Leaving kittens in backyard was right
Question: My daughter found two kittens in our back yard and wanted to drop them off at the Humane Society. I suggested we wait a day and when we went back to look for them they were gone. Did I do the right thing?
Answer: Leaving the kittens was the best course of action. What may look like animal abandonment was most likely a nursing mother (or "queen") moving the family to a new home.
The best possible mother for any kitten is its birth mother. But there are times when human intervention, to varying degrees, is necessary to save a kitten's life. The queen may be sick with a viral or bacterial infection that upsets her instincts to nurse. Or, though rare, a mother may abandon or reject her litter.
Q: Is there something we could have done?
A: If your back yard is safe from other resident pets, create a protected environment for the queen and her family by leaving out a cardboard box, or crate, lined with a towel. Set food aside for the mother cat. If she's being cared for, she won't need to move her family.
If you find kittens, set food out to test if their mother is around. If the food goes uneaten, it could be a sign that the queen has left her babies.
Q: Could we bring those kittens to the Humane Society?
A: Unweened newborns are only eligible for the society's foster care program if volunteers are available to provide the intensive nursing that's required. This includes bottle-feeding every couple of hours, managing body temperature and a willingness to accept the unfortunately high mortality rate that comes with very vulnerable animals that are without their mother's care.
Those who bring in newborns are given the option of caring for them until they reach adoption age, which is about 8 weeks or 2 pounds. The society provides information on how to care for a kitten's special needs and a starter kit with formula. After approximately 8 weeks, if the felines are in good health, they may be brought back to the Humane Society for adoption.
The Hawaiian Humane Society
welcomes questions by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
. Indicate "Pet Ohana" in the subject line. Or, write "Pet Ohana," Hawaiian Humane Society, 2700 Waialae Ave., Honolulu 96826.