What to Do When You Find a Lost Kitten

Did a kitten follow you home, did you find one under a shed? What does one do when they have found a lost or stray kitten? What can you feed a lost kitten?

This article is for people who have found a kitten that is at least five weeks old and therefore can survive without its mother (Note that normally kittens should be with their mothers for at least 7 weeks), for help concerning younger kittens, please contact your veterinarian, local animal shelter, or read this link regarding orphaned kittens.

Although we use the term kitten here, this information can apply to adult cats, with the condition that the food be adult food, where mentioned. This information is valuable when you find a kitten late at night when no stores, or veterinarians, or animal shelters, are open.

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photo source

First Rule: NO MILK. Although cats and kittens love milk, it is not good for them, and can actually make them ill or give them an upset stomach. You can give them water. Be aware that cat milk treat sold in pet stores is of no nutritional value and is purely a gimmick, as well it is less hydrating than water.

Second Rule: No matter what time of day/night it is, if the kitten is injured, call a veterinarian. Most veterinarians have after hours on-call services and as the kitten is not yours you do not have to pay. Rather the kitten becomes property of the local animal shelter (if unclaimed by an owner after 72 hours) and they will pay for its care.

Third Rule: The kitten is not legally yours. Check for identification (collar, tattoo). You must call your local humane society, SPCA, or pound, and report finding it. In this way if an owner reports it missing it can be returned to them. This also protects you from being accused of Theft. If you wish to keep the kitten you can discuss this with the shelter if no owner comes forth, if not you can actually take the kitten to the shelter and leave it with them. You cannot give it away to somebody else without asking the shelter how long you need to wait following reporting it found.

Rarely will a kitten have a microchip, but you can take it to a veterinarian, or animal shelter, where they can scan it for free.

Feeding a lost kitten

As mentioned earlier, milk is not to be fed to a kitten.

Ideally offer it kitten food, but if none is available (as when stores are closed) you can offer it adult cat food. Otherwise if you cannot get kitten food, cooking a chicken breast and cutting it into small pieces is best. If this is not possible, and it is a very young kitten, you can offer it rice pablum, or even cooked rice – neither of these have much nutritional value, but will fill the kitten up until morning when some kitten food can be purchased.

Do not offer a little kitten fish, or other meat. These can be too harsh on a kitten’s stomach and may even make it ill. A larger kitten (over 3 months) can be given dog food, or cooked beef, however this should not be given other than if at night when stores are closed. Dog food does not have enough meat protein, or taurine for cats, it is okay to give in an emergency situation, but not for more than two days.

Litter

Kittens generally use a litter box, if you have found a kitten and do not have a litter box and stores are closed you need to find a substitute. Try finding a cardboard box and cutting the edges down low to make a litter box. Shred some newspaper to act as litter, or use sand if you have a sand box.

Where to Keep it?

The kitten, its litter box, food, and water, should be kept in a small room in your home. Ideally confine the kitten in a warm bathroom.

What if I Cannot Keep it?

If you cannot keep the kitten, you must take it to the local animal shelter, SPCA, or pound (call a veterinarian if you do not know where the shelter is in your area). In this way they will try to reunite it with its owner. Adoptable kittens go into adoption. Be aware you cannot give away a kitten you found unless you first reported finding it and have waited an adequate time (usually 2 weeks) for an owner to come forth. This is because the kitten is not legally yours to rehome.

What if the Kitten Looks Sick?

Kittens often have health issues, particularly if they have been outside long. If its eyes or nose are watering and gunky it could have an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection. Keep it away from any cats you own, especially if they are young, old, or not vaccinated. If there is blood the kitten needs veterinarian attention right away. Otherwise this is a cold similar to what people get, but can become something worse if ignored.

Ear mites, fleas, and worms, are often concerns in stray kittens, and a veterinarian can address these as well, but hold off going to the veterinarian until after you have called your local animal shelter to see if anyone has reported the kitten lost. If you take the kitten to the veterinarian at this point, and an owner comes to claim it they do not have to pay you for the vet bill you already paid.

File:Polish Kitten.jpg

photo source

If you have cats of your own, do not let them near the stray kitten even if it looks healthy, wash your hands between touching it and your own cat.

