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Mother Knows Best!


The weather is warming up and kittens are already being born! This means that we are receiving more questions about what to do for young kittens who appear to be abandoned by their mother.

If kittens are healthy, it’s critical that they be kept together with their mother (this is the best chance for their survival!). Here are questions to consider when you’re determining whether kittens need your help, or need to stay with their mother:

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 301-733-2060 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.


Please consider all of these questions collectively - not individually - and do not consider intervening before you have spent hours observing the situation from a safe distance (mom may not return when you are around). Not all kittens that appear abandoned at first have actually been left behind by mom.

Removing healthy kittens from the mother that is caring for them drastically decreases their likelihood of survival. As always, if you have any specific questions, please call the shelter at 301-733-2060. Thank you for your continued concerns and genuine desire to help the animals of Washington County!


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