“Mother Knows Best:” Humane Society of Washington County shares how to tell if a litter of kittens has been abandoned

Maryland

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — It’s currently kitten season, the time of year when new litters are popping up all over the place. During this time, the Humane Society of Washington County sees a huge increase in orphaned cats being brought into their shelters and foster homes.

However, if you see what looks like an abandoned kitten litter outside, the Humane Society is advising you to stop, observe and remember that “Mother Knows Best.” The group is warning good samaritans that a litter without its mother around hasn’t always been abandoned and put out a list of cues to look for before you save those babies.

“When you’re considering whether or not to intervene, some of the most important things to consider are whether the kittens are thin, clean or dirty, or if they appear sick. Those are some of the biggest indicators of whether mom has truly abandoned them,” said Noel Fridgen, development and communications manager of the Humane Society of Washington County.

Fridgen said that people will sometimes find a litter and see their mother is absent, and mistakenly separate a family whose mom was simply out hunting for food. This puts a heavier burden on the foster care and shelter system, as kittens are more dependent and often need their mother’s milk to survive.

According to the Humane Society of Washington County, here are the things to consider before you try to help intervene:

Are the kittens quiet?

  • Yes: Let them be. Mom does not spend 24 hours a day with her kittens. Oftentimes mom needs to leave her babies to go find food for herself in order to continue to care for the kittens.
  • No: If kittens are hungry they will cry loudly. If the kittens are no longer crying after about 2-4 hours, then mom has probably been back to care for them and they should be left alone.

Are the kittens thin?

  • Yes: Kitten bellies that are sunken in with bones showing and pale skin, rather than being full and round in appearance, aren’t being fed. They need your help. Call 301-7332060 and ask for the Resource Center for additional assistance.
  • No: Kittens whose mom is still caring for them eat frequently and their bellies are round. Let them be.

Are the kittens clean?

  • Yes: If mom is still caring for her babies, the kittens will be extremely clean! Let them be.
  • No: If they are covered in dirt, feces, have crusted urine on their bodies, or have red and inflamed genitals, they need your help. Call 301-733-2060 and ask for the Resource Center for additional assistance.

Are the kittens sick/hurt?

  • Yes: If kittens are sick, they may have ocular discharge, nasal discharge, or their eyes may be crusted shut. If a kitten is hurt it may have wounds or open sores. These kittens need help. Call 301-733-2060 and ask for the Resource Center for additional assistance.
  • No: Let them be.

Is their nest in good condition?

  • Yes: Let them be.
  • No: Mom may no longer be caring for her babies. Consider the other questions and call 301-733-2060 and ask for the Resource Center for additional assistance.

Is the location safe from predators and inclement weather?

  • Yes: Let them be.
  • No: They need your help. Call 301-733-2060 and ask for the Resource Center for additional assistance.

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