Caring for Litters of Stray Kittens

Stray kitten

We know many of you come into contact with stray and feral cats in your everyday lives.

For example, when I wrote a blog post about what to do if you find an abandoned cat or kitten, reader Robyn asked this question in the comments:

I have five stray cats that I have fed for over a year. I can't bring them in since I have two dogs and a cat of my own. The smallest cat ate this evening and proceeded to give birth to at least three kittens (that I see). She went inside the house I have on my small back porch with little dog beds and blankets inside for the cats.

I never knew she was pregnant. I cannot afford to feed any more cats. I know mommy will feed them for a few months, but how do I protect them being outside? I know shelters are overcrowded and I cannot imagine them being put to sleep. These cats have been a part of my so-called family for a while now and I don't know what would be best for them. Any advice?

Petfinder's public receptionist, Kristen, and I e-mailed Robyn some advice, but I wanted to share it here in the hope that you'll find it helpful as well.

What you can do:

Call your local shelter or rescue group:
Even if your local shelter is too full to take the mom and kittens to re-home, it's a great place to call first. Staffers may be able to refer you to a foster group that can raise the kittens, or at least -- so you won't end up with even more unexpected litters in your yard -- low-cost spay/neuter options or a group near you with a trap, neuter and return program for feral cats.

Call your own veterinarian
Your vet's office may already be working with local people who assist outdoor cats, or may offer a discount to good clients who are helping strays.

Bring mom and her kittens inside (if possible)
If the mom cat is friendly, it would be great if you could bring her and her kittens inside temporarily to keep them safe (be sure to keep them in a room separate from your other pets).

If you don't have a place to keep them in your home, check with family and friends to see if they would provide a short-term place for them.

In the meantime, provide additional shelter on your property for any other stray cats so that Momma Cat can have the house on your back porch all to herself. Be sure to provide her with good-quality food -- she'll need it to nourish herself and the kittens.

Once inside, interact with the kittens as much as possible
Whether mom is feral or not, it's important for the kittens to have as much human contact as possible once their eyes open so that you'll end up with friendly kittens you can find homes for -- not wild kittens who add to your outdoor population. (Check out this article for more info: Tips for Finding a Home for a Pet.)

Get everyone spayed and neutered to avoid future litters
But the most important thing is to get your outdoor cats fixed so you don't end up with future litters of kittens. Even if they are feral (wild-acting), they can be safely captured with humane cage traps. 

Spaying and neutering will also keep your outdoor cats healthy, and reduce the likelihood that wandering tomcats will choose to visit (and stay) to court the ladies. While looking for help from local organizations for your momma cat and her kittens, don't forget to mention you're also looking for help getting your entire outdoor clan fixed.