Can You Bring It Inside?

If you have the kitten checked out by a vet (you’ll want to have it dewormed, vaccinated, and fixed) and you know it is safe, you can try bringing it into your home.

To acclimate the kitten to the indoors, invite them into a quiet, clean room. Keep them isolated for seven days — especially if you have other pets — to help their immune system acclimate to its new environment and ensure they don’t drag anything into your home. When initially handling kittens, you may want to wear gloves, to prevent their sharp, still-clumsy claws and teeth from harming you.

Who Can Help?

If you find a stray kitten, you can always call animal control or a local no-kill animal shelter. These organizations can coach you on the best approach to care or safely hand off your little stowaway.

A visit to the vet is necessary to ensure the cat’s health and your own. Animal-rescue groups recommend spaying and neutering feral cats to help control the population of feral cats. As your new little furry friends show, there are plenty of cats already in need.

Hopefully, the next time you find a stray kitten, you’ll be prepared to help it get rescued or to keep it around — they make wonderful companions and may even help keep your home pest-free!

© 2019 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance