We get it! Tiny, young kittens are cute and your first instinct might be to scoop up a kitten or litter of kittens and report them to your humane society.
Hang on! Sometimes the best thing to do is leave the kittens right where they are. There's a good chance that mama cat is watching you from right around the corner. Or she might have gone to find food. Can't sit around and wait for mama cat to come back? Sprinkle flour around the litter of kittens and check back for paw prints.
DO NOT try to lure mom back by placing food near the kittens.
Here are questions to ask yourself:
Do the kittens look healthy? Are they in a safe, dry spot? Are they sleeping soundly? These are good signs that they are fine where they are.
Are they in danger of nearby dogs or traffic? Try placing them in a box and continue monitoring for mom.
Did you find a single kitten all by itself? Still wait and monitor for mama cat. She might be in the process of moving the kittens.
Do they appear sick? Has mama cat not returned after 8 hours? Are they wet or in danger of being rained on? Are they crying incessantly? Were they obviously dumped by humans in a cardboard box? Then yes, these kittens need human intervention.
This post is in reference to neonates. Neonates are less than 4 weeks old and need a mother cat to survive. Kittens should not be separated from their mother until they are about 6 weeks old. When young kittens are taken from their mother even with the best intentions, their mortality rate is high. Neonatal kittens can only be fed an expensive specialized formula and must be fed around the clock. Humane societies are easily overwhelmed by neonates taken from their mothers.
Please follow these tips to determine if the kittens are safe or need human intervention.