Mother cat in basement/crawl space, nursing two newborn kittens (likely less than two weeks old) soliciting solutions.
May 1, 2009 10:50 AM   Subscribe

I just moved into a duplex two weeks ago, and yesterday I discovered two kittens (w/ mother) underneath my unit ... I can't afford (both financially and emotionally) to care for them at the moment ....

Three main questions:

1. Does anybody know how high a cat is able to jump with a one/two week old kitten in her mouth? What is the best way to encourage a mother to relocate her litter?

2. What can I expect from animal control should I choose to call them for removal?

3. What do you think is best way to handle this? Call the local animal control to have them come get them or "encourage" the mother cat to relocate her litter?


The kittens are probably one to two weeks old, they look like they've just begun to open their eyes and are [clumsily] stumbling about.

There is a trap door in one of my closets w/ stairs that leads down to about a 15x8'x5' (LxWxH) hole dug into the crawl space underneath the unit that functions as a tiny basement of sorts, containing two water heaters and some other odds and ends like paint buckets, tarps, etc.

The mother cat is able to exit and enter using various objects as a step ladder (said object is some sort of large iron anchor about 3.5' tall and REALLY heavy--too heavy for even two/three people to lift by my guesstimate, unless they're recent competitors in The World's Strongest Man). I imagine that she'd be able to make the 5' jump if she really had to, but I think the height makes it difficult/impossible for her to relocate her offspring. Maybe I can give her some help by making a serious of shorter jumps for her .... What would be the best way to encourage the mother cat to relocate should I choose this path?

I'm leaning towards animal control as opposed to encouraging relocation, but can't really decide (thus my post). I don't really want to just let nature take its course (I don't want a bunch of cat pee and poo down there and I don't think my landlord would be very happy). I am open to any other suggestions (that may be more ethical/humane?) that I might not yet considered too. Thanks in advance.
posted by weakcore to Pets & Animals (22 answers total)
I would call animal control as an absolute last resort. They will likely just take them to a kill shelter. Your best bet is to contact local rescues or no-kill shelters. I would provide links to local rescues but your location is indeterminate...
posted by zennoshinjou at 10:53 AM on May 1, 2009

What you want is some kind of cat rescue organization. Where are you? If you're in a reasonably city/town type place, there should be one near you.
posted by amtho at 11:01 AM on May 1, 2009

Why can't you just let them stay there until the kittens are semi-independent and old enough to leave on their own? They've been there for more than a week already, and you didn't even notice them.

Cats are very clean animals, they won't live in their own pee and poo if that's your primary concern (if anything, they will dig holes and bury their waste; at least my kitten did back in the day). Why do you think the landlord would mind?
posted by halogen at 11:03 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Definitely contact a rescue/no-kill shelter. You can't really encourage a feral/stray mommy cat to relocate her kittens unless she trusts you -- you'd more likely cause her to abandon them, which is even worse. 7-14 day old kittens are so much better with their mommy. Hand-raising kittens is hard, has a huge time commitment, and a rather depressing success rate. Plus, if she's well hidden and feels safe, she's not going to see any reason to relocate, despite any home-improvement you provide..

That being said -- you probably wont get a lot of cat pee/poo for a while. Mommy cat is probably leaving her kittens to do her business, and the kittens at that age don't eliminate on their own -- mommy cat will lick their butts.

Please contact a shelter. There are even ones out there that are trained in capturing feral kittens are loving them into super pets. They will come to your home and take them off your hands, no questions asked.
posted by cgg at 11:05 AM on May 1, 2009

Definitely call a local cat or animal rescue organization. They will arrange for a foster family to take the mother and kittens into their home until a permanent adopter can be found. This lets the kittens stay with the mum until they're ready to be on their own. Animal Control does what they can, but they're not always the best option for a whole multitude of reasons.

If you post your location, I can try to find some appropriate rescue groups for you. If you really don't want to post location -- email me and I'll respond.
posted by barnone at 11:05 AM on May 1, 2009

In the meantime, put a bowl of clean water down there for the mother. And you'd be a really nice person to go pick up some kitten food, like this. The high protein kitten food is good for nursing cats.
posted by barnone at 11:09 AM on May 1, 2009

Older cats, and unweened kittens are "unadoptable", and shelters know this. Animal control should be the last resort.

If you're willing to deal with some possibly sketchy characters, post to craigslist your dilemma. There are hoards of... to put it kindly, "independent animal activists", and not so kindly, "crazy cat people" that will jump at the chance. They have humane cat catching cages. They'd set it up at night, and come back the next day. You can then find someone to foster them until the kittens are weened, and they should have a good shot at adoption.
posted by fontophilic at 11:14 AM on May 1, 2009

Google "cat rescue" and the name of your town/city/region.
posted by scody at 11:20 AM on May 1, 2009

Nthing the no-kill cat rescue organisation. Animal Control is definitely a last resort, and its best not to mess with mom at this stage. barnone has a nice idea too, as long as you can do it without disturbing her.
posted by Joh at 11:22 AM on May 1, 2009

The mother cat is able to exit and enter using various objects as a step ladder

I know this doesn't answer your question, but make sure you fix whatever hole is allowing the cat to get in and out after they are gone. You could easily get much less cute types of critters finding their way into your crawlspace if you don't.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:25 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm a big proponent of putting feral cats in shelters and such, but I gotta raise a HUGE red flag on doing anything to disturb a new mom and her kittens. You're apt to cause some major problems if you interfere at this point -- even if the mom and kittens were caught, she would probably stop nursing them, and as cgg points out, fostering kittens that young rarely works out well.

