Fresh baby kittens under my house! Help!
August 20, 2020 9:10 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday we befriended and fed a stray cat who was skittish but wanted to be friendly. We called her Low Girl. Today when we got home, we found Low Girl and a LITTER OF KITTENS in an inaccessible crawlspace under the porch. We think she moved her kittens here today - we definitely would have noticed them yesterday. They are adorably loud and we can hear them from the inside.

The kittens sound very young. Crying, mewing, super adorable sounding. I thought they were birds at first. If I had to guess less than 4 weeks. We haven’t seen any of them, they are inaccessible to us, we can only hear them. To get access to them we’d have to cut out flooring in a porch - but that is not a concern and we’ll do that if we have to.

The neighborhood is densely wooded and parklike, with large birds, owls, snakes, skunks, coyotes, and deer. We think Low Girl must be from a house around here, or maybe she’s far from home, but we are also open to adopting Low Girl or helping her find a home because she’s definitely stray now.

We think the father is Grey Guy, a neighbor cat who is horny as hell. We also have an indoor kitty, who Grey Guy is always talking to through the screen door. We don’t feed Grey Guy.

We did just feed Low Girl - left food out for her and she promptly ate it and peed next to it. We then moved the food away from her kittens so as not to attract predators.

The Humane Society is not currently accepting cats or kittens, due to Covid. We might end up adopting one or two of these cuties if necessary, but we will need to find homes for the rest. We don’t want feral cats, and we do want to help these sweethearts.

Anyways. TLDR; found kittens under house, mom is a stray. Humane society is closed. And we love cats. What do we do?
posted by weed donkey to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Could you control access to this crawl space, and keep mom and the kittens in there? Or put a cage at the only exit to catch them?

Supplied with food, water, and a litter box, you might be able to start domesticating them in situ.
posted by nickggully at 9:18 PM on August 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

first thought: thank you for being willing to help this little family.

second: check to see if there's a feral cat coalition near you. they can help with resources for the babies and get mom spayed after they're weaned.
posted by hollisimo at 9:19 PM on August 20, 2020 [4 favorites]

Are there any other rescues in the area besides the Humane Society? I'd be googling and contacting everything with my travel-ability radius. Also look at groups that do TNR (trap-neuter-release), they will at least have professional ideas on what to do. Those kittens (and Low Girl!!) need to be fixed at the very least in short order.

Keep feeding Low Girl. Mommy cats need a ton of calories to nurse their kittens. The less she has to go out to hunt, the less likely she is to get hurt and not make it back to the kittens.
posted by cgg at 9:19 PM on August 20, 2020 [9 favorites]

We just had the same situation. We ended up borrowing two animal traps. We fed and watered the cats daily in the (un-set) traps to get them used to them. When the kittens were 8-9 weeks old we trapped them and got them fostered. We were able to arrange a trap-neuter-return for the mum and we continue to feed her daily.
posted by stray at 9:31 PM on August 20, 2020 [7 favorites]

Um... where are you? Maybe there's a cat rescue org nearby who will help you, especially if you're willing to foster them. If you're in the right part of California, for instance, there's the Hope for Paws folks who seem to LOVE doing tricky rescues/extractions. If you're in the Durham/Chapel Hill area, I know a TNR/rescue org who could help you out.

Or... maybe there are MeFites nearby who would be willing to help you out later, if, you know, you didn't end up wanting to keep ALL the kittens.

Would love a photo of Low Girl or any of your descriptively named friends, but really, the names do a better job of describing them than a mere photo.
posted by amtho at 9:47 PM on August 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ah I forgot the cat tax.

Here is Low Girl, the mama. Definite stray, a bit mangy.

This is Grey Guy, potential dad. Pretty sure we know which neighbor he belongs to. He hangs out around our house a lot though.

This is our indoor cat. She’s actually very lazy.
posted by weed donkey at 10:17 PM on August 20, 2020 [25 favorites]

I don't know your area, but I would check with the SPCA or as others said, look for cat rescue organizations. Even if they won't take the cats, they could offer advice and/or resources.

I actually had this happen a long time ago when my ex found kittens at his house. His best friend fostered them for a while, then my roommates and I did for a while. I forget how we found them homes at this point though. But I suspect a lot of people would love to get a pet right now, you just have to find a way to, I dunno, not have it be in some divey way.

At least you've got the mom cat. The aforementioned best friend ended up feeding the babies from bottles a lot and very obviously felt like a new nursing mother the whole time!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:55 PM on August 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've currently got a sunroom full of kittens (and their mom) we brought in from outside, so I feel you. (Incidentally, if anyone in the Philadelphia area wants to adopt a kitten or two or three... memail me?)

