Found Animals

Learn what to do when you’ve found anything from a large dog to a litter of teeny kittens.

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Austin Pets Alive! is not an open intake shelter...

Our mission is to save the animals who are already living in shelters that are most at risk for euthanasia. If you’ve found any animal that is a stray or potentially a lost pet, please bring the animal to your municipal shelter. For example, Travis County’s municipal shelter is Austin Animal Center. Found a litter of kittens? Read on for more information.

If You've Found Kittens:

If you find young kittens without their mom, it does not necessarily mean they have been abandoned. Their mother could be out looking for food, or finding a more suitable home for her kittens. If you find one or two kittens, mama may be in the process of moving the family and is on her way back for the others. If the kittens appear healthy, please wait and observe from a distance for an hour or two before doing anything else.

If, after 1-2 hours of observation, you haven’t seen signs of the mother, you will ultimately have to use your own judgment to decide how to handle the kittens, depending upon the litter’s needs and your time and resources.

Keep the following in mind when deciding what to do next:

  • Kittens have the best chance of survival with their mother.
  • If you bring the cats inside, you should keep them separate from your animals until evaluated by a veterinarian.
  • For proper social development, kittens should be kept with their litter (and mother, if possible) until at least 8 weeks of age.

Caring for Unweaned Kittens

Kittens without a mother: If the kittens aren’t weaned, and you take them in without a mother, they will require round-the-clock care and routine bottle feeding (every 2-3 hours, even overnight). The following videos offer information on bottle and gruel feeding:

How to feed unweaned kittens

How to feed older kittens


Young kittens without their mother need to be kept warm and should not be bathed.

Kittens with a friendly mother: If the mother does return and she is friendly, the best approach is to take her with her kittens indoors until the kittens are old enough to be weaned, sterilized, and adopted. Mama should then be spayed and either placed in an adoptive home or returned to her territory.

Kittens with a feral mother: If the mother is feral, the family should stay outdoors with shelter, food, and water provided. When the kittens are weaned, they should move indoors for socialization and sterilization. Mama should be trapped, spayed, and returned. Check out the “Feral Cats & Kittens” section on our Pet Resources page for helpful information.

Kittens are old enough to be weaned around 5 weeks – when they really start to run around! For proper social development, feral kittens should be removed from their mother around 5 weeks of age and brought indoors. Kittens from tame moms do not need to be moved from mom at 5 weeks.

Tips for determining a kitten’s age:

  • Under one week: Eyes shut, ears flat to head, skin looks pinkish. Part of the umbilical cord may still be attached.
  • 1 week-10 days: Eyes beginning to open, ears still flat. A kitten this age is smaller than your hand.
  • 3 weeks: Eyes are fully open, ears are erect, teeth are visible. Kittens this age are just starting to walk and will be very wobbly.
  • 4-5 weeks: Eyes have changed from blue to another color and/or kittens have begun to pounce and leap. Kittens this age will begin to eat gruel or canned food.

Did you find a stray cat and realize that she is pregnant? Watch this video for help.

Unweaned Kittens in Animal Shelters

Austin is one of the safest cities for unweaned kittens. Many shelters will euthanize unweaned kittens instead of treating them, as they do not have the resources to care for them. Rest assured, if you’re in the Austin area, the largest no kill city in the nation, the kittens you bring in will be safe.

APA! cannot directly intake animals from the public. If you find kittens outdoors, please refer to the guidelines recommended by Austin Animal Center (AAC). If the kittens are unweaned and the mother hasn’t returned, you can bring the kittens to AAC or Austin Humane Society (AHS). While AAC will not bottle feed the kittens there, they will ensure that the kittens are transferred to either APA! or AHS to be cared for until they are old enough to be adopted out. When an unweaned kitten comes to APA!, our volunteers immediately transfer the kitten(s) to our Neonatal Kitten Nursery.

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