If you see an apparently homeless cat which is very obviously pregnant, then she may be looking for somewhere to have her kittens. If she is friendly then she would appreciate a comfortable bed (a large cardboard box with an old towel in it is fine) in a quiet safe place away from other animals – perhaps a spare room, a barn or shed.
A feral cat may use a similar bed in a barn but is just as likely to have her kittens somewhere else and only come for food, bringing them with her when they are old enough to be weaned.
Whether domesticated or feral, if the mother cat is being well fed, she should not need any help raising the kittens. If you have access to the kittens and the mother cat is comfortable with you touching the kittens, it is important to handle them and socialise them as much as possible, so they are used to human contact. The kittens will begin to take kitten food at around 4-5 weeks and from then on it is really important for them to have positive contact with people. It is far easier to find homes for well socialised friendly kittens.
Once the kittens are weaned the mother cat should be sterilised as she can become pregnant again very quickly. For details of finding help with this see ‘What to do if you find a stray cat’.
If you need to find homes for the kittens, then begin to look for takers when they are just being weaned although they will not be ready to go to new homes until they are around eight weeks old. It is illegal in France to advertise any animal for rehoming (even if no money changes hands) unless they are identified by electronic chip or tattoo, and any animal moving to a new owner (even if given to friends) must be identified. It is important that any new owner understands that their kittens should definitely be sterilised no later than six months old and is committed to doing so. Kittens do best – and are far less work -when adopted in pairs and they should always go together if they will be left alone for any length of time when small.
If you find very young kittens without their mother wait a while out of sight as she may be off hunting to feed herself. If she doesn’t return, then move them to a safe place in a box with a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. They will need to be bottle fed frequently with special milk, helped to pee and poo – probably best to ask for help from an association or via Facebook etc. A great website for advice on dealing with orphaned kittens is http://www.kittenlady.org/kitten-care.
Older kittens who are already eating solid food are easier to deal with – again the Kitten Lady website will help with all kinds of issues from diet, flea treatment, and worming to litter training and socialisation.
If the kittens are weaned and well socialised, then an association or SPA may be prepared to take the kittens and to arrange for their chipping and vaccination. Look on Google under ‘associations chats’ in your department. If you approach a refuge to take a cat or kittens, be aware that they are usually full to overflowing during the summer, which is kitten season and may simply not have room. The policy varies between refuges: some will take kittens but will euthanise a feral mother cat, others will offer euthanasia for them all, and others will do their best to help the cat and kittens if space and resources permit. Always ask what will happen to the animals before you take them there. A donation towards expenses is of course appreciated by any refuge which does agree to take the cats.
If you cannot find an association to help locally then you can contact us on cats@lesamisdesanimaux though we cannot promise to help as like most associations, we are overwhelmed with kittens in the summer months.
If you cannot find homes for the kittens, then if they are chipped they can be advertised on the Les Amis des Animaux Facebook Group; the number(s) must be included in the post. Good individual photos are essential and don’t forget to include the gender and approximate age of the kittens (it helps to give each one a name) and where they are living. If you can deliver them within a certain range (say 100kms) that is useful. If you need help with the post, then please email us at email@example.com