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5 Ways to Care for a Stray Kitten

 by jaime on 06 Jul 2014 |
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Feral cat populations are a big problem today. By some estimates, there are as many as 58 million stray cats and kittens in the US as of early 2014. Going by these estimates, it's quite likely that you've come across a stray cat or kitten around your home. If you decide to take in that stray kitten and care for it, you'll need to follow a few tips to ensure you are protecting yourself or family and properly caring for the kitten.
1. Observe
Before you take a stray kitten into your home, or even approach it, take a moment to sit back and observe the situation. That stray kitten may belong to a mother cat that is hiding out of view or moving her litter to a new location one-by-one. If no adult cat appears, approach the stray kitten to determine its friendliness. Whether or not the kitten has a collar, if no mother cat appears you can take it into your home to provide shelter and care.
2. Prepare a home
Kittens don't need much in order to feel comfortable. If you have a spare cardboard box around and some extra blankets or towels, you've got a nice little home for the stray kitten. The kitten should spend the majority of its time in the box with some blankets and a toy or two. Keep the kitten in a quiet area of the house, separated from any other pets you may have, and do not give it free reign of the house.
3. Call a vet
Once you've got the stray kitten situated in your home, you should call your local vet to get an idea of what type of feeding schedule it requires. The vet may ask you to bring the kitten in immediately to get a rough estimate of its age. A kitten's age determines its entire feeding schedule. According to the ASPCA, kittens under one month require milk replacers four to six times each day. Older kittens need to be transitioned away from milk replacers and introduced, slowly, to solid kitten food. Feedings should still take place four times each day, gradually decreasing to three meals a day.
4. Socialize with the stray
Kittens need to be socialized as soon as possible, for the benefit of your family and other pets you may have. Properly socialized animals pose less of a threat to humans and are easier to relocate to new homes. While the kitten should spend its time in the home you created for it, it is also important to take it out and play with it from time to time. This socialization helps the kitten develop a bond with you and will improve its ability to bond with others in the future. Socializing the kitten is particularly important if you only plan to care for it on a temporary basis. If you help the kitten form positive bonds, it will be easier for a rescue organization to find a permanent home for it later.
5. Make the tough decisions
Welcoming a stray kitten into your home requires making a few tough decisions. The steps above will help you integrate that kitten into your home quickly, but if you plan on keeping the kitten on a permanent basis you'll need to make some decisions. Kittens are expensive when they are young, and stray kittens come with some added expenses. For starters, if the stray kitten came from a feral litter it will need to have its initial immunizations to ensure it is healthy as it grows. It is also a good idea to have the stray spayed/neutered to ensure it does not add to the cat population in the future. Last but not least, adult cats are independent, but kittens need your attention. If you or your family do not have the time to devote to the kitten, it might be best to make this situation temporary.

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