What to Do With a Stray Kitten

What to Do With a Stray Kitten

I found a stray kitten; what should I do next? If this is you, read on as I'll share some of the things you can when you find a stray kitten.

Find Out If the Stray Has a Mother

You may want to bring in the stray the first time you see it, but this is not advisable. You have to do some investigation. Just taking in a stray kitten could mean a temporary or permanent separation from its mother. Smaller or very young-looking kittens are likely still nursing, and only with their mother can they get the best nutrition at that stage.

How do you tell if the mother is still around or nearby?

  • The kitten or litter is sleeping comfortably. If you notice this, there is a huge chance that their mother is coming back.
  • If with subsequent checks, you notice them still sleeping, then the mother is likely still very much in their lives and caring for them.

If you strongly suspect from your findings that they still have their mother in their life, you should most probably leave them alone.

If you want a more comprehensive guide on how to tell if a kittens' mother is still around then check our article here on how to tell if a mother cat has abandoned her kittens.

When a Stray Does Not Have a Mother

Once you're confident that the stray or strays in question do not have a mother, you can take some steps towards helping it survive.

With young kittens, you want to start by scooping them up or simply reaching out to them. On the other hand, older cats may need the attention and help of the nearest animal shelter to capture them safely.

If you can afford it, get the stray to a vet for a professional checkup as soon as possible. This is important with very young kittens, even if you have no intention of fostering long-term. You can also find an animal shelter or society if you have no plans of keeping the cats for any amount of time. Thankfully there are several no-kill animal shelters for that.

However, if you decide to keep the stray, you must contain and monitor it even after the vet's examination. You can get a dog crate covered in a heating pad to keep the environment warm.

Ensure that the heating pad only covers half the crate so the kitten can get away from the heat when needed. While you want the environment warm enough to keep the kitten comfortable, it should not be too hot, or the kitten could get overheated.

Kittens Feeding

Feeding a Stray Kitten

If you decide to care for the stray kitten, feeding it is the second most crucial step after initial medical checks. However, to correctly feed it, you first have to determine its age. You can check this article on telling a kitten's age for more information on doing this correctly. Below is a quick guide to determine the age of the stray. How much they weigh is usually an easy way to guess their age and how often they should eat.



Under one week: these usually weigh less than 4 ounces.

Every two to three hours

7 to 10 days old weigh 4-6 ounces on average 

Every two to three hours

10 to 14 days 6 to 8 ounces on average

Every to three hours

14 to 21 old 8 to 12 ounces 

Every three hours

4 to 5 weeks old usually weighing between 12 ounces to 1 pound

Every four hours with a mixture of gruel/formula/wet/kibble up to four times a day

Eight weeks weigh around 1 ½ to 2 pounds on average

Weaned fully and on regular kitten food

“Don’ts” With Stray Kittens

  • Unless you absolutely must, you should leave the kittens outdoors if you suspect they still have a mother. You want the mother to find them when she returns.
  • Don't waste too much time before making the next move for the kittens' safety. If you're going to keep them, decide early or place them in a shelter for further care.
  • If you're considering temporary fostering, remember to socialize them early as it goes a long way to improve their chances of getting adopted later.
  • Do not try to foster the kitten all by yourself, especially if it is the first one you'll be fostering. Ask for help and advice from professional rescue organizations or shelters. You'll get information and help with caring for your new kitten.
  • Don't feed the kitten excessively. You want to provide your kitten with lots of essential nutrients, but you can also overdo it. Opt for only high-quality food and feed them as recommended.
  • Handle strays with caution. When handling strays, you want to be careful. They may be friendly from a safe distance, but it can quickly be a different story when you try to pick them up. Cats will scratch and even injure you if you try picking them up before they know you well.
  •  Also, for safety reasons, you should wear gloves to protect your hands until you're certain that the kittens are comfortable with you.
  • Until you're certain that the stray is free from infections and parasites, you should keep it separated from your pets. This will help prevent the transmission and spread of diseases and parasites.

What to Do With a Stray Kitten: Conclusion

Finding a stray kitten can be an interesting and somewhat demanding experience if you plan on keeping and caring for kittens. Hopefully, this article has provided you with helpful information on what to do with a stray kitten.

That said, do your due diligence by first monitoring the situation. You want to ensure that you're picking up a true stray and not one its mother will come looking for. Be patient, and unless the conditions demand it, you should avoid moving the kitten. And if by the end of the day the mother kitten doesn't come for it, then you can always take the next steps. While you wait for the kitten's mother, you can provide it with water and food if possible but only do so from a safe distance.

About the Author

Kirsten Heggarty
Website | + posts

Kirsten created The Pet Handbook with the aim of sharing her knowledge about pets, pet food, healthy habits, and more. All of her advice is based on years of her own experience with her pets, and feedback that she has received from grateful readers about her tips. If you want to know more please read the About Me page.