Being in feline rescue for so many years gave us (hubby, children, and me) a chance to meet up with a few different stray cats and a few kittens. Each one of these beautiful animals has a story to tell, and I will never forget their homeless plight. Some strays we took in, and our home became their home. Some of our strays came and went. Who knows where? It would be best to remember that cats are the wisest, most intelligent, and resourceful animals on planet earth.
Strays seem to get along. However, the life of a stray cat is challenging, and their life span is much shorter than if they had a home to reside safely and comfortably. As my hubby once reminded me, “You can’t rescue them all,” which brought me to the realization that I indeed couldn’t rescue every stray I see.
It is impossible, not logical, sensible, or affordable, to do so. You never take any more cats into your home than you can afford to care for or seek medical treatment for when needed. When you have too many, it is not fair to the animal. You utilize rescue homes, no-kill shelters, or humane societies to help.
Where Do Stray Cats Have Kittens?
Mama cats are very resourceful critters and protective over her soon-to-be kittens. Mama cats seek shelter without humans or wildlife interfering with the birthing process and after the babies are born.
Mama cats will seek shelter in hidden places like old buildings, abandoned houses, garages, bushy areas, caves, basements, and anywhere they can be protected from the elements, people, and other animals.
Where Do Stray Kittens Live?
I do not know where the stray cats in our neighborhood live; I can only assume. I may see a cat once in a while walking in the neighborhood. But, honestly, I do not know if they are stray or not. They may have a nearby home, and their owner lets them run outside.
If the cat looks well-nourished and clean, it probably is not a stray cat. However, those who have devoted a lifetime to studying cats’ behavior report that stray cats find many different places where their kittens can live. Know first that there is a difference between a stray cat and a feral cat.
A stray cat was most likely abandoned by a previous owner and left outside to fend for itself. They have no agenda or home, so they wander and try to find the safest and warmest place they can. They try hard to survive in a rugged, cruel world. A feral cat is also considered a stray. However, a feral is born and raised in the wild. Not many ferals trust humans enough to come close to them.
You can spot a possible stray as they wander your neighborhood. These are not feral cats. These cats become too trusting towards strangers because they were once domesticated and had a home until someone cruel family or person abandoned them. If strays are not spayed or neutered, the female likely gets pregnant several times.
Kittens will remain with their mother until the babies can fend for themselves. It is the mama cat who finds the living arrangements. As the kittens grow, the mama teaches them to hunt for food and care for themselves. They eventually find their own hiding places to stay safe or remain with their siblings and family.
Do Stray Cats Leave Their Kitten?
It is most unusual for a stray mama cat to leave her kittens without good reason. The flip side of this is that a mama cat must sometimes leave her kittens so she can attend to business. She has to hunt for food and eat. She may also feel she needs to change her home to a safer location for her babies. She will leave her litter for a while to scout out a new home, and when she finds it, she returns and carries one kitten at a time to its new location. Whenever a mama leaves her kittens, it is not for a long time.
We have also seen a couple of stray mama cats leave their kittens because one of the two kittens had congestive heart failure, and the mother knew this baby would not survive. The mama kept shoving her one kitten to the side and not feeding or caring for it. This mama cat was wise beyond our years and an excellent mother. However, she knew her baby was dying.
In another instance, I found a newborn kitten in our backyard when I heard it meow for help. This kitten’s cord was caught on a tree branch. I had no idea where the mama cat went because I never saw her. I took the newborn in, and my son-in-law adopted sweet Wilameania. This kitten grew up and lived a happy, healthy life for the next 18 years.
Most times, mother cats are devoted to their kittens. If you come across a bunch of kittens well hidden and you do not see a mama, watch over the kittens for a bit but do not touch or move them unless they are not safely hidden.
Chances are the mama cat is out hunting for the next meal, or she is searching out a new home for her babies. If the babies are newborns, their eyes are undoubtedly still closed. You can bet the mama is nearby. Watch to make sure the mother cat returns.
Sometimes mama cats go hunting, and a car may hit them. Sometimes they are attacked by a human or another animal. I cannot bear to even think of these sad scenarios. Her kittens do not survive in these cases unless a caring human helps them.
What To Do If I Find Stray Kittens?
You can tell if the mom is taking good care of her babies because they will be alert, clean, healthy-looking, and curled up close to each other. You can bet mama is out taking care of essential matters in this case. Wait and give her time to return.
As long as the babies are safe and look well taken care of, just keep a watchful eye on them. If you move them and their mother returns, this is also very sad. Imagine how you would feel, returning home to find all your children gone! You will be heartbroken for sure. Give mama time. The kittens have a greater chance of survival with their mother.
If the kittens are dirty, lethargic, smell of urine, are covered with feces, chances are something has happened to the mother. Watch them for a short while because chances are you may have to rescue them.
As the days pass, you may have to feed them kitten formula via kitty bottles and wean them to regular kitten food. You can house them forever, as we did, or find another perfect home for them. Try to adopt all of them to the same household to keep these siblings together.
I never liked to break up kitten litters. They bond and attach themselves to each other much like we humans. As some people tell me, (they are just cats), but they are much more to me. Cats develop family units the same as humans. They deserve more than that. They deserve to stay together. Throughout the years, we have seen the effects of keeping cat families together. I know these kitties appreciated this, and it warmed our hearts knowing we did the right thing.
Early in our cat rescue years, we housed a mama kitty, mama’s four kits, mama’s six grandkits, and mama’s cat-daughter-in-law. They were close and well bonded. They looked after each other and were an absolute joy.
A Recent and Real Stray Rescue
I mentioned previously that my family and I have rescued many felines over 30 years, and we will do it again. It was during the winter and a big blizzard in March 2018. The outside temperature was -20 degrees. That particular day when I went to the door to get the mail, there was a little black kitty with a bow tie at its neck, sitting on my snow-covered step. He would not come inside, so I went and got him some warm moist food, a small bowl of dry food, and a small bowl of water. He ate everything, and I swore he waved a paw at me to say thank you and goodbye as he walked away.
I don’t know where he went or where he came from, but the next day, towards evening, I found him on the steps again, very hungry. This time he came onto our porch and ate. I could not take the chance of letting him in the house and putting my five cats at risk of a disease he may have. The weather was worse than the day before, and I just could not turn this little fur baby outside; it was too risky.
It was a Sunday, so I got some warm blankets, and he curled up on a rocker on the porch and slept under the blankets. In the morning, I called the vet and took him for an exam. He passed all the tests with flying colors, got vaccinated, got his first dose of Revolution flea treatment, in addition to deworming. We left him so the vet could neuter him the next day. We also had a chip placed for him if he gets lost again. I tried our best to calculate his age to be eight months of age, meaning he was probably born in August of 2017. The vet told me that I was not far off the mark.
When this stray baby came home the next day, he adapted well to the other cats and became friends with our young female Willow. This little stray was soon to become Lil’ Luke. Lil’ Luke is still with us and is a joy to have in our home.
My husband keeps reminding me, “You can’t rescue them all.” I had to agree with him, except for this one last time? The bottom line is, I will never turn a feline away who needs help, is hungry, or is hurt. I will do all I can to help. My husband loves Lil’ Luke as much as I do.
I have to wonder if Lil’ Luke would still be alive if he had not come to our steps during that awful March 2018 winter blizzard? I try hard not to think about it. I am glad he had his wits to know where to go for help.