If you've found a little kitten and he's managed to work his way into your heart, you're not alone. Millions of cats find homes by finding a soft-hearted animal lover and pouring on the charm. To be a hero to a stray kitten, follow a few simple steps.
Isolate the kitten if you have any other cats at home. You can do this by restricting the kitten to a bathroom or guest room set up with a small litter box, blanket and some food and water. This is important because if the kitten has any communicable diseases you need to be sure your own cats are not at risk. Keep the kitten isolated until you can get him to the veterinarian so she can perform a clinical exam to be sure there are no symptoms of upper respiratory infection, a blood test to rule out feline leukemia and a fecal test to be sure there are no internal and external parasites.
Notify your local animal control agency you have found a stray kitten. Some municipalities or counties have ordinances about giving the true owner of an animal time to reclaim him. In some cases, you must actually surrender the kitten, and come back several days later to adopt him if the owner does not show up. In other places, you only have to notify the authorities that you have the kitten but you can keep the kitten with the understanding that if the kitten's owner shows up you must bring the kitten into the facility. They may ask you to bring the kitten in to be scanned for a microchip. It's tempting to simply keep the kitten, but the right thing to do is give the actual owner, if any, an opportunity to find her kitten and some ordinances and codes reflect that.
Call your vet and make an appointment for the kitten. It's important to let your vet know the kitten was found as a stray for several reasons. First, there are diseases and health issues a kitten who has been living on the street may have that kittens bred in a home will not. Second, the vet will want to scan the kitten for a microchip and third, many vets will extend a discount for "rescue" pets. Ask the vet to assess the kitten's probable age and instruct you on his vaccination, nutrition, and practical needs. If you do not have a vet, contact your local humane society to see if they offer a low-cost clinic or can offer a recommendation.
Purchase the items you need for a kitten if you do not already have cats at home. Select a high-quality, name-brand kitten food, a small litter box, low-dust litter and a litter scooper. You will also need food and water dishes. Keep the kitten indoors so he does not stray from your home. Allow any resident pets to become acquainted with the kitten by placing the kitten in a room for a few days while allowing your cat to play "footsie" under the door with the kitten. Introduce your kitten to resident dogs gradually and never leave him alone with pre-existing animals unless you are sure they will get along.
- Ask friends with kittens for tips on how to care for your kitten. Kittens do not need to be trained in the use of a litter box. If you simply give them a place to dig and cover, they will be happy.
- Do not let any kittens come in unsupervised contact with cat-friendly dogs or you will risk your dog's precious eyesight if the kitten feels threatened and swipes at the dog's eyes. Don't allow small children to play with the kitten as the kitten may bite or swipe at the dogs' eyes.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.