You’re going to clear the snow off your driveway so you head out to the shed in your backyard. You open the door, move the snow blower, and you see a tiny kitten that has no collar. What do you do?
First, you should investigate. If the kitten is sleeping peacefully and doesn’t look too dirty or matted, there is a good chance that the mother is nearby and will come back for it. However, if you think the kitten seems to be lost or abandoned, you may have to intervene.
Depending on how friendly the kitten is, you can try to pick it up. If you approach the kitten and it hisses and backs away or runs, you should not try to handle it. You wouldn’t want to be bitten by a stray cat or kitten since this can result in a series of painful and expensive rabies shots. Remember: even the small, cute little fuzzballs can carry rabies.
Assuming you are a resident of Garrett County, the best thing to do in this situation is to call the Garrett County Animal Control at 301-334-8096, or after hours, at 301-334-1911. If you are a resident outside of Garrett County, please call your local Animal Control agency for help. Note, Garrett County is large and there are only two Animal Control officers, though, so it may take an officer some time to get to you (and the kitten).
If you can’t catch the kitten, you’ll want to try to be as safe as possible if you want to help. Putting out a bowl of food out and some straw (in the cold winter months) are a good idea to keep the kitten in the area until Animal Control can get to your location.
You may need to consider trapping the kitten if you cannot get close enough to pick the kitten up in your hands. The Animal Control officer can place a humane trap for you or you can borrow a trap from the Animal Shelter. If you do take this step, though, keep in mind that trapping must be done consciously. If the kitten is left in the trap too long, this becomes inhumane, especially if the weather is bad. If you do not want to take responsibility for the kitten, do not put food out. Putting food out, for even a limited time, can bring in other strays and cause more problems in the long run such as breeding.
If the kitten is friendly and does let you approach it, you should slowly reach out and try to pick it up. If you are able to safely pick the kitten up, you should take it to Garrett County Animal Shelter in Oakland, MD. If the shelter happens to be closed, you should care for the kitten to the best of your ability because it’s best chance of survival depends on you. Note: If you have cats of your own, do not keep the stray around your cats until it can be checked and/or treated here at HART as it can give your cats parasites and other diseases. Lastly, if you would like to keep the kitten, you should at least call the shelter and report finding the kitten in case someone is looking for it.
Many people think if they take a stray to the shelter, it will be euthanized. But, this is a rare case. Feral kittens can be tamed and HART for Animals is always hard at work to help with the overflow of kittens being brought to the shelter. If the kitten is taken to the shelter, it can be put up for adoption after a three-day waiting period. Usually, HART will take the kittens from the shelter and place them in our Adoption Center or, after a full assessment, send him to another shelter if necessary. The Garrett County Animal Shelter and HART for Animals ALWAYS send animals to no-kill shelters and adoption centers.
Caroline Robison, the Intake and Rescue manager here at HART for Animals, estimates that eighty percent of kittens that are brought to the shelter result from individuals allowing stray and feral cats to live on their property without taking responsibility. A cat can have up to three litters of kittens a year and it is easy to think that you are helping these stray cats by feeding them; however, this only creates more strays who must survive on their own. In this case, it is the cats themselves that suffer because of disease, starvation, weather, and predators.
In a year the Garrett County Animal Shelter takes in approximately 800-1,000 cats. Cats reproduce very quickly so it is important to have any of your cats spayed or neutered. You can always bring strays to the Garrett County Animal Shelter and avoid keeping a food source out if you do not want strays on your property. By getting the shelter and HART involved, you’ve done your part and hopefully the kitten will find his “furever” home!