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Stray Cats and Kittens

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leave them be

Let Mom and Kittens Thrive Outside

Kittens need their mothers.

That’s why Madera County Animal Services has joined the new campaign: Leave Them Be.

It’s critical that you know what to do to when you find kittens outdoors. Madera County Animal Services advice every year is to save kitten’s lives by leaving them with their mother in their outdoor home.

Since March 2020, the outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. has lead animal shelters and humane organizations to drastically reduce their staff and volunteers. This era of unprecedented difficulty is coinciding with kitten season, the time of year when these organizations receive hundreds of calls from people asking for help with kittens outdoors.


Sharing the lifesaving knowledge is the goal of the "Leave Them Be" campaign. Please join us.

When someone finds a tiny kitten meowing under their porch or even a whole litter of kittens huddled under a bush outdoors, they may want to help immediately but not know what to do.

Compassion is a good impulse, but our actions must always be guided by what is in a cat’s best interest. That means allowing kittens and moms who are already thriving outdoors to stay right where they are.

The truth is, in nearly all cases, kittens outdoors don’t need to be “rescued.” In fact, removing kittens from their mothers and bringing them indoors can be detrimental to their well being. If you see kittens alone, their mother is likely close by—and her instincts make her their best possible caregiver.

The best thing you can do is LEAVE THEM BE.

Please share the information on this page with your friends, family, neighbors, and anyone in your community who finds kittens outdoors. By spreading awareness to Leave Them Be, we can save kittens’ lives.

For a quick way to educate others, share this graphic on social media:

Leave Them Be Because Mother Knows Best

There’s a reason that phrase is a key nugget of wisdom—especially in the world of animals.

No matter how many years of experience we gain bottle-feeding and raising kittens, we will NEVER be able to match a mother cat’s instinctual form of care. Plus, it takes monumental efforts on our part to provide the round-the-clock care that unweaned and neonatal kittens (kittens under 4 weeks old) need to survive.

A mother cat who lives outdoors knows just how to protect her kittens and doesn’t need our intervention. Give her a few basic essentials (shelter and food and water) and then let her do her job. Leave Them Be until the kittens are no longer nursing (meaning they are weaned), when they are around 8 weeks old.

If you have waited for hours and a young kitten’s mother never returns, you will have to intervene and provide care in her stead. You should also step in if the kittens or their mother look sick or injured and are clearly not thriving. Visit Alley Cat's  Neonatal Kitten Care Guide for more information or check out the Kitten Lady and her amazing tips and techniques on helping the kittens thrive. You can also check out the new "Wait Until 8" program. 

If you find kittens outdoors without their mother, do not assume they don’t have one. Watch for a few hours from a hidden spot to see if mom returns. She is likely out looking for food, is in the process of moving her kittens, or is just taking a little break. Sprinkling a little flour in a circle around the location of the kittens will let you know if mom is still around for her babies. 

found kitten outdoors flyer