I found kittens alone, now what?

Mom will likely come back. Please do not kit-nap. “Helping” a litter of community kittens might not be so helpful after all. The best course of action to take when you find kittens alone is to wait for their mom to return - she offers the best chance at survival. It is best to first observe from a distance for a few hours to determine if mom is returning to her nest. The mother cat may be out searching for food, taking a break, or even hiding from you. If you are positive that mom is not coming, you can be their hero and care for them until they’re old enough to find homes. Maddie's Fund has amazing info on how to care for orphaned kittens! If mom returns, the best thing you can do is place some fresh cat food and water out for her. It is best not to continue to check on them more than once a day as not to disturb the nest.

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ACC recognizes that community cats are a challenge throughout the five boroughs and is committed to participating in effectively and humanely controlling their population. Community cats can include social, indoor/outdoor cats, abandoned strays and feral cats – really, any cat living outside that has an established and sustained lifestyle can be considered a community cat. Animal Care Centers of NYC believes that the most effective solution is a comprehensive program that includes:

  • Community education about spay/neuters. Having your pet cat spayed/neutered helps keep that from happening as well as staying up to date on your cat’s vaccines. If you are in need of assistance with this ACC has resources to help.  Additionally, it is the law in NYC that if your cat is indoor/outdoor, it must be spayed/neutered.
  • Policy change.  As this concept of community cats is embraced it may be possible to enact legislation geared towards helping keep these cats safe and healthy.
  • Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) of community cats. Through TNR, cats are humanely trapped and sterilized, given vaccines and basic wellness care, and then placed back into the community in which they were living. Volunteer caretakers then provide food, water and clean, unobtrusive shelters for the cats. Become TNR certified at Neighborhoodcats.org

Though it may seem against logic to allow cats to remain living outdoors, there are some real, data-supported reasons to do so. National studies have shown that when cats are removed from an area, more cats move in. If you sterilize the population, you will stop the constant flow of kittens and the colony will actually keep other cats from moving into the area.  Having cats in an area can also help prevent nuisance animals from moving in as well, such as rodents or raccoons. Eventually, through the natural life cycle, the colony population will decrease. TNR also helps to stop many of the undesirable behaviors including loud mating, territorial fights and spraying. TNR:

  • Stabilizes the population.
  • It is more effective and less expensive than attempts at extermination.
  • Eliminates or reduces annoying behaviors like spraying, yowling, and fighting.
  • It is the humane thing to do. Anyone who suggests inhumane and/or illegal methods of cat population control may be prosecuted according to the law.
  • TNR increases community immunity against rabies and other diseases.

Your next step:
If you are not the free-roaming cat caregiver, take the time to talk to your neighbors and learn about TNR by visiting Neighborhood CatsNYC Feral Cat Initiative, and AlleyCat.org.