Houston is in the midst of kitten season, the annual phenomenon that occurs in warmer months after unaltered female cats go into heat and give birth. As shelters across the region experience the bulk of their cat and kitten intake during this time, Good Samaritans may also encounter kittens in the wild, prompting concern for whether or not they are orphaned and in need of immediate care.
While any animal lover’s first impulse is to intervene and rescue kittens in need, the Houston Humane Society reminds us to ask some key questions before taking any proactive steps. According to the shelter’s Executive Director Gary Poon, it’s all about protecting these vulnerable animals and making sure you are not doing more harm than good.
Are They Sick or Injured? – kittens that are visibly sick, injured or in distress can be reported to 311 or your local animal welfare agency.
How Old Are They? - kittens younger than three weeks old are more fragile and rely on mom for everything, so determining age is an important step before taking any action. Age also influences the level of care they need.
Can You See Mom or a Nest? – a kitten’s best chance at survival is with mom, so make sure she isn’t off hunting or hiding from strangers before intervening. If you move the litter to a safer space, make sure it’s nearby so mom can find them.
Do They Have Access to Food and Shelter? – if mom is still around, make sure she and the litter have access to shelter, food and water and contact a Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) program to have mom and kittens fixed when ready.
If mom is present and kittens are at least six weeks old and friendly, you can also consider utilizing social media and your personal network to try to place them in temporary or forever homes. If mom does not return, call Houston Humane Society at (713) 433-6421 or make a service request online for confirmed orphan kittens.