It's "kitten season!"

What should you do if you find kittens in your neighborhood?

Spring is here and with that comes the start of “kitten season.”  What’s “kitten season” you ask? “Kitten season,” as defined by the Humane Society of the United States, is the time of the year when cats give birth, flooding animal shelters and rescue groups across the nation with homeless litters of kittens.  “Kitten season” is really three seasons in one, beginning in spring, peaking in late spring or early summer, and ending in the fall. “Kitten season” occurs because there are too many cats, both owned and unowned, who are not spayed and neutered and as a result, reproduce.


So, what do you do if you see kittens in your neighborhood?

Your first instinct might be to scoop them up and take them home or take them to a shelter, but that may not be what’s best for the kittens. There’s a lot to consider when deciding if kittens should be picked up.


First, assess the kitten’s apparent health and environment.

Do the kittens appear healthy? 

  • Does their fur look healthy, full and fluffy?

  • Are they sleeping quietly? In a heap?

  • Are they clean and dry?

Do the kittens appear sick or injured?

  • Are they dirty?

  • Are they crying? Squalling?

  • Are they wet/soaked?

  • Are they cold and non-responsive?

  • Are they covered with ants?       

  • Are they sickly? Eyes and nose crusted  with infection?


Are the kittens in IMMEDIATE danger from:

  • Rain? Wet weather/flooding? Cold?

  • Wild animals? Raccoons? Dogs?

  • Traffic - foot traffic? Mean neighbors/kids? Bicycles or cars?

Second, observe the area.


Is the mama cat with the kittens or nearby?


  • If you see the mom, and the kittens appear healthy, leave the kittens there and allow mom to care for them.  The best place for those kittens to be is with their mom.


If you don't see Mama cat....


  • Mama cat may be out searching for food. She must keep herself well fed to produce milk for her kittens. It is not unusual for mama cat to be gone for several hours. She may also be in the process of moving the babies from one location to another (especially if you've found one alone.) If you are not sure if mom is around, sprinkle a little flour around the area the kittens are staying and come back after an hour or two and look for mom’s paw prints in the flour.

  • Do NOT move the kittens. If you move them, Mama cat may not be able to find them and continue to care for them.

  • Unless the kittens are in immediate danger, it is best to watch to see if the Mama cat will return. You should be at least 35 ft away (more is better).

  • Do NOT place food near the kittens to lure Mama cat. Mama cat almost always purposely hides her litter away from food sources as she knows that food will attract other cats and ever bigger predators!

  • You may need to leave completely and come back later (4-6 hours) to check whether the kittens are still Ok (dry, sleeping/quiet, appear fed, etc.) Especially if she's feral, Mama cat will most likely NOT return until she no longer senses human presence.

  • Healthy kittens can survive several hours without food as long as they are warm.

  • Remember, Mama cat offers her kittens the absolute best chance at survival, so WAIT and WATCH as long as you can before picking them up. Waiting a longer time to see if Mama cat will come back is usually very safe.

  • Contact Hayward Animal Services at 510-293-7200 if you have any questions or concerns.

Third, react.


Remove the kittens ONLY if they are in immediate, grave danger or if they appear sickly or injured.


  • If the kittens appear sick or injured and you think they need to be rescued, please pick them up and bring them indoors. Once indoors you can better assess their health. If their condition seems severe please contact Hayward Animal Services at 510-293-7200 for advice or bring them to the shelter which is located at 16 Barnes Ct. in Hayward. The shelter is open Tuesday – Saturday from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. and accepts animals found within the City limits of Hayward only.


If there is a Mama cat and she appears to be caring for the kittens, ie. the kittens appear to be healthy, remember, the best place for kittens is with mom. Don't try to separate kittens younger than 6 - 8 weeks old from their mother unless there is a medical emergency.


  • If Mama cat does not return, and the kittens appear to be stable and healthy, consider becoming their temporary foster caregiver. A shelter environment is not always the best place for them as shelters become overcrowded during this time of the year, which puts the kitten’s health at risk. The shelter can provide you with instructions on how to properly care for underage kittens and may be able to provide you with supplies. Kittens are not considered adoptable until they are a minimum of 2 months of age.

  • If Mama cat does not return, and you are unable to care for the kittens, please pick them up and bring them to the shelter. The shelter is open Tuesday – Saturday from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. and accepts animals found within the City limits of Hayward only.


Additional information and resources:


Foster care information and resources:

Video by Itty Bitty Orphan Kitty rescue will provide tips and suggestions for caring for orphan kittens.  Orphan Kitty care video