Kittens with mother

Do's and Don'ts of Kitten Season

How to not kit-nap kittens from their mothers

Even though spring through early summer is known as "kitten season," litters can pop up all year round. No matter the time of the year, one thing remains the same: Neonatal kittens need to be cared for, and the best care begins with their mother.

You might think you're doing the right thing by "saving" a kitten litter that looks like they've been abandoned, but take a second look. Use these tips from Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center (PRC) and Code Enforcement's Animal Control to avoid kit-napping.

Do you see mom around?

If the kittens look like they are under 2 pounds or younger than eight weeks and mom is around, leave them alone. Let mom care for them!

Once the kittens are big enough (2 pounds or eight weeks old), bring them with mom (so she doesn't have any more litters) to PRC or a local rescue to be spayed/neutered. Spaying and neutering is the most important way to curb cat overpopulation. When bringing them to PRC or a rescue, keep in mind that they must be in a humane cat trap or enclosed carrier.

Don't see mom around?

  • Don't assume that she has abandoned the kittens. Moms leave kittens at times to search for food and water, and she will hide nearby if she sees or hears you coming. Remember, mom can run from you but the kittens cannot.
  • Give the kittens space if you don't see mom. Check on the kittens at least two to four hours later, and if they look worse than when you last saw them, bring them inside to keep them safe.
  • Kittens that aren't 2 pounds or eight weeks old are too young to be adopted and will need to be fostered.
  • When you remove the kittens, you are taking responsibility for their safety. Want to take care of the kittens? Check out PRC's Wait Until 8 program. If you can't foster the litter, you still are responsible for the kittens if you take them away from their mother or where they are living. You must maintain them in healthy condition until you can make an appointment to bring them to PRC. Small kittens may only be brought in between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in order to allow PRC the ability to find rescues. Kittens brought in later than 2 p.m. face a high risk of euthanasia since they cannot be left alone overnight.
  • Neonatal kittens need around-the-clock care to survive and that cannot be provided without fosters. During "kitten season," there is a high probably that neonatal kittens may not find a foster at PRC due to the high volume of kittens entering the shelter. Unfortunately, if no foster can be found, kittens must be humanely euthanized so they do not suffer.
  • If they are more than 2 pounds or eight weeks old, you can make an appointment to bring them to PRC or another local shelter to start the adoption process, which includes spaying/neutering and vaccinations.

If the kittens appear ill or injured, or you suspect that an animal has been abused, neglected, or otherwise victimized, contact Hillsborough County Animal Control at (813) 744-5660.


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