You found a kitten. Now what?
They’re cute, cuddly, and desperately in need of your help. Or are they?
If you find a litter of tiny kittens outdoors, it’s natural to want to scoop them up and try to care for them yourself or take them to a shelter. But both of those options might actually place them in more danger.
Young kittens are at high risk of dying or being killed in shelters because they require around-the-clock care — and most shelters don’t have the time, space, and people power to attend to the critical needs of young kittens.
Here's what to do when you find kittens without any sign of mom
We're here to help you determine whether a kitten needs your help.
Step 1: Are the kittens visibly sick or injured?
If you've found kittens who look sick or injured, your next step is to find them care.
To find care, contact an animal welfare organization or shelter that can help you assess whether the kittens need intervention. If that isn’t possible, take the kittens to a veterinarian immediately.
If the kittens seem healthy, estimate the age of a healthy kitten by how they look and act:
1-2 weeks old
2-4 weeks old
4-6 weeks old
6–8 weeks old
8+ weeks old
What's the approximate age of the kittens you've found?
If the kittens you've found look younger than 8 weeks, then your next step is to wait to see if mom comes back.
Avoid handling the kittens and watch them from a distance for 10-12 hours. If the kittens seem healthy and content, mom will usually return when she feels it’s safe.
If the kittens are exposed, attempt to find a safe hiding spot nearby, move them, and monitor them from a safe distance for 10-12 hours.
If mom returns: Leave the kittens alone for now. When the kittens are 8 or more weeks old they can be scheduled for spay/neuter surgery along with mom.
If mom doesn't return: These kittens may need your help. If you can't foster them yourself, contact a local animal welfare group for guidance.
If the kittens you've found look older than 8 weeks, then they most likely don't need your help.
Kittens this age usually don’t need much from people or their mom. As long as they are not in immediate danger, you can contact a local provider to schedule spay/neuter surgery.
Download the printable chart to determine a kitten's age.
Found kittens who don't need your help?
Caring for found kittens
If you’ve found kittens and are sure the mother isn’t returning, here’s what you’ll need to know about providing lifesaving love and foster care.
Not quite ready to care for the kittens you found? If you can’t foster them yourself, contact a local animal welfare group for guidance.
Supplies: What you’ll need
A guide to kitten development
Caring for kittens
Get help feeding kittens
Whether it’s your first time fostering or you’re a pro, Best Friends has resources to ensure that your kitten fostering journey goes as smoothly as possible.
How to bottle-feed kittens
Help kittens find permanent loving homes
Learn the best ways to get the word out about adoptable kittens.
These seven tips from a social media pro can help you get maximum visibility for your whiskered wee ones. Plus, reading the guide to helping foster pets find homes can give you even more ideas for getting the word out about the kittens in your care.
Looking for help near you?
We've partnered with shelters and rescue groups, veterinary clinics, and spay/neuter services around the country to help you care for found kittens in your community.
Don’t live near a Best Friends location? No problem.
The Best Friends Network is made up of thousands of public and private shelters, rescue groups, spay/neuter organizations, and other animal welfare groups, all working to save the lives of kittens in communities like yours across the country.
Each and every one of our network partners needs caring people like you to foster to help save the lives of kittens where you live.