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Fostering a feral mom amd kittens - what to look out for?

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  • Fostering a feral mom amd kittens - what to look out for?

    Please help. A good friend brought over a little black momma cat and 4 kittens yesterday in a Havaheart trap. Her neighbor trapped them. We really don't know too much about them or the circumstances. The mom was petrified and just shaking. I have had cats my whole life, but always older and I just lost my last cat to Feluk complications two weeks previous. So I got volunteered to take care of them.

    I have the mom and her kittens in a small dog crate with water, food and a litter box. She did eat all the food last night.

    It does not appear that anyone has gone to the bathroom since they arrived yesterday midday. But I will know for sure when I move them later to a larger crate.

    And the mom does not move much- just stares at me when I enter the room. The kittens are active and suckling. They appear to be about 3-4 days old from what I can tell.

    How much will the mom normally move around in the first few weeks? What are some things I should watch for? Or do for her?
    I really do not want to take them to the vet unless it is necessary, she has had so much trauma the last couple of days.

    She is a room by herself so that it is quiet and I check on her every couple of hours.

    The only info that I can find on the internet is for orphan cats. So I am hoping someone can tell what normal behaviour is and what I should be on the look out for?

    thank you
    Last edited by Beau Soleil; May. 7, 2013, 09:53 PM.

  • #2
    I would probably stay out of the way and let Momma cat do her thing with the kittens for the time being. Bring a book in when you feed her and just spend time being in there. Don't look at her, or talk to her... just be there. Give her somewhere to 'hide' like a large dog crate if you have one. Even if Big Momma doesn't warm up to your presence, the kittens more than likely will. It will make them easier to rehome. My guess is that once she starts to relax her bathroom habits will resume and she'll start moving around. I'm not sure about the kittens.

    I think that you can wean kittens between 4-5 weeks (please, somebody correct me if I'm wrong) and they can be wormed at that point. Please, PLEASE bring Big Momma to the vet to get spayed. Call around and plead your case.. many vets can direct you to spay/neuter programs that will help with the cost of that and worming/vacc. They can also give you some more info. Call local shelters too, I'm sure they get this kind of stuff pretty often and know how to deal with it. They can also help with spay/neuter/vacc/etc.

    Bless you for taking them! There are others on here who know much more than me, but you are doing a great thing and getting major karma points!


    • #3
      I'm not sure about the weaning at 4-5 weeks, in my (admittedly limited) understanding momma will take care of that herself. Totally agree just spend time in the r oom daily and don't attempt to interact with her. Once the kittens are a bit older I'd try if possible to socialize them. Good luck and bless you!
      What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


      • #4
        Just give her plenty of food and water, and space. Make sure she's taking care of the kittens properly (washing them, letting them nurse, and taking care of all of them; sometimes a new momma cat will choose which to take care of and which she won't nurse). If she feels comfortable, she'll take better care of them.

        She'll start to wean them herself, but my momma cats never did that until the babies were closer to 7-8 weeks old. They'll start to eat a little on their own gradually.


        • #5
          I agree that 8 weeks is the norm although you may have to adjust that if mom still isn't coming around to the idea of having people around. I assume you know that mom will take care of their bathroom needs for a few weeks so the only one using the litterbox will be her. Once they are ready to start going themselves I use a cookie sheet as a litter box as they are too small to climb into a regular litter box. The main thing you need to do is make sure they don't become feral too. You need to handle them, not necessarily now but in a couple of weeks whether she likes it or not.
          McDowell Racing Stables

          Home Away From Home


          • #6
            Weaning between three and four weeks means you will be bottle feeding. If at all possible, leave them with their mom until they are a little older. Eight weeks is ideal, but with a feral mom, you will have to work on socializing the kittens, which will be harder the older they get. Be sure the mother is nursing them. I'm currently bottle feeding a four week old kitten who got lost in the shuffle. It is harder to check on them, and this litter got a URI and developed eye issues, plus this kitten, the runt, wasn't able to nurse well enough and almost died before the foster realized what was happening. Our group's feral person keeps the mother and kittens in a very large dog crate, with a shelf built in so the mom can have a little alone time when she wants it. There is room for a litter pan, food and water. Knowing the mobility of kittens older than four weeks, I would think more space would be needed at that point, so if they are still with mom, and she is still wild, maybe get some sort of doggie corral. The mom could hop out and you could play with the kittens. Good luck, and you are wonderful for taking on this little family.
            Mystic Owl Sporthorses


            • #7
              I keep my litters in a bathtub in my foster/guest room until they are old enough to climb out. That obviously doesn't work with a feral mom though.
              McDowell Racing Stables

              Home Away From Home


              • #8
                It sounds like she is in a crate with the kittens. Are you planning on letting her loose in the room? Definitely you will need a quiet, small place for her hide her kittens if she loose in the room. She will eat A LOT. Feed her whatever she will eat. Lots of fresh water available. I can almost guarantee if you let her and the kittens loose in the room, and you put a dog crate in there in the hopes that she will put them in it, it will not happen. Maybe a box, with a blanket in it, under a bed?


                • Original Poster

                  Thank you for all the replies. She is currently in a crate with the kittens. And I will certainly make sure everyone is neutered before they get rehomed. She does not move at all - just kinda readjusts herself so the kittens can nurse. Hopefully tonight she will use the litter box. She has as much food and water as she wants.
                  Thank you.


                  • #10
                    Maybe add a little bit of outside dirt to the top of the litter, say in one corner of it.
                    Cats are good, but not all know what a litterbox is.
                    And if you have baby proofed the room open the door to the crate, Mom's need a break to get away stretch and eat. But make sure you don't have open vents, holes in the closet etc where she could get in and hide from you first.


