Ginger Digest

What to do when you find a litter of abandoned kittens…

Posted on November 10, 2016: As the winter months are approaching, you’ll notice stray cats and dogs scrounging for shelter and comfort from the cold. Cats, especially, are known for climbing into the crawl space around car engines of parked cars to keep warm. Please ALWAYS make sure you check underneath your car for stray dogs and bang on the bonnet to dislodge any stray cats before you drive off.

There’s also a chance that you could come across a litter of kittens on the road, in your backyard or in a bush. While the safest place for kittens is with their mother, these kittens may have been abandoned or orphaned. The first thing for you to do is patiently check to see if the mommy cat does come back for her litter, she will never go too far from her precious babies.

Once you’ve established that the kittens are abandoned or orphaned, you need to take some steps to ensure that the kittens are safe. We spoked to Dr Priyanka and Shabnam Chauhan at Dharamshala Animal Rescue about advice on taking care of a litter of abandoned kittens. Here’s what they had to say…

Watch out for the following symptoms to decipher if the kittens are healthy or ailing:

Healthy kittens will be -

  • Always active
  • Shiny hair
  • Wet nose
  • Eat properly and promptly

Unhealthy – In this case, you should monitor the kitten and if you see any of the listed symptoms persist, then consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.  

  • Not active and curled up in one place
  • Not interested in or eating food
  • Dry nose
  • Scabs or clotted mucus around nose and eyes

Feeding:

Newborn kittens need colostrum which they get in their mother's first secretion milk after giving birth. It is rich in antibodies. In the absence of mother’s milk, try giving them some goat’s milk. Cow’s milk may cause dehydration in weak kittens and cats because their body loses enzymes when trying to break down milk.

Three-4 week old kittens can digest some soft food such as wet kitten food, soft-boiled eggs. They can't chew dry food. Whiskas cat food for kittens is also a good option.

Raw fish may lead to vitamin B deficiency causing loss of appetite, seizures, and even death. Sometimes, fish can be contaminated with mercury.

All homemade meat diets can be low in calcium leading to a mineral imbalance that then can cause hyperparathyroidism. So consider giving them additional calcium supplements.

Treatments:

If the kittens are injured or have scratches then you can apply an anti-biotic ointment such as Betadine.

If you are unable to find that what's wrong with kitten then you should call your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis

Vaccinations:

Core Vaccination for kittens under 16 weeks of age: (Source: http://www.indiadoctors.co.in/pet-clinic/pet-vaccinations)

Rabies

  • A single dose at 8 weeks.
  • At one year, the kitten is revaccinated.
  • A follow-up booster is required every 3 years.

Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia)

  • The first dose at 6 weeks.
  • Additional doses every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks.
  • At one year, the kitten is revaccinated.
  • A follow-up booster is required every 3 years.

Feline Herpesvirus

  • The first dose at 6 weeks.
  • Additional doses every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks.
  • At one year, the kitten is revaccinated.
  • A follow-up booster is required every 3 years.

Calicivirus

  • The first dose at 6 weeks.
  • Additional doses are given every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks.
  • At one year, the kitten is revaccinated.
  • A follow-up booster is required every 3 years  

Cleaning and grooming:

Cats are self-groomers and don’t need to be bathed. Excessive bathing can destroy oil glands in their skin making them susceptible to rashes and skin problems. If the kittens are dirty, you can gently wipe them clean with warm water and cotton. Once a month, you can consider giving them a bath with dry shampoo when they’re older. You can also consider using a pinch of flea or tick powder, in case the kittens are infested.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. When in doubt, consult your vet.

And in case it is an adult cat in distress that you happen to come across…

“Before saving the cat, adequate precaution is a must, to avoid danger for the rescuer,” warns Debasis Chakrabarti from the Compassionate Crusaders Trust in Kolkata, “First thing is to get it checked by a veterinarian for any serious infectious disease. Children must be kept away, as Diphtheria is also a life threatening disease prevalent in cats.” 

Adult cat rescue tips

If it is in the backyard, the best thing is to provide a large cardboard/wooden box to confine the cat, this will prevent any further aggravation of injury/sickness.

On the street, use a large cloth or towel to pick up the cat without direct physical contact. Secure the cat in the cloth and then proceed to a veterinary clinic.

A very important and primary observation to save a cat is to check whether it can eat/drink on its own. Warm milk or meat/fish soup is a good starter.

If the cat is too sick or weak to feed on its own, then you can attempt to give it some water with a dropper. But be careful, force feeding can be life threatening.

From the moment the cat is sighted, a veterinarian and an experienced cat keeper should be kept in the loop for regular monitoring.

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