If Low Girl feels that your crawl space is safe she will probably keep her kittens there until they are old enough to start exploring on their own more, as long as she's got enough food. If I were you I'd just make sure she's got access to plenty of food and water, so she doesn't need to leave the area for too long and can stay and defend her kittens against any predators that may happen to come by. You could also try supplying her with a more attractive option for a place to keep her kittens by setting up a box with an access hole cut in it and towels for bedding. If she moves her kittens there, that gives you more opportunity to bring them inside (or somewhere else safer).

Once the kittens are old enough, she will start to accompany them on little "expeditions." If she's already comfortable with you, she'll very likely tolerate you grabbing them (early on this will be super easy as they'll be very uncoordinated), and once you've got her kittens you won't have any trouble getting her to follow you. (In general you definitely want to keep her with the kittens, of course; she'll do a much better job of caring for them than you can.) This is how we got the mom and kittens inside that are currently occupying our sunroom. If you bring them inside, I'd suggest setting them up in a separate room from your cat; in addition to any issues with social compatibility, various viral illnesses are common in stray/feral cats, and you want to protect your cat from any exposure. In general you should wash your hands after handling the kittens or Low Girl before you handle your own cat, at least until you've had a chance to get them to a vet to be tested and vaccinated.

There's a product called KMR (Kitten Milk Replacement) which is good as a nutritional supplement for both the mother and the kittens. In the event that something were to happen to Low Girl, you could feed the kittens solely on this if necessary, but you can also mix it into Low Girl's food and/or give it as a "side dish," which will help make sure she's got the right nutrition while she's lactating, and also mix it into any solid food you start giving the kittens as they begin to wean.

Ask around at your local vets to see if they can put you in touch with any rescue organizations or individual rescuers. Even if they don't have space or resources available, they may be able to help answer other questions or guide you to other resources. The initial basic vet care (testing for FIV/FeLV/etc., vaccinations, parasite treatments, spay/neuter once they're old enough) can be pretty expensive, but some vets offer reduced rates for ferals, so ask around. In our area there's one specific clinic that specializes in feral spay/neuter and must have some kind of grant funding it, as they're able to offer ridiculously low rates, so don't be afraid to ask around.

Good luck! I'm glad Low Girl was able to find you.
posted by biogeo at 11:43 PM on August 20, 2020 [18 favorites]

Agreeing with everything biogeo wrote. Over the last few years I've had to find homes for about 20 kittens since there were a few momma cats that liked the idea of raising their kittens on or near my front porch. I guess they could see I was a sucker and would start feeding them as soon as they appeared pregnant. The flow has since slowed down since I managed to TNR one of them and the other has disappeared and I'm assuming has died.

Once the kittens start making appearances from under the porch, it's good to get them acclimated to being handled so that they're not afraid of humans. In my case I started feeding them canned food as soon as they were ready to eat it which really helped them get used to my presence.

As far as finding homes, social media can be your best friend. I was able to adopt out the first couple of batches pretty quickly by posting adorable pics and having friends, staff, or friends of friends fall in love with them. It got harder after everyone in my small circle was kittened up, and then I had to make a sizeable donation to a well known shelter near me for them to take the last batch.

After the first round of kittens, I did not get them any of their shots or make any vet appts. I let everyone know who was interested in adopting that I was just feeding them and making them safe, not acting as foster and that the first thing they should do if they adopted one was start the vet care regimen.

One thing I would say is watch out for ringworm. It looks like bare patches of fur on the kittens and is easily transmittable to other animals and humans alike, but it's also easily cured by topical solutions you can find online.
posted by newpotato at 3:22 AM on August 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Lots of good advice above and also agreeing with everything biogeo wrote. Alley Cat Allies might be a good resource: Get Help. Hannah Shaw aka Kitten Lady has a lot of good information about kitten care, too, including how to figure out kitten age should you get a chance to see them.

Thank you for looking out for this feline family.
posted by wicked_sassy at 9:29 AM on August 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Baby kitten pics! We got an arm in the crawlspace and got a pic. There's at least 2 of them. Might be 3. We think they are about 1 week old.

Thanks everyone for the advice so far. I'm heading to the pet store to get some KMR and wet food to keep Low Girl happy.
posted by weed donkey at 9:35 AM on August 21, 2020 [17 favorites]

Our local TNR group is extremely proactive, I'll bet yours is too. It's an eccentric group, but they're uncompromising when it comes to protecting cats. They would help you with the cat family living under your porch and catching and neutering Grey Guy, if that seems like a good idea.
posted by Drab_Parts at 10:51 AM on August 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

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