Feral cats across the United States form colonies where kind people feed and provide them with veterinary care. There is a very high chance that you have seen feral cats before, and you may have wondered: When do feral kittens leave their mother?
In this article, we will discuss feral kittens and information you may have not known about them! We urge you to be careful when socializing with feral cats because they can be scared of people which leads to aggressive outbursts, and we don’t want you to get injured.
When Do Feral Kittens Leave Their Mother?
Feral kittens may begin venturing away from their mother at around 6 weeks, but this does vary for individual kittens. This process includes the mother weaning her kittens, which means that she spends time getting them used to eating real food instead of drinking their mother’s milk.
There are times that a feral mother cat will leave her kittens alone, but this is generally to scout out any potential new dens or to hunt for food for herself. You must never take feral kittens who are left alone by their mother, as she may return soon.
The best method is to leave the kittens exactly where you found them, but you can check on them throughout the day. If the mother is gone for more than a few hours and the kittens seem to be dirty or very vocal, you can then take them for proper care and housing.
How to Know When a Feral Kitten Has Been Weaned
Kittens are generally 6-8 weeks old when their mother begins to wean them. An easy way to tell if a kitten has been weaned is by checking their mouth for any teeth, if a kitten has a good set of teeth then it is safe to assume that they have been weaned.
After a feral kitten has been weaned is the best time to capture, tame, and spay or neuter, as this period of a kittens life is the best and most crucial time for socialization.
Kittens will begin to explore and play more as they age. After they have been weaned, they will be more playful and curious and may begin to venture out of their mother’s den to hunt, play, and explore.
Feral kittens are not socialized with humans and will be terrified if ambushed by a strange human. Feral cats and kittens are dangerous when provoked, and can significantly harm you if they feel threatened.
Do Feral Cats Ever Abandon Their Kittens?
Feral cats will abandon their kittens on occasion, for hunting, scouting, or just to stretch their legs. Just like all wild animals, feral cats still need to provide food and water for themselves so they can successfully feed and care for their litter.
A feral cat will typically not leave her kittens alone for hours on end, as she knows they need to be fed often. So, if you come across a litter of kittens that are vocalizing, seem dirty and skinny, it is most likely that these kittens have been abandoned and will need significant care.
Kittens fully depend on their mother for warmth because they cannot regulate their own body temperatures, as well as using the bathroom as they are not born with the innate ability to pee and poo on their own until they are around three weeks old.
This is why we do not recommend capturing a feral kitten until after they have been fully weaned from their mother.
Where Do Feral Cats Hide Their Kittens?
Feral cats will hide their kittens anywhere that they deem safe from potential predators. Feral cats have been found to place their kittens in planters, bushes, outdoor storage, and even trees. If you spot feral kittens that have been hidden on your property it is best to leave them alone, do not touch them.
Likely, the feral mother will eventually move her kittens to a new hiding spot. Feral cats view humans and other animals as potential threats, and will protect their kittens if they feel threatened.
If you have spotted feral cats and kittens around your property that you would like to care for, you can always set up a warm hiding spot with comfy blankets outside, and the mother cat may deem that spot a safe place to hide her kittens.
We do not recommend messing with feral kittens when they are still young, as the mother cat will be very protective over them and may lash out aggressively at anything she deems a threat.
How Do You Lure Feral Kittens Out of Hiding?
Luring feral kittens out of hiding can be a tricky process. Feral kittens will deem any human a threat and generally are scared of us. Hissing and spitting are common occurrences when a feral kitten spots a human, but this is not the general rule.
It is best to not force any socialization on a feral kitten, as they will not always react well and will sometimes run away, never to be seen again.
If you have a colony of feral cats and kittens, there are programs called ‘trap and release’, where volunteers will come to safely capture the cats and kittens, get them spayed or neutered to ensure no more kittens, and release them back to their colony.
The best way to go about luring feral kittens out of hiding is to leave fresh food and water out and available at all times.
Feral kittens get scared easily, so acclimating them to the sight and sounds of humans is another great recommendation, you can achieve this by leaving a window open while your family has dinner, or playing a radio station outside when you aren’t home!
In this article we learned about when feral kittens leave heir mothers, as well as safe ways to lure them out. As mentioned previously, we do not recommend socializing with unknown feral cats as they are not used to human interaction and can potentially injure you.
If you would like more about rehabbing feral cats and kittens, there are unlimited resources available online, like YouTube, and even some websites that are dedicated to educating about feral kitten care!