What to do if you find a pregnant cat or kittens (during the coronavirus pandemic)
April to September is known as 'kitten season'. This is when most kittens are born and is when charities like us see a big increase in the numbers of kittens and mums needing our help. Due to the current coronavirus pandemic and lockdown restrictions, most animal welfare charities including ourselves are prioritising those animals whose welfare is significantly compromised and andour team is therefore focusing on emergency cases only.
Sadly, this means that this year there's likely to be less help available and animal welfare charities won't be able to collect or take in cats and kittens in the same way as they would under normal circumstances. With this in mind, here's what to expect and how you can help should you find yourself with a mum and/or kitten/ this kitten season...
Can cat's fur can carry coronavirus?
Like human hands, pet fur could carry the virus and and so it's important to adopt good hygiene when interacting with animals, especially if they could have been in contact with other people. This means thoroughly washing hands with soap and water before and after interacting with them and avoiding being licked. Find out more about pets and coronvirus.
What should I do if I have/find a healthy, pregnant mum cat?
Unless she appears to be sick or injured then there is usually little to worry about. She will probably have a home and owner nearby or may be a healthy stray. Although you may be worried about the cat and want us to help, it's highly unlikely we would be able to collect a healthy pregnant mum. At this current time, as with vets, our animal rescuers are having to prioritise emergency cases.
What should I do if I have/find a sick or injured, pregnant cat?
If mum does look sick or injured and in need of urgent medical help, the quickest way to help her is to seek advice by phoning your local vet. Due to government restrictions, vets are only dealing with essential cases, so it's really important not to turn up at a veterinary practice without calling ahead first.
It's always helpful to check with neighbours and local residents to see if anybody owns the cat. Please post on local social media groups and speak to neighbours to see if anybody knows her - always maintain social distance. In addition, click here to download and print 'found' posters and a paper cat collar so people know to get in touch with you if they have any information. A local animal rescue may also be able to help.
You may also be able to help too. If you believe the mum is a stray, could you help her by providing food, water and shelter? If this is something you think you could do please read our information on taking responsibility for stray cats in need.
Please note: If the cat is found in a dangerous location such as next to fast-moving traffic don't put yourself in danger, call our advice line or emergency services.
I've got/found a cat in labour, what should I do?
If you've found a pregnant cat who you think is in labour, please give her plenty of space to avoid disturbing her. The best way to help is to try and locate the cat's owner. Please post on local social media groups or speak to neighbours to see if anybody knows her - always maintain social distance.
You can also help by placing a shallow bowl of water nearby for her to use - this really needs to be done with minimal disturbance though so still keep a good distance away from her. Also, depending upon the weather, placing some shelter nearby could help keep her shaded from the sun and sheltered from cold winds.
Please do keep an eye on mum to check she is doing ok. If you can't find the owner please call a local animal rescue centre for advice on what to do when the kittens arrive. At this time, it's highly unlikely we would be able to collect mum and kittens while we're handling emergency cases only. It's always best to avoid disturbing the mum which could cause unnecessary problems for the kittens.
Many cats give birth without needing any help at all but signs she may be having difficulty include:
- If between 30 and 60 minutes of intense straining does not produce a kitten or a kitten seems to be stuck.
- The mother seems to be noticeably distressed.
- If she seems lethargic or has passed unpleasant discharge / is bleeding heavily from her vulva. Green/brown/red discharge while the kittens are being born is normal.
If you see any of these signs or if mum is at risk because she is near a busy road or building then call a local vet, animal rescue or call the our advice line but never put yourself in danger.
What should I do if I find kittens and mum together?
If you spot a mum and kittens, it's best to keep your distance so as as not to risk disturbing them. It's important not to move kittens or mum unless they're in danger because being moved may put the kittens at risk. If mum and kittens appear to be free from sickness or injury and are located in a safe area then at this time it's best to leave them alone. In addition to the risk of disturbance, the mum might have an owner nearby already looking for her so it's best to leave them be but you can help in other ways...
Please try to see if the mum has an owner by posting on local social media groups or speaking to neighbours to see if anybody knows her - always maintain social distance. In addition, you can download and print 'found' posters and a paper cat collar so people know to get in touch with you if they have any information.
If you can't find an owner and you think mum is a stray, it's a good idea to call your local animal rescue for advice. They may talk to you about giving a helping hand by providing food, water and outside shelter to help protect mum and kittens from extreme weather. You may also find our advice on caring for stray cats helpful.
If mum and/or the kittens look to be suffering from sickness or injury, phoning a local vet for advice is the best and quickest way to help. It's important that mum and kittens stay together. If you need to transport the mum and kittens and are not able to do so safely, please call your local rescue charity or our advice line. As always. Never put yourself in danger.
What should I do with orphaned kitten(s)?
If you find kittens on their own, please maintain a good distance to avoid disturbing them and possibly scaring mum into not returning. It's not unusual for mum to leave her kittens when she goes off to find food. Kittens have a much better chance if they stay with their mum and so it's very important that we give enough time to see if mum returns before assuming they are orphaned. However, if the kittens appear to be in danger because they are wet, cold or sick, please call a local vet, animal rescue charity or our advice line as soon as possible.
For very young kittens whose eyes are still closed and who have little mobility, you should monitor them for around two hours before phoning a vet, local rescue charity our advice line.
Older kittens can usually go a little longer without food, so for those who have their eyes open and can walk, you should monitor for mums return for around four hours before calling for advice. It's best to leave the kittens where they are until a vet, local rescue charity or our advice line suggest otherwise.
Can I get help with veterinary costs?
Like many other animal welfare charities, we're experiencing huge financial difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic while our resources are stretched. We're also likely to see an increased number of animals coming into our care. We rely hugely on donations from the public to fund our vital services and, like many others, we are already seeing the damaging effect of this crisis on our fundraising income. More than ever, we don't have the funds to pay for the treatment of every unwell cat or kitten. If you find a cat or kitten that needs medical help or have been caring for a stray who becomes sick, any contribution you can make will be hugely welcomed. Thank you for your kindness.
If you would like to donate to our coronavirus appeal, you can do so online. Thank you on behalf of our committed team and needy animals.