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Discover the best way to help kittens you find alone without their mum with our step-by-step guide

If you find a lone kitten or litter of kittens and they appear to be abandoned or orphaned, then you might want to immediately pick them up and get them to safety. However, this might not be the best thing to do for the kittens, so it’s important to keep calm and assess the situation first.

Should you handle newborn kittens?

two tabby kittens in a cardboard box

It’s possible that the mother cat is still looking after the kittens but has been temporarily scared away by something, perhaps by your presence, or is out searching for food. Therefore, unless the kittens are in direct danger, keep away from them for three to four hours and then check back to see if the mum has returned. You could even leave some cat food nearby to entice the mum back to her kittens.

It’s best for kittens to remain with their mother for the first eight weeks of their life, as they get important antibodies from her milk that help protect them from infectious diseases, and they learn useful skills and behaviours from her. If you try to handle or move newborn kittens when their mum is still caring for them, she may then reject them or even kill them.

If the kittens are in direct danger

Try to get a good look at the kittens from a safe distance and if they look cold, wet or sick, or their environment is not safe, contact a local vet, the local Cats Protection branch or centre, or the RSPCA (for England and Wales), USPCA (for Northern Ireland) or SSPCA (for Scotland). They will be able to give you advice on the best way to help the kittens, or come and collect them and take them to safety.

If the mum comes back to the kittens

black-and-white cat lying down with litter of kittens

If the kittens appear healthy and you see the mum return to care for them:

If the mum does not come back to the kittens

grey-and-white kitten

Abandoned kittens cannot survive for very long without food and warmth. If the kittens have been alone for over four hours and the mum has not returned:

Find out more about what to do if you've found a cat

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