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How To Tell The Age Of A Feral Kitten

So Whats The Solution

Easiest way to determine a kitten’s age!

There is an obvious way to prevent so many feral cats from being born, and being in need of neutering, socialising, and rehoming, at great cost and difficulty for rescue centres.

Simply neuter your cat before you let them outside for the first time.

Failing to neuter not only impacts the welfare and health of your individual cat, it has the potential to impact cats everywhere. Until the public at large understands the ripple effect of their irresponsible cat ownership, feral cat populations will continue to grow, cats will continue to suffer, and rescue centres will continue to struggle, day in and day out, to repair the damage wrought by these careless decisions.

What Is The Ideal Age To Adopt A Kitten

According to New Jersey Holistic Veterinarian Dr. Judy Morgan, kittens should remain with their mother and litter mates until 10-12 weeks of age. Other sources, such as the Australian RSPCA recommend 8 weeks, or use a weight limit of two pounds. This seems to be a common guideline for US shelters, which list adoptable cats as young as 2 months of age.

Some shelters offer pre-adoption programs, which invite pet parents to meet and adopt young kittens before they are ready to leave their mother cat, then wait a few weeks until their new kitten is old enough to come home.

Reach For The Good Stuff

There are about 100 different types of catnip, and not all cats are susceptible. But if your little guy likes it, youre in luck. Catnip can help to calm and embolden a shy, fearful, or anxious cat.

If catnip does nothing for your cat, then fret not, there are other substances you can try. Alley Cat Allies, an advocacy group for the protection of felines, advises, Consider using non-pharmaceutical behavior modifiers like Feliway, Rescue Remedy, or Composure Soft Chews. These products can help calm and comfort cats using essential oils or extracts or by mimicking natural feline pheromones.

Once the cat becomes used to you, chances are they may not need these substances anymore. However, my primary caretaker still leaves behind a lot of catnip in my favorite spaces for the opposite reason now. I resent her prolonged absence, and catnip is always a great distraction!

Most times, semi-feral cats can be domesticated and live happy and healthy lives with their humans. This may take a few weeks, but more often it will take months, and even up to a year. Becky Robinson also estimates that an unfortunate 14% of cats simply cannot be tamed.

Because of this, when you embark on your adventure with your semi-feral cat, remember to be patient and to respect their space. Understand that socializing a semi-feral is a process, and it wont happen overnight. But with patience, respect, and lots of treats, your semi-feral can grow to love you, too!

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What Is A Semi

Commonly referred to as a social cat by some animal rescue experts, a semi-feral is a cat or kitten who has had some experience with humans in the past. Unlike feral cats, semi-feral cats are vocal and may make eye-contact with you, even if they dont allow you to touch them.

Social cats are not to be confused with socialized cats who are fully domesticated, and accustomed to being around, and being touched by humans. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to tame semi-feral and feral cats after 4 6 months of age, but it is not impossible.

What To Do If The Stray Kitten Does Not Have A Mother

CAT AGE CHART #cutecat

If you have determined the stray kitten does not have a mother, his greatest chance for survival begins with you. The first thing youll need to do is capture the stray kitten. For some kittens, this is as easy as reaching out and scooping them up. For others, you may need to contact a local animal society or shelter to obtain the humane traps often used in TNR. Simply place the trap out with some food inside, and wait nearby. The kitten should wander in and trigger the trap to close its door. Kittens do not get hurt in the process!

Next, get the stray kitten to a veterinarian for a checkup ASAP. If the vets office is closed, youll have to start his care right away. Even if you cant foster a stray kitten long term, youll be a lifeline during this first phase of rescue.

If you cannot foster the stray kitten for any amount of time, find a no-kill animal shelter. The No Kill Network has a list of organizations by state, and Adopt-A-Pet lists cat rescues.

Containing and monitoring the formerly stray kitten is key to his health and well-being. A dog crate is perfect. To keep him toasty, place a covered heating pad in his crate and keep the room temperature at 75 degrees. The heating pad should cover only half the crate so he can get away from it. Watch for panting you dont want him to get overheated either. A cold or limp kitten indicates a medical emergency.

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How To Handle Them

The first thing youll want to make sure is that youre very careful with handling them. You should NEVER pick up a feral cat by hand. Thats because youre protecting yourself from diseases, especially if they are rabid, and it also protects the kitten too. If a kitten bites a human they may have to be euthanized. So youll definitely, for the sake of the cat themselves, use a humane trap to get them.

Now, you can do the following with a kitten in order to help tame and humanize it.

