Seattle Humane sends more than a thousand kittens and cats into foster homes each kitten season. Caring for kittens is a huge part of what we do, but keeping kittens out of the shelter saves lives and allows Seattle Humane to provide critical services to other pets in need. Read on to learn more!
What is Kitten Season?
Kitten season for our area is typically from April – October during warmer months when cats go into heat. It’s important that if you see outdoor cats in your area, to make sure they’re spayed or neutered. You can do this by checking to see if they’re eartipped. Learn everything you ever wanted to know about Kitten Season!
What to do if you find kittens
If you happen upon a litter of tiny kittens outdoors, it’s natural to want to scoop them up and try to care for them yourself or take them to a shelter. But both of those options may actually place them in more danger. To give newborn kittens the best chance of survival, follow these steps:
- Leave the kittens alone and try to figure out if their mom is still around. Observe them from a distance every couple of hours for 12 to 18 hours. If the kittens seem content and are not fussing, there’s a good chance their mom is coming back.
- If the kittens are in danger due to their location, move them to a safer spot nearby so the mom can easily find them when she returns.
- If the kittens are dirty, meowing or appear sick, underweight or dehydrated, contact your local shelter or a trap-neuter-return (TNR) or community cat program. They can help you determine if the kittens are at risk and if you should intervene. For help in estimating the age of the kittens, check out this resource from the Kitten Lady.
- If you spot the mom, leave the kittens alone. When the kittens have been eating on their own for about four weeks, or are big enough for surgery (typically around 8-12 weeks old), humanely trap the whole family and have them spayed or neutered. Seattle Humane or a local TNR program may be able to help you with the trapping process. After the adult cats are fixed, release them at the location where you found them. TNR is the most humane method of preventing cats and kittens from entering the shelter system. Seattle Humane can support you in providing resources to keep the family safe, such as pet food or other housing ideas for feral cats.
- If you have the ability to foster the kittens and re-home them on your own, then we recommend dedicating time to kitten socialization. Kitten socialization generally occurs between three and seven weeks of age. Check out the Kitten Lady for all the virtual support you could need when fostering kittens.
- Seattle Humane can offer re-homing support or provide resources and supplies to help you foster the kittens. Please contact us at [email protected] if you need support.
- We can also provide low-cost veterinary care options for kittens and their parents. Learn more about low-cost veterinary options in the community, or services offered by Seattle Humane. Please email us at [email protected] if you have questions.
Which kittens should come to the shelter?
Healthy kittens should not come to the shelter
Do the kittens look clean, healthy and well-fed? They are being cared for by a mom and can be left alone until a re-homing or TNR plan is created.
Unhealthy kittens should come to the shelter
If the kittens are dirty, underweight, and/or have crusty, goopy eyes and mouths, these kittens are not healthy and require intervention.
How you can help
Care for the mom and kittens
We have a variety of resources available to provide support if you are able to keep the kittens and mom together in your home.
- Visit this page for a how-to guide for kitten care
- Read Kitten Lady’s book “Tiny but Mighty”
- Visit this page for information about vaccines and wellness visits offered through our Seattle Humane Wellness Clinic, or reach out to [email protected] for additional low-cost vaccine options
- Reference these examples of set-ups that work in small spaces or watch this video.
Make a donation
Community support makes our work possible, impacting the lives of thousands of local pets in need. You can make a secure, online gift today and help cats and kittens receive the expert care they deserve. Donate now!
In-kind donations help us provide supplies to the families who care for our most vulnerable pets. Supplies can be purchased through our Amazon Wish List for direct delivery to Seattle Humane.
Let us know if you are interested in fostering
If you’re able to open your home to foster kittens (or other pets), please check out our Foster page.
There may be opportunities to foster for other local shelters during kitten season, so we suggest reaching out to see if help is needed.
Looking to adopt a cat or kitten?
View all of our available cats and kittens here!