Kindred Kitties gets requests on a daily basis to help local stray kitties, but the stray and feral population in our area is simply too large for us to be able to help with every single request. The number of kitties we are able to help is directly based on the limited number of foster homes we have at any given time and typically, they are full. With that in mind, we would like to enable you to be able to help that stray kitty you have been seeing and to help our community move forward in decreasing the number of unwanted, homeless kitties. The following information is intended as a resource guide to assist members of our community who are concerned about the stray or feral cats in their neighborhood.
So you want to help that stray cat in your backyard. Thank you! You CAN make a difference. You may be thinking, how much is this going to cost? What kind of vet care will it need? Am I going to be able to find a home for it? While we may not be able to help by taking every kitty into our care, we are happy to try and help you if you find a stray kitty if you are able to help provide temporary shelter for the kitty.
What you need to do next will depend on whether the cat is friendly or feral (unsocialized/wild). A friendly cat who has been outside a while may appear feral at first but may really just be shy. Take some time to get to know the stray if you are able. If the cat is feral, please visit our Trap-Neuter-Return Program page for information and resources.
Otherwise, continue reading for information on capturing, temporary housing, veterinary resources, and finding a new home for your stray. If you have found a friendly stray, please consider filing a FOUND cat report with your local humane society and Lost Cats of Wisconsin to help reunite the kitty with possible owners. Any vet or humane society can scan the stray kitty for a microchip as well.
The first step is to determine where you will house the cat while you look for its owners or a permanent home. It is important to keep in mind that the adoption process could take weeks or months. In a pinch, a bathroom may work for an adult kitty, but a spare room will work much better for a longer-term stay. If you are unable to personally foster the kitty, try asking friends and family if they would be willing to provide a temporary foster home.
If you absolutely are unable to bring the cat inside long term and are unable to locate someone to help, consider seeking out veterinary care for the cat (be sure to allow at least 3-7 days of indoor/sheltered recovery from spay/neuter), and then provide fresh food/water daily and provide outdoor shelter until a home can be found for the kitty.
Getting the Kitty Inside
If you’re lucky, you can simply pick up the stray or let it walk inside. Sometimes though, that friendly stay you’ve been feeding may be a bit more difficult to catch. Begin by feeding the cat at the same time each day so that you know what it is hungry. You can try setting up a cat carrier as the feeding station or near the feeding station so the cat gets used to going inside. If you are unable to get the cat inside or into a carrier, it may be time to try to nab the kitty with a live trap. We generally have live traps available to be loaned out with a refundable deposit.
Once you’ve gotten the kitty inside, it is important to keep the stray kitty separate from your pets until the kitty has been treated for fleas and until you are sure it is healthy. You can separate the kitty in a spare room, bathroom, or enclosed porch. You may want to ask your vet about any health risks to your pets. A separate food bowl, water bowl, and litter box should be provided.
Pregnant Strays and Young Kittens
It is important to note that we are unable to provide medical advice nor can we provide you with all of the information you need to care for a pregnant or nursing stray and young kitties. The following information is meant to serve as basic guidelines. If you believe a cat or kitten is sick, please take it to a vet immediately for an exam or treatment. If you are unable to do this, please take the kitty to your local humane society so that it can get the medical attention it needs.
If you believe the stray kitty is pregnant, you can take her to the vet for an exam to be certain. Depending on how far along in her pregnancy she is, you may have the option of ending the pregnancy (a spay/abort procedure). If this is not an option, you will need to provide a safe, warm place for her to have her kittens. A box or laundry basket lined with towels will work. For more information on a cat’s gestation period or the birthing process, please look online, as there are many great resources out there. The mother cat should be fed high quality kitten food during the pregnancy and through the duration of nursing the kittens. Kittens should not be separated from the mother and siblings until they are fully weaned—generally 8 weeks old as this provides important nutrition and social skills for the kittens.
NEVER bring a female cat inside or otherwise relocate her if she has been recently nursing. This could result in the death of her entire litter. The cat may be nursing if she has less hair around her nipples or swollen mammary area. If this is the case, try to locate the kittens and bring them all inside—but never separate them.
Feral Cat with Kittens
If you believe you have found a feral cat with kittens, assess the situation carefully before intervening in any way unless the kittens appear to be in imminent danger. The kittens have the absolute best chance of survival if they are able to stay with their mother during the first four weeks of life. If possible, wait until the kittens are 4-6 weeks old to remove them from the mother. Kittens taken from the mother later in life, between 8-12 weeks, are often much more difficult to socialize. Don’t forget to trap and spay the mother kitty once the kittens have been removed. Continue to feed her daily to keep her in the area and get her spayed as soon as possible. Kitties can become pregnant again WHILE they are nursing their current litter.
If you come across what you believe is an abandoned litter of kittens, time is of the essence. Depending on their age and how long they have been without their mama, they may not have much time to lose. If the kittens appear to be well-fed, healthy, warm, and are not screaming for food, their mom may not be far away. She may be out looking for food or temporarily scared off due to your presence. Please do not disturb the kittens and keep an eye from a distance for a couple hours to see if mama returns to care for them. If the mother is still around, keep them together if at all possible as it will increase the kittens’ chance of survival. If the kittens are screaming for food, cold/dirty, or look like mama has not been there to feed them, do not delay, these kittens need to be warmed up and fed. DO NOT FEED KITTENS COWS MILK. Please see Kitten Rescue’s online resource for more information about Raising Orphaned Kittens.