Cats carry a reputation for being solitary animals, but this isn't always the case. Mama cats can be quite maternal and can easily care for little ones who aren't related to her. In many cases, a mother cat will accept orphaned kittens fairly quickly with little trouble or fuss.
All Babies Are Welcome
No doubt you've heard stories of a mother cat nursing orphaned babies, ranging from other kittens to squirrels and even puppies. This isn't uncommon, and a mama cat who's recently given birth is usually open to caring for other babies. If the orphaned kitten is close in age to her foster mama's litter, or the foster mama has very recently weaned, there's a good chance the newbie will be accepted without much trouble. Some mamas accept new kittens almost immediately, while others may take a few hours, or even a day or two to warm up to the little one. It really all depends on the mama cat's personality -- some cats act as fantastic foster mothers, while others want no part of it.
Mama Knows Best
If your mama cat turns her nose up at the new kitten, it may not be just because she's being difficult. Cats seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to illness, and if a mama cat senses something wrong with her babies, she may refuse to take care of them. There's a possibility that the orphaned kitten was abandoned by her own mother because she sensed something amiss in the little one, and your mama cat is behaving the same way. Though it seems cruel, this is ingrained in most animals -- survival of the fittest. A mama cat doesn't want to waste her milk or energy on a baby who most likely won't survive.
Do It Yourself
Although there are tricks to try and encourage a mama cat to accept a new kitten, you can't force it. Some cats simply want nothing to do with kids who aren't her own. In this case you can either try to find another foster mother or take the responsibility of raising the kitten on yourself. Keep in mind that raising kittens who are about 1 month old or younger requires round-the-clock care and careful monitoring. A very young kitten must stay warm and well-fed to thrive. Speak with a vet or cat rescue group for details and advice to give the little fur ball the best chance of healthy growth.
Not Always Happy Endings
Mother Nature can be a harsh mistress. Young, abandoned animals have a high mortality rate, and an orphaned kitten may not have the best chance. Despite your best efforts, the kitten may still pass away. There may be something wrong with her genetically, or she may simply fail to thrive, even with the best care possible. Do not blame yourself if your little one doesn't make it. Rest assured that you tried helping her as best you could, but sometimes kittens aren't strong enough to survive.
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