While it may seem more difficult to trap a feral mother cat to keep her with her kittens, the advantages are many for the kittens, the mother, and the foster parents. Marilyn Hendrickson from MEOW Cat Rescue notes:
It is absolutely best to keep kittens with their mother whenever possible. There are many health benefits when nursing from the mother cat. It is also very important to note that a mother cat CAN and DOES still produce milk after being spayed. I’ve been bottle feeding tiny, orphaned kittens for many years and can tell you that it is a lot of work and allows for very little sleep.
Benefits for the Foster Parents
- The mothers free up the foster parent’s time, especially the first week when the babies need to be fed every two hours.
- Foster parents can save a lot of money not having to spend it on kitten formula. It is important to use kitten milk replacer (KMR) and never cow’s milk to feed the kittens.
Benefits for the Kittens
- Bottle feeding itself is a bit tricky. The importance of properly cutting the nipple cannot be emphasized enough. (If the opening is too small, kittens will not get enough milk, and if the opening is too large, there is the risk that they will get too much, resulting in aspiration.) With the mother cat involved, this is not a concern.
- Bottle babies need to be stimulated to eliminate their body waste. The mother cat will take care of that.
- The mothers provide the colostrum that all newborns need.
- Many of the kittens that are not with their mothers get diarrhea.
Success Stories (Joanne and Sue’s Efforts)
Last year we had two true feral moms and ten babies. I took the girls and a mom and Sue took the boys and a mom. The moms were truly feral. I had to use ‘the claw’ to reach in to get the dishes, litter box, and babies for handling. As soon as the moms were weaning, we got them spayed and took them back out to the barn and let them go. We tamed the kids and they found awesome homes.
This year I had a ‘feral mom’ and two kittens from the Everett Animal Shelter from a hoarding situation. Within five days I was petting the mom who was not feral, just scared. The mother cat let me play with the babies and take them out of the cage. The mother cat would roll over for tummy rubs and come to me for petting. These three will have great homes, are not feral, and will not be put down.