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Cats/newborn kittens


Dear Jessica, I have a feral cat who has given birth to 4 kittens. She is very young. I found 3 of them that she seemed  to have abandoned. They are stuck together and seem like they are dying. I am not able to go to a vet. I tried to pry them apart carefully. No luck. Would it be safe, if they seem viable, to use a warm wet cotton ball to clean them and see if I can help them? The mother has kept one near her and I found these several feet away with a lot of flies. I thought they were dead & sadly, they are struggling to live. Should I just let nature take it's course? I feel bad, but I feel this mother will be unable to care for them. I will be taking her, if I can catch her and the kitten she has to the Humane Society tomorrow. I guess my question is--do I try to intervene or let nature take it's course? Thank you so very much for your advice. Sincerely, Susan Erskine

Hi Susan,

It depends on how much responsibility you are willing to take on. Soaking the kittens with warm water won't hurt. I would recommend that you submerge the babies in a warm bath, except for their heads, if they are stuck together in a position that will allow this. This will help to separate them more quickly and easily. Be aware that they may be joined at the umbilical cords, and be sure not to tug on them. An umbilical tear at the navel is dangerous. If the cords are tangled, cut the cords as far from the navel as possible. After the bath, keep the kittens very warm until they are fully dry. They can't maintain their body heat and need to stay in a room at 95-100, or rest on a heating pad wrapped in a towel and set on low.  

If the kittens have any wounds or open infections, it's possible the flies that were covering them laid eggs, and maggots will hatch in the wounds/infected flesh. This really requires treatment by a vet. But if it's not possible, you can try flushing the maggots out with warm, soapy water and sweeping the larvae out with Q-Tips. But the prognosis would be very guarded.

The babies also will need to be hand-fed immediately and then every few hours around the clock until mom accepts them. If you can't commit to this, see if mom will take the babies once you've got them cleaned up.

As an aside, the humane society will put feral cats to sleep, and very few have the staff to hand feed an orphaned kitten. I would urge you to instead see if they can refer you to a feral management organization. They can help make arrangements to spay mom and may have volunteers that can raise the babies. If they won't give you a referral, you might phone some vets and see if they can either refer you, or see if any of the staff are willing to take the babies to raise.

Best of luck!


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The areas in which I have gained the most experience are cat health and feral cat management/rescue. I provide supportive care to chronically ill cats, hospice care to terminally ill cats and also am involved in trap-neuter-return efforts. My specialities lie in taming feral cats and in the allopathic treatment of cats with illnesses or special needs. I also have owned Siamese, Himalayans, Abyssinians, Russian Blues, Savannahs, Bengals, Peterbalds, Don Sphynx and Oriental Shorthairs and am well-versed in cat breeds as well as cat behavior and nutrition.


I have 15 years of extensive experience with cats ranging from breeding to medical care. My daily routine consists of caring for cats with diabetes, thyroid disease, kidney failure, feline leukemia, feline AIDS as well as feral cats. I have experience with liver patients, heart patients, feline infectious peritonitis, cancer, recovery from amputation and trauma, congenital deformities and most every disease in between. I have assisted cats giving birth and hand-nursed kittens who were neglected by their mother from 2 days old through weaning.

15 years' hands-on experience. Current nursing student. I've studied the parallels of human and cat anatomy as well as zoonotic disease, so my studies are broadening the depth of my understanding of feline anatomy, physiology and pathology.

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