Kitten overload

Spate of new-born kittens rejected
by their mothers

We are not the only charity that has noticed an enormous increase in the number of new-born kittens that have been rejected or abandoned by their mothers.  We have been working with three large colonies of feral cats this year and two of these have caused us huge problems. A number of litters of less-than-a-week-old kittens were found on the sites, and their mothers were not giving them even the most basic of care.

Hand-rearing is one of the hardest jobs going. It can be exhausting, heart-breaking, exhilarating, and ultimately sooo rewarding when you see these little scraps of life grow and turn in to the most beautiful kittens.

I’ve had three litters to raise this year – my first litter of 6 was handed in at Mandeville Veterinary Hospital. We believe they were taken from a colony by someone who thought it would be an easy way of making money. By the time I picked them up there were only 3 left. They all had health problems and I became very well acquainted with the hospital at midnight at weekends. Thankfully however, they thrived and grew into beautiful kittens named Bugsy, Fat Sam and Tallulah. They have been adopted in to their lovely forever homes.

Sadly, my second litter had a dreadful start – there were 2 possible mum cats who were seen carrying the kittens about, but neither mothered them properly and they ended up being dumped under an upturned wheelbarrow.  Again, these kittens were extremely sickly and all 5 of them died one-by-one of cat flu and other related issues.


My third litter of 2 were found abandoned in a shed in Southall. Both had dreadful tummies, and again, a midnight trip to the vet was called for. Sadly 1 had passed by the time we got there, and the other was hospitalised. A few more ups and downs later, she still has a horrid tummy, but she is turning into the most beautiful kitty and I have named her Gizmo (remember Gremlins). I am sure she is going to be fought over when she is put up for adoption!

I was also called by a lovely lady who had found 2 black and white kittens of about a day old on her patio. I picked them up, and took them to foster carer, Miss Skimbleshanks in an effort to see if her wonderful foster mum Daisy would adopt them. 

Read more about these kittens from Miss Skimbleshanks here

Then there were two pregnant feral cats we had trapped and hospitalised to await their births – both had 6 kittens and both rejected them, so suddenly we had another 12 new-borns that needed hand-rearing which lead us to enlist the help of a wonderful rescue in Hertfordshire called Tiny Tails. Unfortunately most of them didn’t make it despite their best efforts which has been heart-breaking for everyone concerned, however we do still have one remaining kitten called Eddie who is a little smasher! He is battling on and every day is a bonus. The charity has made a donation in gratitude to Tiny Tails for their help.

Read more about the Tiny Tails kittens rescue here

So why so many kittens being rejected? We can only think that most of the mum cats have been little more than kittens themselves (about 5 to 7 months old) and so did not have the knowledge of what to do that maturity brings. The amount of stray/feral cats has increased greatly too, and this could have been due to the post-lockdown effect, where covid-cats have been abandoned by irresponsible owners.

But whatever the cause, we battle on – with our network of volunteers, and the wonderful Rose. We’ve done our very best for the cats and kittens, and will continue to do so, however, we do need more volunteers to undertake hand-rearing when necessary. If this is something you feel you could do, bearing in mind the 2-hourly feeds, toileting, washing etc, then please contact us now. Full training will be given.

Follow Tiny Tails Herts and/or Miss Skimbleshanks on Facebook

Carol Willingham