Skip to content

How to Know if a Kitten is an Orphan and Needs Help

Have you found what you think is an orphan kitten or orphan litter of kittens? Not sure if there is a momma cat around? Should you leave them alone or scoop them up and try to feed them yourself? We hope the information below helps you know what to do.

Before rescuing a kitten, please determine if the kitten is in need of aid or if mom is likely nearby and able to care for them. If they are safe and well cared for, it is best to leave the kitten with its mother. Feral moms often go unseen. Here’s how to tell if a kitten needs assistance:

  • In what condition is the kitten? Healthy cared-for kittens are well-fed with a chunky belly, no sign of illness, and they are clean and dry. Orphaned kittens or kittens in need of assistance are thinner, sickly looking with runny eyes and noses, and are wet or covered in their own waste. They often have a yellow tint to their fur if there is no mom caring for them as they are urinating on each other. There may also be fly eggs on their fur. Fly eggs look like white or yellow pieces of rice. Kittens that are starving and anemic will have pale or white gums and nose. 
  • How old is the kitten? If the kitten is 5 weeks and under and they are in poor condition as described above, then they probably no longer have a mom caring for them. She may have been injured, died, or has abandoned the kittens for some reason. These kittens need to be rescued and bottle fed. Check out our resources for How to Determine the Age of a Kitten, How to Bottle Feed an Orphan Kitten and our Recommended Bottle Feeding Supplies
  • Is the kitten safe in its current environment? If the kitten is with mom, they have a shelter, there is a caregiver providing food and water, and they are not in danger of being hurt or killed from outside dangers, then it is best to leave the kittens and mom where they are.
  • No sign of mom? If you think the mom is feral and may be around, but you don’t ever see her, keep an eye on the kittens to make sure she keeps returning. If they are very young, check on them multiple times a day to look for signs that she has not returned. You will rarely see a feral mom, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t taking care of the kittens.