Should I Let Feral Kittens See Their Mom?

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

A few days ago, my daughter found a cat with three kittens in a nest under a pine tree in our back yard. They appear to be 6 or 7 weeks old. We started picking up the kittens and holding them and petting them and they would let us. The mother cat did run away but always came back. For the past two days we visited with them a couple of times a day. I also started to feed mom so she could nurse.

Today I decided to take the babies because it’s going to rain tonight and be pretty cold the next few days. I got all three kittens shots and de-wormed today and also have forever homes for them lined up. I’m planning on getting a trap for the mom, getting her spayed, and releasing her back here. But two or three hours after I took the kittens, I heard a cat screaming in my back yard. I’m sure it was the mom, and it’s breaking my heart. I’ve been told taking them was the right thing to do so I can help socialize them, but I’m feeling so bad about the mama. Will she leave? Is she going to keep trying to find her babies? Should I let the kittens go back outside to visit the mom tomorrow, or will she take them away if I do? I don’t want to lose them.

~ Christina

Siouxsie: You’re doing a wonderful thing by socializing these kittens and helping them find forever homes so they won’t have to scratch out a living as feral cats.

The three kittens Christina caught

These are the three kittens Christina rescued. Thanks for sending this photo, Christina!

Thomas: But you’ve taken on quite a challenge, too. As you know by now, it’s a very labor-intensive process to socialize feral kittens and to feed kittens that aren’t quite old enough to leave their mother.

Siouxsie: Ideally, kittens should be at least eight weeks old before they’re weaned off their mother’s milk. But in this case, we think you did the right thing: rescuing feral kittens sometimes requires a little deviation from the “rules.”

Thomas: We do hope that you’re including kitten milk replacer in their diets so that they get the right amount of protein and nutrients.

Siouxsie: Now, on to your question. Mother cats have been known to move their kittens if they feel that their den is threatened. However, this happens more often when kittens are still so young that they can’t move on their own.

Thomas: If you do take the kittens outside to see their mother, we suggest that you make it a supervised visit, in the event that she does try to take them away.

Siouxsie: If it’s been a few days since you took the kittens, her milk has almost certainly dried up and she won’t be able to nurse the kittens any more. At 6 or 7 weeks, kittens can eat soft food, but they really can’t manage kibble yet unless it’s softened into a gruel.

Thomas: Alley Cat Allies has tons and tons of fantastic resources on socializing feral kittens, feeding rescued feral kittens, and even how to trap a mom-cat using her kittens as bait.

Siouxsie: This might help you to catch the mom-cat so you can get her spayed and vaccinated.

Thomas: The mother cat will stop looking for her kittens eventually, but as you saw, cats have just as much maternal instinct as humans do.

Siouxsie: Nonetheless, we’ll echo what others have told you: You did the right thing by getting these kittens into a safe place, vaccinating them, and working to socialize them.

The den that the feral mama-cat made for her kittens.

Christina also sent us this picture of the den where they found the mom-cat and her kittens.

Thomas: If you haven’t already done so, we suggest that you find a group in your area that does trap-neuter-return (TNR) with feral cat colonies. They can help you set up the traps and they almost always have vets that volunteer to do the spay/neuters or do them at a greatly reduced price.

Siouxsie: Thank you so much for your work on behalf of these kittens!

Thomas: They are awfully cute! Even Old Miss Cranky-Pants isn’t growling at their pictures.

Siouxsie: Who you calling cranky? If I weren’t so comfortable, I’d come over there and kick your tail!

Thomas: See what I mean?

  • Candace

    My two furgirls were just about 6 Weeks old and feral when I brought them home. Now they’ve just turned two, and are finally getting closer to what a socialized kitten would be like from the start. it’s taken patience, but worth the effort.

  • Katt

    Take heart, mom will be fine. Just keep feeding her and talking to her, along with catching and taking her to be spayed *lol*. If you have a small to medium sized crate handy, put you might want to put an old blanket inside and leave it in a safe place for mom. Willing to bet money that she’ll use it. Once mom knows she’s not going to be chased off, you may well find yourselves with another family member – albeit one that spends most of her time outdoors. Have friends in Georgia that went through the same experience a few years ago. We have 2 of that mom’s children, the friends kept one and the remaining 2 were adopted out. And mom is still at their house. Sleeps on or under the back porch, shows up for breakfast & dinner each day. Even comes in for a visit occasionally :)

  • pam

    I rescued a litter of 3 kittens living outside and mom too. I fed mom so she could feed her kittens. I ended up keeping one kitten and her mom all feral. te vet tech took the other 3 kittens. To make a long story short it took 2 months for mom and kittrn to come arould, I got a dog crate and pt them both in there with a cat condour. I spent 20 min morning and night just being with. I took mom because she would just end up just having more kittens and things would just snowball, Good luck and you ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING. I f you can tryto get a live trap from the humane society and get mom spayed and than release her if you think you can not bring her around. In my case mom and kitten are both very loving and will ask for lovings BUT if they gget scared they will hide., Again good luck

  • Nerissa’s Life

    I was feral you know… All four of my litter mates AND our mama ended up living here with the peeps. Even our dad, eventually! Quite the family, I should think.

  • gara

    I fed and built a winter house for an aged feral male tuxedo for about 5 years. His name was Milky because of a white mustache he had. It took up to the last two years before he would stay around close as I worked in my flowers. He would just lay and watch me and never move if I came close. The last few months I was with him he would take treats from my fingers. He would sit on the little back porch and I’d talk to him. I swear he understood I was there for him. He also began to let me photograph him. Then I had to move away. Broke my heart to leave him. But that was his home area… lots of places to feed and take shelter. But my yard seemed like home base and he would come when I called him!! ;)

    So, I’m so glad you are working w/the kittens. If you contact a TNR group they more than likely can help you w/ trapping the mother cat to get her spayed, etc. Alley Cat Allies is extremely well known nation wide and has a help desk for people who need info on a situation such as yours. I’ve been a member and supprorter of ACA for years. Their National Cat Help Desk is online at: or call 240-482-1980 ext. 330.
    Good luck with mom and babies! And Thank You for caring about them!!

  • Anita Biers

    What beautiful babies. I see there is some Siamese in this blend. I feed a TNR colony and we have a mom who we can’t catch. She has two babies that are two weeks old and she has not moved them. I’m hoping to get them soon and handle them when she is not watching. She, too, is a good mom like your kitty. Maybe you can put them in a large carrier so she can see they are allright. Talk to her like someone said. At one time she, or her own mother were probably someone’s cat and they just dumped them. It’s so sad, but people like you can make it good again. Good luck with all these beautiful babies.

  • Catherine Murdoch

    I have never rescued feral kittens but in my time I have had rescued two feral cats. <y first one was a very handsome part Russian Blue cat I named Smokey because of his colour. He was hanging around the house and I put food out for him. After a while he let me stay (at a distance) when he was eating. Over a period of time he became socailisedand I was able to get him to the vet for desexing. He became quite a house cat. I have a photo of him somewhere sitting on one of my dining chairs. I think you are doing the right thing. There are so many unwnated kittens in this world – let's not add to them. Finding homes for three adorable kitties is the humane thing to do.

  • Glogirly and Katie

    Bless this sweetie for taking care of these kitties. It must be so hard to hear the momma cat…but you have to know it’s the best thing. You’ve saved some lives and given them a chance with loving forever homes.
    xo Katie & Glogirly