For some people, finding a stray kitten is like a dream come true: a cute, tiny little thing with no place to call home who was clearly sent from the heavens to be your best friend for life. Other people, however, may cross paths with a kitten in need and not have the first clue what to feel or do in that situation, and that's OK too! Whatever the situation, helping a stray kitten in need can be easily executed whether you have the resources to take him into your home or not.
A few things to consider first
Before you make any decisions regarding what to do about the stray kitten you just found, you'll want to take note of a few very important details, which will help you take the right steps to keep her safe. The first thing you'll want to do is resist the urge to scoop your little friend up, especially if she's with a litter. Instead, keep a little distance, and look for signs or sounds of a mother cat who may be coming back for her kittens. A motherless kitten is not exactly the same thing as a stray cat, and often, moms will have to leave their young babies alone to find food or move them to a new spot, and if her litter gets moved she'll have no way of finding them. If you see a litter of newborn kittens tucked away in a safe place and you can stick around to keep an eye out, wait to see if the mom returns.
If the mom returns
If the mom returns and is friendly, the Humane Society of Broward County suggests moving the family to a safe place close to you where you can care for them, if you're willing and able to do so. Contacting your local animal shelter or rescue organization may help you place these cats into loving forever homes when the time comes, and may also help you with resources regarding medical care. If the mother is feral, providing food and clean water will give her and her young ones their best shot at survival. A local feral cat organization should be able to help you take measures to have everyone spayed and neutered when the kittens are old enough, which is around 8 to 10 weeks old, along with mom.
If the mom doesn’t return
If mom doesn't return for her kittens, or if you just find one stray kitten out on its own who is clearly motherless, you have a few options, and you'll need to choose the one that's right for you. If you are unable or unwilling to provide immediate care to this kitten, reach out to someone who can — there's no shame in respecting your own limits, and making a few calls can potentially save an animal's life. You can check with friends, family, and neighbors for immediate temporary assistance, or reach out to an established organization, like a cat rescue in your area who may be able to find foster care for your little, homeless friend. If you can't reach anyone for help, an animal control agency may be able to take the kitten off your hands, or point you in the direction of someone who might.
Caring for a stray kitten
If you have the means, the time, space, and the willingness to care for a stray kitten on your own, that's great news for you and your feline friend! The age of your kitten will determine the level of care he'll need, with younger or newborn babies requiring much more time and dedication. The East Bay SPCA states that a newborn baby cat must be fed kitten replacement formula, and not cow's milk, every two to three hours, by bottle. After that, their he'll need to be stimulated to use the bathroom, which can be done by rubbing a warm towel under his bottom.
If your kitten is old enough to eat more solid foods, which usually occurs around four weeks of age, you can make "gruel" by mixing kitten formula and wet kitten food. Around week five, your kitten can advance to solid wet food, and increase feeding amounts and frequencies from there, which can be found here. Litter traning and socializing your kitten is another very important part of kitten care, especially if you plan to adopt him out to another person, so be sure to handle your little friend several times a day, and make time for playtime.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.