6 Things to Know If You Find an Abandoned Kitten

So, you found an abandoned kitten — do you know what to do next? This list of six steps will help you figure out exactly what orphaned kittens need.

A gray kitten sitting in a human's lap.
If you found an orphaned kitten, be sure to keep her warm. Photography ©Kichigin | Thinkstock.

So, you’ve found an abandoned kitten and she needs your help! Luckily, you came to the right place for great advice on what to do.

1. Make sure the kitten is actually abandoned.

Two Calico cats who look alike, possibly a mama cat and kitten.
First, make sure that the kitten in question is actually abandoned. Photography by Mahlebashieva/Thinkstock.

First, did you actually find an abandoned kitten? Her mother might be off hunting or, if she’s feral, hiding from you. Keep an eye on the kitten from a safe distance. If the mother hasn’t come back after 12 hours, it’s time to take the next step.

2. Keep the abandoned kitten warm.

A kitten in a blanket.
Young kittens can’t regulate their own body temperatures. Photography © 2002lubava1981 | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Kittens younger than 3 weeks can’t control their body temperature and can get chilled easily. Prepare a “nest” lined with towels, with a heating pad or hot water bottle underneath. Leave extra space she can crawl away to if she gets too hot.

3. See other sources for help.

Check with your local shelter or rescue group to see if they might already have some nursing mother cats. Or, they might have volunteers or foster caretakers who know how to bottle-feed kittens. They can also provide advice if you decide to care for this abandoned kitten on your own.

4. Bottle-feed the abandoned kitten if necessary.

Bottle feeding a kitten.
Young kittens will need to be bottle-fed. Photography ©Dobroslav Hadzhiev | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

If the kitten is a week old or younger, you’ll need to bottle-feed her kitten formula every two hours around the clock. At 2 weeks of age, she can be fed every four hours around the clock.

Make sure she is belly-down when bottle-feeding to ensure the formula goes into her stomach and not her lungs. Once she’s 4 to 5 weeks old she can start on wet kitten food.

5. Care after feeding is important.

After every feeding, the kitten will need to be gently burped and wiped. If the abandoned kitten in question is less than 4 weeks, her anogenital area needs to be wiped with a warm, damp paper towel or cloth to stimulate her to urinate and defecate.

6. Know that an abandoned kitten is very vulnerable.

A newborn kitten in the palm of a human hand.
Abandoned kittens are unfortunately at greater risk for health issues. Photography by Branislav Ostojic/Thinkstock.

Not every kitten rescue has a happy ending. Since an abandoned kitten doesn’t get the benefits of the antibodies in the mother’s milk, she’s more vulnerable to problems like infections, hypothermia and anemia.

Don’t be hard on yourself if the kitten doesn’t make it. Realize that you did your best and take comfort in the fact that the kitten knew safety and love while in your care.

Tell us: Have you ever found an abandoned kitten?

Thumbnail: Photography by ©Kichigin | Thinkstock.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in Kittens, a special issue from Catster magazine. Look for Kittens on a newsstand near you! 

This piece was originally published on June 26, 2018.

October is Rescue Month on Catster.com! Rescuing a cat or thinking about it? Stay tuned for tips and advice on making her feel happy and comfortable. 

Read more about kittens on Catster.com:

18 thoughts on “6 Things to Know If You Find an Abandoned Kitten”

  1. I live on a Greek island abandoned kittens are always being rescued by me. At the moment I have 25 cats and kittens at home. Inside my house there is nowhere to sit. I cannot invite anyone for coffee unless they like cats… I have cat trees toys
    Blankets cat houses and beds litter trays medication everywhere. Its so rewarding to watch a kitten that had no hope playing.

    1. We found one in a hollow tree (looks like it had been a cat nest) He seems to have been there a long time. Healthy looking, seems to be about 4 weeks old. I need a suggestion….he wants to eat the kitty litter. How did yours handle training so well?

  2. Please tell me if I can use lemons on 4-6 week old kittens for fleas.I saw where they boiled lemons then put it on the kittens is this safe?

