Don't Kitnap

three very small kittens laying on their bellies

Mom will likely return. Please don’t intervene.

When we find a litter of kittens, our good-hearted instincts tell us to rush to the aid of these fragile felines. Thankfully, human intervention is typically not required. In fact, the best thing we can do is leave the kittens alone. Mom will likely return shortly, and it’s critical that the kittens remain in her care, as she offers the best chance for survival.

Shelters and rescues are inundated every spring and summer with underage kittens brought in by well-meaning good Samaritans. Please, if you see “abandoned” kittens, don’t remove them from the area if they are not in immediate danger. They’re probably just fine where they are, and kitnapping them can do more harm than good.

When to step in


Wait for the mother
If you find a litter of kittens, remember mother cats don’t usually abandon their babies; they will leave them to search for food or to find a more suitable location to move the family. If the kittens are not in obvious danger and appear cozy and clean, simply leave the area. Don’t hide nearby because the mother cat can still smell or notice your presence. Check back in a few hours to see if the kittens have been moved or the mother has returned. Kittens have the best chance of survival with their mother. If they look healthy and well cared for, leave them for the mother cat to raise


Keep them safe
If the kittens are in immediate danger, such as underneath a car or in an area that is flooded, find the nearest safe area to move them while still allowing the mother to find them. Place them in a sheltered area, away from direct sun, rain or traffic, and check back later to see if the mother cat has returned.


It's time to help
After you have observed the kittens for 12 to 24 hours and are sure the mother is not likely to return, or if the kittens are clearly in poor health or injured, it is okay to pick them up and care for them. Be aware that sometimes, no matter what you do, neonatal kittens may not survive, and their health can fade very quickly. You can only try to be the best surrogate guardian possible. Once the kittens are at least eight weeks old, they can be brought to the shelter for vaccinations and adoption.

These kittens do NOT need your help

Healthy, gray kitten sleeping on his back
Clean, dry, and a full belly with light pink coloring, showing he's warm.
Four kittens sleeping and cuddling
Quiet, dry, and clean. No signs of malnourishment.
Healthy, gray kitten looking at the camera
Clear eyes, no nasal discharge, and no apparent injuries.

These kittens DO need your help

Sick kitten with red eyes and discharge
Thin, wet, and cold. She has discharge from the eyes.
Sick underweight kitten with wet fur
Thin, wet, and cold. You can see her backbone.
Sick kitten with nose and eye discharge
Noisy, dirty, and sick. He has nasal discharge and crusted-shut eyes.


Kittens with a mom should be eating frequently. Their bellies will typically have a full, rounded appearance. Sunken bellies, visible bones, and pale skin can indicate that the kittens need help and aren't being fed.


A good mama cat keeps her babies meticulously clean. Kittens that need your help may have dirt, feces, or crusted urine on their bodies. They may be wet. Their genital areas may be red and inflamed, indicating urine scalding.


Sick kittens might have discharge from the eyes and nose. Their eyes may be crusted shut. They may have wounds or open sores.


Cold young kittens cannot regulate their own body temperature and rely on mom, their siblings, and nesting material to keep them warm. They may lose some heat when mom is not with them, so unless they ALSO fit any of the other descriptions below, leave them and check again in 2-4 hours to see if mom came back.


Orphaned and hungry kittens will cry loudly. But loud kittens alone does not indicate that they are orphaned. Mom does not stay with the kittens all day long and might be on her way back. She might even be watching you in the shadows, waiting for YOU to leave her babies alone. Leave these kittens alone for 2-4 hours, then check on them again. If they are quiet when you return, that means mom has probably been back to care for them, and you should let her keep up the good work.

More local help for orphaned kittens

Address: 5975 Burgess Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80908


Address: 1700 S Prairie Ave, Pueblo, CO 81005


After Hours: 719.250.0262