Summary

Do not feed a lost little kitten milk, call the animal shelter and report finding it as soon as you can. The goal needs to be keeping it safe, and reuniting it with its owner.  Do not let it back outside or it risks becoming lost again.

Click here for Specific Information on Taming Feral Cats, and Wild Kittens.

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User Comments
  1. PSingh1990

    On September 7, 2010 at 4:06 am

    Nice Share.

    :-)

  2. RAJEEV BHARGAVA

    On September 7, 2010 at 4:41 am

    a brillant article that offers practical advice on what to do. the myth of cats drinking milk and loving it is broken and the reality revealed too about getting upset stomachs. call the vet immediately for advice is the right thing. i completely agree and i loved it all. thanks for sharing. :)

  3. Ethics0006

    On September 7, 2010 at 9:52 am

    I love kitty

  4. Milton H Peebles III

    On September 7, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I’ve done what you wrote many times. Sometime last year I wrote about all the cats I ever had and some of them were lost kittens. Mother and I became good friends with the Humane Society – We seemed to bring them a kitten every other month for awhile.

    Take Care, DreamSweet and Let Your Heart Shine
    ~ milty

  5. coffeeadict

    On September 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Nicely written, and I found out some info I didn’t know bfore – thanks!

  6. BriannaMorgan

    On September 8, 2010 at 5:50 am

    great article and love the pictures

  7. Jimmy Shilaho

    On September 8, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I thought you would say, tie a milestone round its neck and throw it into the river. Well, nice entry.

  8. Minister Marlene

    On September 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    This is good. People are not sure what to do and they may want to help. And some kittens or cats do have owners. Cute as a button kitten picture on top.

    Some people just keep feeding groups of cats and that’s not good. They should see if the cats are sick or have an owner etc. My friend does this and I really never thought about what you’ve said. I’ll pass on this info.

    She does care for some, spays them, shots etc.but she leaves others out and just keeps them around feeding them. She feed them well and has the land but still…

  9. Ruby Hawk

    On September 9, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Sounds like very good advice.Your kitten pictures are beautiful.

  10. CA Johnson

    On September 9, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Thank you so much for these tips. I didn’t realize that you shouldn’t give the kitten any milk.

  11. sapphirelaws22

    On September 10, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    lovely pictures of kittens with a great advice!

  12. PR Mace

    On September 11, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Nicely done article with good advice. My daughter found a small kitten under her patio table after Hurricane Dennis. They could never find the owner and the vet made sure she was healthy. Her name is Penny and she has a good home.

  13. DAN MCHARDY

    On September 17, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    It’s obvious you have deep insight on your animal niche :) Nice Article thanks for share and keep it up!

  14. Sally

    On September 30, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Good advice, but I was hoping to find something about how you should not feel bad if you cannot keep it. I have two cats, a dog and a turtle. I found a beautiful, affectionate kitten today in the woods by my house and am heartbroken that my husband wants to take it to a shelter. I needed to find something that told me it was okay that we at least saved it from the rain and neighborhood dogs. I really wanted to keep it and would have given it a good home but my husband disagreed. I am so sad now that I can’t bear to say goodnight to it and grow even more attached. Any nice words of encouragement would be appreciated.
    Thanks.

  15. Brenda Nelson

    On October 1, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    to Sally

    you should not feel bad about not being able to keep it… its owner probably is looking for it. If it was in the woods, owls, raccoons,and so forth are also threats.

    Taking the kitten to the shelter is the right thing, many people go to animal shelters to adopt and most of them want kittens.

  16. Beatriz A Felix

    On October 15, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Thank You so much this really helped I just found a little kitten and im more of a dog person cause I have 2 but i felt so bad for it and it was cold outside and I didnt know what to do, but thanks to this I am able atleast to help the kitten a bite for it to get better cuz ts so skinny and looks sick and also to find the real owner or get adopted.

  17. Casandra

    On September 6, 2012 at 1:19 am

    I just found a kitten and it\’s 1 am. I plan on taking it to the human society tomorrow morning. I gave it water and I have cats so I gave it some cat food. It\’s eyes are gunky and it sounds congested as well as it is very skinny. I would really love to keep this kitten if it is not claimed by an owner. The cat is very sweet and let me pick it up. I found it in the middle of the road. If i bring it to the humane society do I have to pay for the vet visit? And if I want to adopt the cat do I have to pay for the vet bills??

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