- Contact a local animal shelter right away if you find abandoned puppies or kittens.
- Stay a safe distance from kittens to see if their mother is coming back to them.
- You can provide food to help feed a mother cat that is taking care of kittens.
- You may take a friendly mother dog and her puppies to an animal shelter.
- Newborn puppy or kitten care requires warmth, shelter, veterinary care, and bottle feeding.
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Your first reaction to discovering a litter of young puppies or kittens with no mama can be heartbreaking. However, before taking action, it’s important to assess the situation.
If you come across a litter of puppies or kittens that have clearly been dumped by an irresponsible pet owner, be sure to contact your local shelter right away. If it’s after hours or the shelters do not have the capacity to care for a litter of newborns, you may choose to take them in.
When you find a litter of newborn puppies or kittens
During spring and summer, it is not unusual for feral cats or homeless cats and dogs to deliver a litter in what they assess to be a safe place.
Step 1: Wait and watch
It is possible that you came upon these puppies or kittens while their mother is out in search of food. For feral or homeless cats, Valerie Sicignano of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative recommends staying far from the kittens, at least 35 feet, to see if the mother cat returns. This could take hours, but healthy kittens can survive so long as they are in a warm, safe space.
Let the mama cat care for her litter. Sicignano recommends only removing the kittens if they are facing immediate dangers, such as hypothermia in frigid temperatures, or if there is threat of wildlife or other animals running loose in the area.
In the meantime, you can provide food to help feed the mother cat. When the kittens have reached six to eight weeks of age, they can be socialized and placed for adoption. It is also important that the mother cat be spayed to prevent more litters. Contact your local animal control or shelters who can help.
Take the mama dog and her litter to an animal shelter. If the puppies’ mother returns, you can attempt to take her and her pups to a local animal shelter only if she appears to be friendly. Otherwise, it is safest to contact your local animal control services.
Step 2: If the mother cat or dog does not return
If the litter’s mother has been injured or otherwise has not returned, the puppies or kittens will need to be bottle-fed until they are weaned. Contact your local shelters to see if they can take in a litter of newborn pets. You may be advised to take on the responsibility of taking care of the litter in your home if they do not have the staff or capacity.
Caring for newborn puppies and kittens
Puppies and kittens under six weeks of age that do not have a mother have a few crucial needs.
- Provide warmth and shelter. Puppies and kittens cannot withstand cold temperatures for very long, so it’s crucial to get them inside a warm home and wrap them in a blanket, or wrap a hot water bottle in a blanket as a source of heat if necessary.
- Get them checked by a veterinarian. Puppies and kittens cannot fight off illnesses like an adult dog or cat, so it’s important to check that there are no signs of illness or injury. Your veterinarian can also provide advice on how to feed and care for the litter based on their estimated age.
- Bottle feed to give them proper nutrition. Nutrition is very important in these early weeks of life, and newborn puppies and kittens should not drink regular cow’s milk from a grocery store. Learn more about what milk to give newborn puppies. Best Friends Animal Society has helpful information on how to bottle feed newborn kittens.