So you've noticed some fuzzy little bodies darting about your yard and you know stepping in and giving these little guys a hand will earn you some karma points. Deciding to help wild kittens is one thing, having infinite patience is another. Be prepared to wait a long time.
Place a bowl near where you last spotted the kittens. Wild kittens are wary, but they are also curious and, most likely, very hungry. Place the bowl inside a cake pan with about an inch of water in it. This will not only provide water for the kittens, but also deter ants who will likewise be attracted to the food. Using this method, you will be able to leave the food out much longer than if you don't block the ants, giving the kittens more time to smell the food and come out. Make sure the location you select is not out in the open, as a kitten will adhere to his instincts to stay hidden even when hungry. Under a bush or somewhere not in plain sight is ideal.
Put odorous food in the bowl. There are several smelly food items you can use to attract kittens, and if one isn't working well, try another. Canned cat food works well, but canned tuna in oil may work better and holds its fragrance longer. Deep-fried chicken, pulled apart to expose flesh and bone, works very well as the odor of the chicken will be almost too good, and too unusual, to resist. Fresh fish, slightly cooked, will also attract wild kittens. If you want the kittens to linger at the food bowl, put the chicken, cat food or tuna on beef, chicken or ham baby food spread thin along the sides of the bowl. The kittens will have to stay to lick up all the baby food.
Press a cat into service if the food is not working, or if the food has worked and you want to bring the kittens out even further into the open. Find a friendly adult cat who will hang around the yard, or put the cat in a harness on a long lead. Kittens are naturally curious about their own kind, especially if their mother cat has gone missing. Some kittens may shy away, but there are always a few who want to meet the adult cat and will come out to see her. Make sure the cat you employ for this process is comfortable around other cats and has had all her vaccinations as you don't know what latent communicable diseases the kittens may have.
- Kittens are very wary and this process may take many days before you see results. If your intention is to capture the kittens, this is a good first step. Adding a humane trap later in the process is the second step.
- If the kittens will tolerate your presence, try using a laser cat toy in the night to see if they will come out to investigate.
- Never leave the adult cat by herself. Never use a cat that is a strictly indoor cat, choose a cat that is used to being outside, and stay within sight of the cat at all times so the "bait cat" is never in any danger.
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.