Helping Baby Animals
Animals Have Been on Earth For a Long Time
As of the original writing of this article, it was the month of May! That means baby animal season was in full swing! But, it happens every year, so even if it is not the height of the season, there are and can be babies born all year. Plus, after reading this article, you'll be prepared for the next season!
Kittens, puppies, ducks, birds--all are answering the call of nature to reproduce themselves. Animals have been doing this just fine for many centuries with no help from humans.
Then, along came humans, who decided to get involved in the process. Some species have been domesticated to serve as pets or working animals; others remain in the wild. Somewhere along the line, people thought they were smarter, more clever, and better able to handle the situation than Mother Nature herself; and that's where the problems began.
Certain traits were bred in or out of various animals for whatever reason; and the original pure version virtually ceased to exist. Still, the basic instincts of survival cannot be so easily modified, so in spite of human meddling, most of the animals manage just fine.
Newborns Are Just So Cute!
Yes, everyone loves a newborn. We are programmed as part of our own survival to love and nurture the young. Many of us extend that caring past our own species, and to a certain extent, that is admirable.
Sadly, there are still other people who seem to get their jollies out of mistreating animals, and that is where the people interested in animal rescue come into play. Their efforts are sorely needed. The majority of certified rescue groups have at least a consulting veterinarian on call, if not one on staff.
Besides the rescue groups, there are also ordinary citizens with extra love to share who will step in to help as well. This is a good thing; the rescue groups need lots of volunteers to be able to accomplish their mission.
This video was shot by the owner of the mother cat.
Don't Step In Too Soon!
Sometimes, however, good intentions go awry. On day, for example, someone showed up at the door of the rescue group where I volunteered on a weekly basis, and had with them a shoe box with newborn kittens they had thoughtfully "rescued."
Now, when I say newborn--I mean that very literally--these kittens still had their sacs attached! The person was concerned because there were ants on the babies. Well, to be sure, that is of some concern. Nonetheless, little kittens that tiny need their mother.
As any human mother knows, giving birth is hard work--mom cat may have just stepped away for a short rest, or potty break. Perhaps the approach of the person scared her and she hid.
The point is, that was not a rescue--it was taking the babies from their mother--the situation is more akin to a kidnapping. You have to ask yourself, how would you like it, if you had your newborn in a stroller, and turned away--for only a second--say to get out your wallet and pay for your purchases, and someone decided the baby was unattended, and snatched it up to "rescue" it?
Animals Are Very "In Tune" With Their Environment
Humans seem to have lost some ability to connect with nature, the Earth, and its rhythms and cycles. Some of us have that ability, but in more of us, it has become latent; ignored, disused and forgotten.
It is widely publicized that animals seem to sense an Earthquake about to happen, for instance, while we mere humans are usually taken quite by surprise. It is that sense of being "in tune" to which I refer. In what some may call psychic or clairvoyant abilities, animals seem to "just know" certain things about life and death.
In the scenario I just described, perhaps the mother cat somehow knew that her babies were in trouble from the ants--maybe she'd not noticed an ant hill nearby as she looked for a place to give birth.
Or perhaps, as I suggested, she was hiding, and would have come back to battle the ants, and rescue the babies herself--or at least try her best. In the end, mom cat knew what she had to do, one way or the other.
Maybe the babies were born defective and weak, and that is why the ants attacked. Sadly, Mother Nature herself is not always a loving and caring Mom--she can be quite cruel and heartless at times.
Shortly after we moved to our current location, there was a semi-feral kitty living in our neighborhood. She alone was probably responsible for most of the cats roaming the area.
She was a little tiny bit of a thing herself, hardly 4 pounds, and with a barely audible voice..she'd open her mouth to say "Meow," and you wouldn't hear a sound--unless you could get very close to her--you'd hear a tiny squeak. We called her, alternately, "Mama Cat," and "Silent Running." We learned she'd been a long-time fixture in the area...so she was not a young cat.
One day, we went out, and found that she'd had kittens--again. There was just one, and it was under a bush, mewing its little heart out. "Mama" was nowhere to be found. We left the baby, and went on a hunt for Mama Cat. We found her under another bush, and she did not seem to be the least bit interested in her baby, so we finally picked it up, and brought it to her, as the baby was getting cold.
(It is not necessarily true what people say, that if you touch a baby animal, the mom will abandon it--especially with dogs and cats. Even semi-ferals, such as this kitty was, will allow some human contact--they recognize their food source, if they have been getting fed here and there, which "Mama" was.)
At any rate, she ignored the baby, and when we went back later to double check, both she and the baby were gone. Later, we heard mewing again, and discovered that she'd taken the infant and hidden it under our back porch. Mind you, it is a free-standing porch, and underneath is concrete. It is not a warm cozy place.
Our Attempt to Help
At that point, we determined that she was deliberately abandoning this baby. We fished it out, wrapped it in a blanket, and held the tiny kitten in our laps on a hot water bottle.Mom still showed no interest.
Finally, in desperation, we caught Mama Cat, and bundled her and her baby off to our own vet. They tried valiantly to save the tiny kitten, but it was not to be. Then, we were going to pay to have Mama spayed, but when the vet did the "snap" test, she was positive for Feline Aids (FIV), and not doing well herself. (Mind you, she was an elderly kitty by this time; FIV need not be a death sentence by itself.)
They further discovered that the reason she'd abandoned the first kitten was that there was another inside that she could not get out, and it was already dead. It explained why she had ignored the first baby; she knew she had unfinished business, and would not be able to care for it. In the end, the kindest thing was to have her put down.
It was very sad, and broke our hearts.
What Should I Do To Help?
Although it may seem hard and heartless, the very first thing you should do upon coming across a baby animal or a litter of babies, is to do nothing at all. Step back, observe the area. Check for these things:
- Is the infant in immediate danger from traffic or predators?
- Is there sufficient cover that the mom could be nearby, watching?
- Is the baby moving, breathing, or does it appear to be dead?
- Is the mother nearby, and dead?
- Is the animal (or animals) in or near a box, or other container, that raises suspicion that they may have been dumped by some ignorant and heartless person?
After checking this list, your next move is to move away from the area, and simply observe. Not for a few minutes; not for half an hour. Obviously if you have found the mother dead, step right in and proceed with the rescue. Otherwise, give it at least an hour or two, maybe more. The mother may have gone hunting for food for herself or to bring back to the babies. That takes some time.
If after several hours, the babies are still without their mom, check on them again to see how they are doing. If they appear to be in distress, now may be the time to step in; if they seem fine, give mom a little while longer.After all, you wouldn't want to come home to find your babies missing, would you?
The bad thing about that is, with cats, especially, if they lose a litter, for whatever reason, they will go right back into heat, and produce yet another round of offspring.
A Feral Cat Colony is Not Necessarily a Bad Thing
If the cat is truly feral, the best thing is to let her take care of her babies until they start eating solid food, then try to capture mom (and any males, as well) and put them into a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program.
These programs significantly reduce the number of feral cats in an area, and cats being territorial, also helps prevent new ones from moving in to take their place, which is what happens if the cats are removed and destroyed.
It stabilizes the colony, and helps keep the area free of pest species, such as mice, rats, gophers, etc. Yes, they may snag a few birds as well, but not in sufficient numbers to harm the bird population. Ground-based prey is easier to catch.
Look Up Resources
If you want to help rescue animals, that is wonderful, and I salute you. But please take the time to do some studying.
Contact rescue groups in your area, and help out with their volunteer programs first. Learn as much as you can, to prepare for real rescues when they are actually needed.
But please, don't "rescue" newborns away from their mommies.
© 2012 Liz Elias