You’ve found a litter of helpless kittens, a baby bird fallen from its nest, or an orphaned opossum in your yard…now what? Summer months mean its baby season in San Diego, when breeding among cats and wildlife is at its highest. When coming across these helpless infants, your first instinct might be to snatch them up with the intent to save them. However, San Diego Humane Society is informing the community that there are better ways to be advocates for the animals.
“If you find a litter of kittens, more likely than not, mom is nearby watching you and her babies. Kittens and all baby animals have the best chance of survival if they are kept with their mother until weaned,” said Austin Gates, Vice President & Senior Director of the Oceanside Campus for San Diego Humane Society. “Unless they’re in immediate danger, it’s best to watch to see if mom comes back before taking action.”
I found a kitten…now what?
Watch to assess whether or not the kittens are injured or exposed to harsh elements like direct sunlight or rain.
Kittens are fine to be left alone for a few hours, so wait to see if mom comes back. If mom doesn’t return within six hours, then it’s time to intervene. “We receive more than 3,000 orphaned kittens to our nursery each year. Most of the time, really well intentioned people bring in a litter for care, but the mama cat may have returned to find her kittens gone,” says Gates.
Did mom return? There are things you can do to make life a little easier for her like provide food and water so she doesn’t have to leave her babies. However, leaving food out for too long can attract predators, so place it a safe distance away from the kittens and don’t leave it out for more than two hours.
If mom did not return, you can:
Become a foster parent! San Diego Humane Society provides the training, supplies and medical support necessary to care for the orphaned kittens until they are old enough to be adopted into a permanent home.
Make an appointment at your local shelter to relinquish the litter of kittens. San Diego Humane Society has a kitten nursery and team of foster volunteers specially trained to care for orphaned kittens.
“We rely on the community to be advocates for wildlife too,” says Jessica Des Lauriers, Senior Director of the San Diego Campus and Project Wildlife. “We’re currently taking in an average of 50 baby wildlife each day, which all need immediate medical intervention and care. Sometimes that baby bird on the ground is simply learning how to fly, so unless the animal is injured or orphaned, wildlife should be left alone. Knowing what to look for is the best thing we can do to protect San Diego’s diverse wildlife population.”
For guidelines on what to do if you find baby wildlife, visit Project Wildlife’s resource page here.
For more details on caring for an orphaned kitten, see San Diego Humane Society’s Orphaned Kitten Care Guidelines here.