People find a kitten or kittens alone without a mother present and assume they’ve been abandoned, when actually the mother cat might just be out hunting for food or scared of humans and hiding.

Kitten season is upon us and the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society shelter has taken in about 60 kittens in the past week. It’s an annual and not unexpected occurrence, but many of the kittens brought in recently have been quite young and not yet weaned from their mothers.


"When this happens, we have to bottle-feed the kittens with an expensive formula," said Lorraine Whetstone, PAWS fundraising, events and volunteer coordinator. "Even with that, they have less of a chance at survival. Kittens that young are very fragile and susceptible to disease."


Whetstone said what these young kittens need most is their mother.


Unfortunately, many are brought in to the PAWS shelter by well-meaning people who believe that they’re rescuing the animal. They find a kitten or kittens alone without a mother present and assume the babies been abandoned, when actually the mother cat might just be out hunting for food or scared of humans and hiding.


Melissa Forberg, PAWS interim executive director, said it’s best to observe the kittens first for 6-8 hours. See if there is a mother cat in the area and if she returns and cares for the kittens adequately. If she does, leave them be until the kittens have weaned, which happens at about six to eight weeks.


Forberg said a good indication of whether or not they’re ready to be separated is if they’ll eat solid food. At that point, they can be safely separated from their mother and brought into PAWS.


Another alternative, said PAWS’ Ashley DeGraff, is to try to bring in the mother cat with the kittens.


They always have a better chance with their mom," said DeGraff. "There’s no milk in the world like momma’s milk."