Spring in South Florida brings a baby boom, not just amongst wild animals, but free-roaming outdoor cats as well. It is not unusual to find litters of newborn kittens on and around our properties at this time of year. If you stumble upon such a litter, the first thing to do is determine if they have been abandoned or dumped. Stray and feral cats have no choice but to leave their litters for extended periods of time to find food. Observe the litter for about three hours, and if the mother cat does not return, you may have to intervene. If she does return, it is best to let her care for the kittens until they are fully weaned. This takes roughly eight weeks from the time of birth. Hand rearing kittens involves mixing formula, bottle feeding, scheduled feedings, and sleepless nights. And without putting too fine a point on it, the other end of the kitten must be cared for as well! If possible, it’s best to let the mother cat do this for you. If the litter has been dumped, or if the mother cat does not return, visit www.AlleyCat.org for detailed information on caring for neonatal kittens. Most importantly, ask for help. These are the times when we find out who are friends truly are!
If you have an outdoor cat, or are feeding a neighborhood stray, you can prevent this scenario by having the cat spayed or neutered. Female cats can begin having litters as early as five months of age! And nursing mother cats can become pregnant before her current litter is even weaned. Miami Dade Animal Services provides low-cost spays and neuters for stray and feral cats. You can also gain access to low-cost care by contacting The Cat Network at www.thecatnetwork.org.