  3. I found an abandoned kitten, that was around 4 weeks old. Her eye’s were just opening up and so were her ear’s. When I got her home, the 1st thing I did, was to clean the crusty’s off her eye’s and gently clean her dirty little face. I then wrapped her up in warm, baby flannel blankets and she fell asleep. I didn’t have to bottle feed her for long, because I would warm up cat milk for my other 3 cat’s, when it’s cold outside and while scurrying around on the floor, she found the dishes of milk and started drinking it immediately. So, I started her getting warm kitten milk every time it was time to eat. At around 7 weeks old, I saw her trying to eat some dry cat food that I keep out for my older cat’s, it was so cute watching her bat this 1 piece of food around the floor, but I knew she was to young for it. I had already stocked up on wet kitten food, so I warmed up the wet food, put it in a small dipping sauce cup and put her on my bed w/the food and watched her eat every bit of it, even licking the cup clean. W/in 4 weeks, she was eating the whole can. At that time, I started her on Purina kitten chow, which she was finally able to eat. I still fed Holly in my bedroom, because my other cat’s also loved her food and milk and were always trying to get to it, so they could eat and drink it up. My adult female, Mia, especially loved both.
    Now that Holly, is over a year old, she is doing very well. She had taken over the group of 3 other cat’s and our dog. Holly and Calli, my daughter’s kitten/cat (now), constantly run around the house and on all 3 floors, playing tag and attacking the little catnip mice I bought them. Holly has even gotten both Maddie (My male) and Mia up and running around in play, which I’m thankful for, because their getting old and they were starting to become sedentary. Marie’s been a good teacher, since Holly joined the family. He taught her to use the litter box, he reprimanded her when she was getting out of control during playtime, he would hold and groom her, like her mother would have and I’ve seen him comfort her when she gets scared.
    They all know their place at bedtime. Laya, our dog and Calli sleep in bed w/their mommy (my daughter) and Mia and Maddie climb in bed w/me, then after Holly see’s that everyone is in their own place, she jumps up on my bed, goes under my blanket, kisses me on my chin and hand and then curls up by my chest and goes to sleep.
    I was very lucky w/her. She’s very smart and she had, not only me, but 3 other cat’s and a dog to help raise her. She’s one happy young cat today and I hope it stays that way.

  4. My methods work well, but not everyone is set up for it as I am. One thing, though–if you can get a pair of hemostats, those little needle-nosed blood clamps doctors use to clamp off veins, gently use them while the kitten is wrapped in a fluffy towel to dry after its bath. You just see a flea, grab it with the hemostats & WAFFLE that little vampire. Very likely your kitten will go to sleep while the towel wicks away all the moisture. It seems to help socialize them, as well. Keep replacing the warm towels as they become damp. I’ve never needed more than three–even on a larger cat.

    By the way, medical supply places have the hemostats, or you could order one online.

  5. I have a feral colony that lives in my yard, they are fed 2x a day, provided with shelter and have all been s/n, however, I am a target for drop offs. Last year in the middle of a cold spell someone left 3 newborns in a box in my driveway. They were there at least 8 hours, I frantically picked them up and immediately started warming them, then it started. I slept with them right next to me for the next 3 weeks, feeding them every half hour. I had a kitty sitter while I was at work. I brought them to the vet the day after finding them and the vet checked them out and told me to do the best I can but be prepared. Today the runt is 26 pounds, his brother is a beautiful long haired black 15 pounder and the little girl was adopted and thriving. Please neuter or spay your pets. Give them a fighting chance

  6. Please tell me if I can use lemons on 4-6 week old kittens for fleas.I saw where they boiled lemons then put it on the kittens is this safe?

    1. Hi Linda,
      Please check with your vet re: fleas on kittens this young!
      Here are a few recommendations on fighting fleas on cats, but please work with a vet:

  7. A Momma cat brought her four kittens to my home and stayed five days..I don’t know if she abandoned them or if something happened to her. They were just beginning to open their eyes. My vet did not have a nursing cat so off to the store for kitten milk and bottles…I think the nipples on the bottles are much too tough and too big for the kittens..I made several pin holes, but kittens were not able to suck hard enough . Finally, just cut off the tip and gently squeezed the milk into their mouths…That was about seven weeks ago…today they are bouncing off the walls..they almost box train themselves..kittens are tough and amazing little critters! I know I need to find homes for them, but it’s going to be very difficult!

  8. Pingback: Catster Tips on Cat Wet Food & Dry Food Debate | Furs For Us

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