  • Make sure that if you trap them, you get all of the kittens and the mother cat if possible.
  • Use TNR in order to trap all of them so that they can get neutered and release, and prevent the colony from growing.
  • When looking for the feral kittens, make sure to get them within the quiet, unseen spots, since thats where the mom keeps them.
  • You should wait for them at about 4-6 weeks since they can be taken by the mom at that point.

Now at this point, if you do capture them, they tend to need to be neutered immediately. But what age can you do this at? Well, there are a couple of factors that you can consider.

If The Mother Doesn’t Return

Its important for their chances of survival to not take kittens away from their mother if they havent been weaned from her milk. Pre-weaned kittens without a mother are very difficult to care for and have a high mortality rate. They require frequent feedings of kitten milk replacer formula day and night, and many “fail to thrive” without the care of their mother, even with all necessary veterinary care and experienced foster volunteers.

Only bring the kittens to the shelter if, after watching for 4-6 hours, you are 100% certain the mother is not returning.

If the mother hasnt returned within 4-6 hours:

  • You can care for the kitten in your home . If kittens are over six weeks old, be sure to post a found report on our website.


  • If you are unable to care for the kittens yourself, please contact MCAS immediately for help. Call 503-988-7387.
  • You can bring them in a carrier or box with a towel or blanket to MCAS. To keep them warm during transport, fill up a water bottle with warm water, wrap it in a towel, and place it next to the kittens.
  • You can also bring stray kittens to our partners in the community who will accept them on behalf of MCAS:
  • Oregon Humane Society in North Portland

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Feral Cats When Trapped

One thing you may notice is that they actually do have their own set of actions that come about when they are trapped. Usually, there are barriers when you trap them, and with feral kittens, along with the mom, its the same thing. Some of the factors include the following:

  • They wont be touched and are refused to be touched, even when youre giving care
  • Unlike stray cats who come to the front of where the cage is, a feral cat will try to stay as far back as possible and will retreat to the back of the cage
  • They tend to not actually touch the cage, except if theyre frightened and jolted, where they may start to climb, rattle, and shake the cage
  • They will be unsocial and tend to not actually relax over time
  • They will ignore people, and toys, possibly even food if theyre older
  • They wont be interested in sounds within the household, except in the case of if youve been feeding the cat and they respond
  • They will be aggressive
  • Will tend to lash out when theyre cornered or threatened, usually having the ears back and the eyes dilated

When handling feral kittens you may see this too, especially if youre looking to trap them and socialize them.

Some of them may not be inclined to socializing. If thats the case, thats a sign that it may be a bit more feral than you expected, and in that case, it might be best to return them to the colony.

How To Do It

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Now, how you do it is quite interesting. There are a few steps to helping a kitten become socialized, and they are as follows:

  • Containment within a cage or carrier
  • Handling with a towel
  • Containment in a room to work on socializing
  • Exposure to humans
  • Adoption

With containment, another trait that youll notice with feral kittens is that they tend to hiss and spit. This is because theyre super terrified of humans. However, there are some other factors that come about and thats the following:

  • They hiss
  • They act super ferocious, even to the point of biting and scratching
  • Will try to escape if given a chance

Thats because a feral kitten is fighting for their life. They dont mean to be scared, they just see you as a predator. If youre going to engage in socializing these kittens, make sure that you do the following:

  • Check for diseases and illnesses with the vet
  • Wash hands
  • Wear a smock

When you get them, dont handle them for two days, and make sure that you use slow movements, and resist touching. Youll want to keep them in the carrier or the litter box with some bedding, and keep them away from others, and make sure you dont let them escape. With food and water, you should always make sure that you have those, and if needed, keep them in a small litter box, but with the door open.

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Ask Your Vet To Check For Cloudiness In Your Cats Eyes

Beyond teeth, vets may also look to your cats eyes to help determine age.

Around the age of 6 or 7, a cats eye lenses become denser, not unlike what happens to humans around age 40. If you look with an ophthalmoscope, you can see a bit of cloudiness around this age, Dr. Horvath explains.

Its not really noticeable to owners until a cat is about 10 years oldthen their eyes might start to look a little cloudy.

Dr. Nappier adds that looking at the cloudiness in the eye is something that vets must do, especially when the cat is younger. Its a fairly reliable system with a set of standards, but its not something owners can do at home without having certain tools and knowledge, he says.

As cats age into their senior years, their iris can show changes. Called iris atrophy, the inside of the iris can break down so that your cats pupil doesn’t get as small as it used to. Or, sometimes the inner edge of the iris becomes wavy.

Either way, this is a normal aging change and does not cause any pain or problems for your cat.

