What to Do If You Come Across a Newborn Kitten or Puppy
It’s not particularly uncommon to run across newborn puppies or kittens in neighborhoods.
Sometimes a loose mother may have given birth away from home, or a feral one gave birth and died shortly afterwards, leaving the newborns alone. Whatever the reason, if you stumble across a litter of newborns it’s important to take proper care before if you're going to attempt a rescue.
Wait for the Mom
This might be the most important step of all. Be absolutely sure the mother is not coming back before taking the newborns from where you found them. A puppy or kitten's mother is the best chance they have for survival. Put enough distance be you and the newborns to allow yourself to keep an eye on them but not present yourself as a threat if the mom were to come back.
Sometimes a mother can disappear for hours while finding food. Give her time to return before deciding they’ve been abandoned. If possible, look around for a body just to be sure.
Contact A Rescue
Rather than taking them into your home, try and contact a rescue organization that has experience in dealing with orphaned newborn kittens or pups. Your local shelter or veterinarian should have a list available for you. If, and only if, none of these organizations are readily available or open then you should consider taking them with you.
Get Them Warm
Newborns are susceptible to hypothermia due to lack of adequate fur and insulation upon being born. Wrap them in a loose, warm towel or your shirt and hold them close to your body if you can. Otherwise, wrap a towel around a warm bottle of water and allow the newborns to lie next to it. It’s essential you warm the newborn up before attempting to feed them. If you have good heating pad, put it on low heat and let them lie on it.
Clean The Newborn
If the newborn has fleas you’ll need to give it bath to remove them. Using warm water, hold the kitten or pup by the scruff of his neck and rinse lightly with Dawn dishwashing soap. Start with a ring around the neck to prevent the fleas from traveling toward the head. Gently rinse him with warm water, making sure to remove all soap and keep it out of the eyes and ears. Do not submerge the newborn in the water.
Bottle Feed Them
Once you’ve gotten them warmed they’ll need to feed. Powdered milk formula is available at most stores. Do not use milk from your fridge if you have a choice. The milk should be warmed to 95 degrees Fahrenheit before feeding. You can feed the warm milk formula through a small bottle or syringe. Feed the newborns once every 2 to 3 hours, but do not overfeed or you’ll risk diarrhea which can be fatal.
Handing the newborn over to a professional is always the best course of action, but we realize it’s not always an immediate option. When dealing with a newborn kitten or pup, or multiple newborns, remember to be gentle and focus on warming them up first and foremost.
For more in depth instructions on what to do if you encounter newborn kittens we recommend the outlines available on the NYC Feral Cat Initiative website. For newborn pups, a good guide can be found here.
Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.