                    • #11
                      Good on you for taking them in!

                      We took in a stray (she was clearly accustomed to people) and her 4 3-day old kittens two years ago. They were covered in fleas and the mother was malnourished and had a really bad ear mite infestation, awful.

                      Gave them a room of their own (kept them isolated from our other animals). Started them out in a crate and x-pen, but the mother had other ideas and moved them into the closet in the room. I obliged and put an old clean horse turnout under them. I recall that she rarely left them for the first two weeks.

                      Fed her high-quality canned and grain-free kibble at the time. IIRC she weaned them at about 6-7 weeks; they ate canned food after that. Took them to the vet at about 8 weeks IIRC for vacs, check-up etc.

                      We kept the mother and two of the kittens; sadly one of the kittens succumbed to FIP (dry form). Be sure to keep the litter boxes really clean (put a couple out for them). Litter boxes are a lot of fun for kittens, apparently.

                      I invited kids/friends over to meet the kittens too (at about 4 weeks IIRC) to help socialize them. They all turned out to be pretty cool cats.


                      • #12
                        She may or may not come around herself--Jet (Big Fat Fluffy Cat) was one of a litter from a barn cat we couldn't catch. The kittens we handled pretty much from the start, and used them to get her into a carrier to the vet and spayed. She eventually took off after to weaning them, but all the kittens tamed down nicely, especially as I started spoon-feeding them kitten wet food when they were a few weeks old. But we left actually weaning to her-mom cats are pretty good at that.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Chall View Post
                          Maybe add a little bit of outside dirt to the top of the litter, say in one corner of it.
                          Cats are good, but not all know what a litterbox is.
                          I recently brought in a Feral that was outside for 3 years and I had to put leaves and some dirt from outside in the box for her to really get it. Only had to do it for a few days, but as soon as I did that she used all the boxes no problem.


                          • #14
                            I've fostered a few feral mommas and babies and what has worked best has been a quiet room with a crate and litter box, not much else. Especially nothing else to hide in or under, just the crate(I use a large plastic dog crate). Makes it easier to get her contained if you need to transport. I personally do not put the litter box inside the crate, cats do not like to potty where they sleep/eat.

                            I would sit in the room for short periods reading or whatever till the Mom at least became comfortable with me being there. Then work up to having her allow me to touch the babies, not her. At this point it's more about socializing the babies for adoption purposes, the mothers socialization can wait till the babies are gone. If after awhile Mom absolutely will not tolerate you around, hisses or spits at you or even tries to swat or bite then I'd consider bottle feeding the babies. Otherwise they will pick up on their mothers behavior towards you and follow suit. Or you can wait till they start eating on their own and seperate them. At around 3 weeks old I make the food a mush so when babies follow Mom to the bowl they can start to eat too.

                            I've only had one ever not completely come around, she wasn't aggressive, but really had absolutely no desire to be around people. Her babies picked up on her fear and were very skittish around us till I could seperate them.

                            I have a soft spot for Momma cats, even the ferals. Unfortunately in a shelter they are often overlooked as their babies are snatched up for adoption. Since we are a gov't facility they usually end up being euthanized when we become full.


                            • Original Poster

                              Hello All -
                              Thanks for all the advice and ideas. The kittens are now 3 weeks old and becoming a little adventerous. I try to sit near their cage and talk to them a few times a day to get them used to me. If they come up near the door, I do try to pick them up and cuddle them a little bit. But they are starting to pick up on their mom's fear and some will run to the back of the cage when they see me. The mom actually took a swipe at me this am for the first time. She is getting a little bolder, not quite as fearful, but I am not sure that is a good thing as I would rather have her stay at the back of the cage.

                              So my questions are - what can I do to get the kittens to come up to me? Can I start feeding them other food? What food would be best? How soon can I separate them from the mother? (I do not want to bottle feed them) Is there anything else that can help the mom overcome her fear?

                              It is getting a little frustrating so any hints would be great.

                              Thank you.


                              • #16
                                You should have been doing it already, but just pick them up and love all over them whether they like it or not. The window is closing so be persistent. I would put a feliway diffuser right next to the cage.
                                McDowell Racing Stables

                                Home Away From Home


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thanks for the idea on the diffuser - just plugged one in. I have been handling the kittens for the past week, since they were 2 weeks old. But now when I try to get one, the momma has been more agressive - lunging at me when I try to pick one up. Is there anything I can do about that? And the kittens are not as easy to get either - tend to run to the back of the cage now.
                                  thank you


                                  • #18
                                    Bite the bullet, separate kittens from momma, bottle feed if you need to. Otherwise you will end up with kittens AND momma who aren't socialized. Or momma will seriously hurt you. Or both.
                                    What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


                                    • #19
                                      My friend with the feral mom and kittens used a towel to keep the mother back while they got the kittens out of their crate. These kittens were about three weeks and needed to go to the vet, and then needed daily medication twice a day. They got them out of the cage by restraining mom for about 10 days, and then took them from the mom at about five weeks. They don't need to bottle feed, but of course are giving them quality wet food, with KMR mixed in. They are doing fine, and are now very social. Mom will be spayed and go back to the feral colony.
                                      Mystic Owl Sporthorses


                                      • #20
                                        I wouldn't bottle feed. I'd use a LONG THICK LEATHER GLOVE to hold mom to one side while I snatched up a kitten with my other hand.

                                        Also, start giving mom a bit of wet food on the end of a wooden spoon. Very helpful. You can eventually start to use the spoon like a hand. Pat her with it and let her nuzzle it if she will.