Why Feral Cats Are A Problem

For the most part, feral cats can fend for themselves and their offsprings. Often communities adopt these cats, making sure they have adequate food and water, and sometimes stepping in if a cat has been injured.

The problem is that a lot of feral cats arent spayed or neutered. According to stats, between 30 and 40 million feral cats are living in the US. Given that a female cat can start reproducing at 16 weeks, and have two to three litters a year, if not managed, this overpopulation can lead to all sorts of problems.

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Determining The Age And Condition Of A Stray Cat

Fighting for ferals in NW NJ!
Cincinnati, OH
Fighting for ferals in NW NJ!

Originally Posted by Persi & AlleyI often wonder how old Alley really is. A vet told me she was about three. But I wonder how close a vet can really come to a cat’s actual age. How do they tell, by the teeth or what?

Portland, Oregon
Fighting for ferals in NW NJ!
Fighting for ferals in NW NJ!

How To Tell The Age Of A Kitten

How To Tell How Old A Cat Is

According to PetMD, veterinarians often use a combination of weight and tooth status to estimate the age of kittens. The ASPCA agrees and outlines four ways to tell the age of a kitten.

If a kitten is healthy and well-fed, weight can be used as a good estimate of age. A kittens age in pounds is roughly equal to her age in months, up to about 6 months of age. A one-month old kitten should weigh about one pound, and a six-week-old kitten should weigh about a pound and a half. Kittens ready for adoption at 10-12 weeks should weigh 3.5-4 pounds. Another way to calculate age is by adding 100 grams per week, so a 10-week-old kitten should weigh around 1000 grams .

Weight can vary, of course, based on breed, size of the parents, and other factors. Interestingly, many large domestic cats, such as Maine Coons, reach their adult weight at a later age than smaller cats. They might not be a lot larger as kittens, but they keep growing until they are as old as four years, whereas most cats reach their full adult weight around one year.

Teeth can give more useful clues in determining age. Kittens get their first teeth at 2-3 weeks. These baby teeth are extremely tiny! Baby teeth keep coming in until 8 weeks. Around 8 weeks, a kitten will get her adult canine teeth.

Telling these first adult teeth from baby teeth can be tricky. Vets look for a specific groove present on the surface of adult canine teeth.

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The Benefits Of Keeping A Kitten With Her Litter

There are many benefits to leaving a kitten with her mother and littermates until 8-12 weeks. As cat advocate Hannah Shaw, The Kitten Lady, explains, the benefits include improved immune health, good manners, and resilience.

1. Lifelong health

Cats that were taken away from their mothers too early can be prone to illness. This can result from missing out on maternal antibodies and nutrition that come from mother cats milk. Dr. Morgan writes, Maternal immunity is passed from the mother to the newborns through colostrum, which is the first milk on which they feed. The colostrum contains a lot of antibodies If the kitten misses out on the colostrum during the first 24 hours, they will not be able to absorb the antibodies later and will be left unprotected from disease.

2. Playing nice

Kittens learn a lot about manners from their mothers and their littermates. Gentle play is good manners, and its a very important skill for a well-mannered cat to have. A kittens mother and siblings let them know when they are playing too rough. Most cat lovers have met cats that dont have this skill, and we have the bite marks to prove it!

3. Making friends

4. Self-care

Life skills like grooming and litter box use arent innate behaviors in catsthey have to be learned from a kittens mother. Ive lived with a gorgeous long-hair cat with poor grooming skills. It aint pretty, and it is smelly!

Look For Wear And Tear On Adult Cat Teeth

Dr. Horvath notes that while it becomes more difficult to estimate a cats age by their teeth once all the adult teeth are fully erupted, its not impossible.

We can also use the wear and tear as well as tartar buildup as clues to a cats age, he says. Typically, if we see just a little bit of tartar, especially along the cats cheek teeth , that cat is 1 to 2 years old. The more tartar that accumulates, the older the cat probably is.

However, like people, some cats just have worse teeth than others. A young cat could exhibit lots of tartar, and an older one could have very little. Therefore, using tartar as the lone indicator of age is a lot less exact than many owners might hope.

Gingivitis is also not a reliable indicator of age. Some cats develop severe gingivitis at a very young age, while others dont develop the disease until tartar accumulates on the teeth.

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For Kittens Twelve Weeks To Six Months Old

Kittens 12 weeks to 6 months old who are not social and become extremely frightened and/or aggression when handled by people may be difficult to catch without a live-release trap, and have passed an important window when they can be easily and effectively socialized. The best thing to do is consider Trap, Neuter / Spay, and Return them to where they were found.


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