I vote for letting them continue to live down there. They'll take off when they're ready, and they really won't leave any kind of mess. These aren't house cats who pee on your sofa -- these are feral animals that know how to take care of themselves. At this point, disturbing them in any way would most likely end bad.

Don't suppose you happen to have a nightvision webcam lying around? Because I don't think I'm the only one who'd keep that feed open all day.
posted by incessant at 11:28 AM on May 1, 2009

Seconding a craigslist post, at least if you're in an urban area. If there's one thing the internet won't brook, it's cats in peril.
posted by mullingitover at 11:30 AM on May 1, 2009

Don't just leave the cat and kittens there. All that does is foster more street cats. Animal rescue probably has an agreement with some shelter to take care of adoptable animals, though I'd look for a shelter of some sort first.

You personally should do nothing to disturb the cat. People who have knowledge about how to take care of them will do so for you.

The problem with craigslist is that there are the good crazy cat people, and the bad crazy cat people, and it's a little difficult to know who is who. It's better to go to craigslist if searching for shelters around you -- also look on petfinder -- yields no results, but it wouldn't be my first choice.
posted by jeather at 11:34 AM on May 1, 2009

Where I live there is an organization called Friends of Feral Felines that helps in just these situations. There are branches of it all over the USA (and, I presume, Canada). They will help! Their mission is to get kittens adopted while young enough to be tamed and to spay the moms (and dads) so they don't have more kittens. They have traps and such. We did this with some barn kittens and it was great.

(You will have to deal with some *eccentric* "cat people" but it will be worth it!)

So try googling that phrase plus your city.
posted by miss tea at 11:41 AM on May 1, 2009

weakcore I sent you a MeFi mail.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 11:58 AM on May 1, 2009

I agree with miss tea - contact a local organization that has experience with feral cats, if there's one nearby. If you live in a community with a large population of strays, there probably will be one near you. They often have a trap-neuter-release program, so the mom can be spayed and go back to her normal life, and they will be able to offer advice on how to get the kittens used to people so they can be adopted.

Adult feral cats are usually unadoptable because they are not socialized to people. The kittens might be adoptable, however, they will need to be at least six to eight weeks old and fully weaned before anyone can even consider taking them from their mom. (Twelve weeks is the general consensus when it's ok to adopt.) Most shelters will flat-out refuse to take any kittens younger than that.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:05 PM on May 1, 2009

Call a shelter, even if it's a kill shelter. They can give you tips, and even traps to borrow to capture the kittens yourself.

The shelter I volunteered at was a 'kill' shelter, but they also took in animals that no one else would. When we received unweaned kittens, we would call some of our foster families that specialized in this, and they would take the kittens to care for them.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:07 PM on May 1, 2009

Uh? The last time I checked, 85% of cats who end up in kill shelters are euthanized. Leaving them alone or calling a cat rescue group surely won't take any more effort.

Add another vote for the webcam idea!
posted by aquafortis at 12:22 PM on May 1, 2009

aqua, I'd like to see stats on that - because out euthanization rate was very low. There was some, but definitely not 85%. And barely any of kittens, unless they weren't adoptable in some way.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:14 PM on May 1, 2009

Call a rescue group, and alert them to the unfolding situation. If they have room, they will come and get them. More than likely, they have no room at their facility or in their foster care homes for another mama and kittens (it is kitten season, after all). They will probably encourage you to let them stay where they are for a while, and then come back and get them later, and/or arrange for a TNR for mom.

Please don't post "Free Kittens!" on Craiglist! You just don't know if they will end up being family pets or bait...
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:18 PM on May 1, 2009

spinifex23: Of course you're right; it's going to vary by city and shelter. (I was recalling something I read about NYC.) Here's a nationwide report that suggests it's looking grim for cats all over...

Shelters Struggle With Rise in Pet Euthanasia Rates

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Animal Care and Control in Manhattan to look for a friend's pet, and they said they sometimes kill over 10-12 cats a day to make room because they're getting so many in. It broke my heart.

programs are the only way to make a real dent in this horrible problem, IMO.
posted by aquafortis at 11:51 PM on May 1, 2009

Response by poster: update: I had decided to let the mother cat stay in the crawlspace to raise her litter, but it turns out a few days later, she abandoned them, so I ended up taking the kittens to the local shelter.

They said they had a really good chance of getting adopted, since they were kittens. After securing the crawlspace entrance against further intrusions by small animals, I now have a rather large infestation of fleas in the space. T_T; Now I'm experimenting with some diy flea traps to marginal success in different areas of the house (white plates work much better, and are also effective against those annoying small flies at night.

As to the mother cat, presumably she is still lurking about the area, but I have not seen her near the premises recently.
posted by weakcore at 2:44 PM on May 31, 2009

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