While the discovery of unattended kittens, baby birds, or even bunnies can seem like a heartwarming chance to save a life, the best course of action may not be what you think.
It’s not just kitten season – it’s everything season!
As counter intuitive as it may seem, the most important thing you can do when you find a treasure trove of little miracles is… nothing at all! Kitten season begins when the weather begins to warm up, and these tiny creatures are flooding our doors daily.
Most mother cats and rabbits spend the majority of their time away from the nest, hunting for sustenance so they can feed and protect their young while keeping an eye out for a safer place to hide. Many of these moms may only check in once or twice a day, and birds may leave their nests for up to 5 days before returning.
Often, when you pick up baby animals from outside and take them to a sheltering facility, you’re essentially kidnapping them.
If there is no immediate danger to the little ones – just leave them be. If you really think they need care, watch for mom for a day or two before trying to take responsibility for them yourself. If they are in an environment that may bring them harm, like near a busy road or in a yard where your dogs play, move them quickly to a safe place nearby and watch for the mother from afar. Even if you don’t see her, if the babies’ physical condition does not obviously worsen over the course of a couple of days, chances are you’re just missing when the mother visits.
Fun fact! It’s just an old wives’ tale that a wild animal will abandon its young just because it smells faintly of human! Birds especially do not have a very strong sense of smell, and luckily the parenting instinct is much stronger than that.
If you’re absolutely certain that these little ones can’t survive without you, be prepared for the amount of time and dedication required to keep these little lives going. With baby animal season in full swing, it’s unlikely that you will find a shelter that has the space or the resources to take in more unweaned tiny creatures. If a kitten is uninjured and looks generally healthy, please, let them be. While it may seem counter-intuitive, this will help shelters and rehabilitators keep our doors open for baby animals who are injured, sick and in desperate need of our support.
A tiny kitten’s best chance at survival is under the watchful eye of its mother. When these fragile creatures are brought into a shelter, they require around-the-clock care that many shelters are simply unable to provide. Help us give them their best possible chance by allowing their mother to be their first line of defense.
And, if you find a wild baby animal like bunnies out and about, our friends over at AWARE have put together some great tips on what you should do. www.awarewildlife.org/babyrules/