Japan Cat Network Logo

Animal Rescue

We have several years of experience with animal rescue. To date, we have rescued more than 450 animals in need.

We are not medical professionals. If you need medical advice, please contact a veterinarian.

Kitten Rescue

Many people just like you are able to successfully rescue and re-home kittens every year. With so few humane animal resources in Japan, it’s up to everyone to do what they can, and this is something you can do.

This looks like a lot of questions. Can I download a PDF instead?

Yes! We have a 2-page PDF document of the basic information in this FAQ.
English version
Japanese version

What if I see a kitten outside?

Take them inside! They are in grave danger from many predators, but most often from crows. You may have only one chance to help them, so do the kind thing and pick them up right away. If you only see one kitten, look around for others. Don’t remove kittens from mother cats. If all have been abandoned together, and the mother cat is friendly, consider rescuing and re-homing the group.

What are the kitten care basics?

Kittens need to be kept comfortable with warmth, hydration, food, cleanliness, and they might need help to toilet. After the immediate concerns, they require safety and socialization.

Address food and comfort needs before worrying about cleaning the kitten up or removing fleas.

What is the first thing I should look for?

Check the kitten’s body for signs of trauma or ill health, and if possible, take them directly to be checked by a veterinarian. Very young kittens (with eyes still closed) should respond by bobbing their heads up, when touched, while older kittens should actively move around. If they are lethargic and show a lack of appetite, they may be dehydrated.

Pay special attention to any wounds, which can look small but may involve a serious abscess under the skin. Issues such as wounds, a runny nose or eyes full of discharge, require veterinary attention.

How should I keep them warm and comfortable?

Hypothermia is a common problem, particularly with young kittens who cannot regulate their body temperature. Place a small drink bottle filled with warm water under a towel near the kitten, this will allow them warmth without risk of overheating. If it needs the warmth, it will rest near the bottle. Even if the outside temperature seems warm to you, the kitten may still need the extra warmth, particularly at night.

A bed with a soft furry blanket in a box or basket, along with the hot water bottle, can really make a kitten feel secure.

What do they drink?

If a kitten is lethargic and has a lack of appetite, it may be dehydrated. Some sugar water may help temporarily. Mix one teaspoon sugar with a cup of warm water, and put drops into the front of the mouth. Be careful not to tip the head back, so the kitten doesn’t choke.

The kitten’s eyes are open. What should I feed it?

Kittens whose eyes are open may be ready to eat soft wet food. Kitten food is best – it is easiest to eat and it contains the extra amount of nutrients that kittens need. Warm the food slightly in the microwave to make it stronger smelling and more attractive, then place it in a small dish directly under the kitten’s mouth. You can also introduce the food, if necessary, by placing a very small dab in the front of the kitten’s mouth.

If that doesn’t work, the kitten will need to be bottle fed. (See next question.)

The kitten’s eyes are still closed. What do I feed it? How?

Specially formulated kitten milk is necessary. Cow’s milk doesn’t have the proper nutrients and can cause stomach upset.

You can find kitten formula and bottles, at most home centers. Esbilac brand, in powdered form, seems to be a favorite. Thoroughly mix it according to directions, initially using very warm water, to avoid lowering the kitten’s body temperature. In order to prevent lumps that can clog the bottle nipple, mix it into a paste with a very small amount of water first, then slowly mix in the water.

When bottle feeding, frequency and patience are key. Sucking is an important part of the feeding process, but it can take young kittens a bit of time to adjust to using a synthetic nipple. Rinse new nipples multiple times in warm water to remove some of the rubbery smell. Check to be sure the milk isn’t too hot or cool, and that the nipple isn’t clogged, so that milk can actually flow through it. Also be sure that the hole in the nipple is not too big. If the flow is too heavy, the kitten may choke. The kitten may resist at first, but try to gently place the nipple in the kitten’s mouth several times.

Wrapping the kitten in a towel and rubbing the edges of its mouth with your finger can sometimes stimulate a sucking response. If the kitten doesn’t start to suck, don’t use force to keep the nipple in its mouth; doing so may create a negative association. Take a break for 20 minutes and try again.

Dropping or syringing milk into the side of the kitten’s mouth is a good idea to provide some nutrition temporarily, but this will not be effective over time, so continue trying to use the bottle.

Some kittens respond better if you try a different brand of bottle. Feed according to package directed amounts, 6 or more times per day. Healthy kittens should gain weight steadily, should not cry constantly, should be actively moving, and should have round bellies. Health issues in kittens move into crisis mode quickly, so vigilance and quick medical attention can be necessary. However, even under optimum care, it seems that some kittens are just not meant to make it. Give it your best shot, and know that you were able to provide the kitten rescue and some comfort, at the very least.

Will kittens use a litter box?

If they are old enough, yes. Be sure to use a shallow litter tray and a large pellet variety of litter so the kitten does not accidentally ingest it.

Very young kittens cannot eliminate without stimulation, and may die without help. Place the kitten on its back in the palm of your hand and tap the genital area with a tissue gently. You can use a tissue dipped in warm water, but don’t use packaged wet tissues. Chemicals include in those are not safe for kittens.

Watch out for continuous diarrhea, which can dangerously dehydrate kittens. A few common causes are bacteria in the living space, diet irregularity, and/or parasites. Start by bringing a small sample of the kitten’s feces to the vet, who can check for parasites, bacteria or digestion problems, and provide appropriate medication. Human medications and supplements are often unsafe or dangerous to use on cats, so do not medicate without veterinary supervision.

How do I keep them clean and healthy?

Since orphaned kittens are without the protection of antibodies in their mother’s milk, they are very susceptible to bacterial infections and their living space and bodies must be kept very clean. Change bedding or cage lining frequently, wash your hands before handling, and use a warm wet washcloth to clean the area around the kitten’s mouth after feeding. If not cleaned immediately after eating, food or milk on the face or neck will harden and be difficult to remove. Feces residue may also need to be cleaned away from the leg and tail area.

If the kitten must be bathed, do it after the health is stabilized, and keep the kitten warm at all times. Use kitten safe shampoo, but keep water and shampoo away from the kitten’s face. Shampoos like Nolvasan, containing Chlorhexidine, are good for removing bacteria. Towel dry them in front of a hair dryer or a heater to keep them warm until they are dry.

Flea combs are safe, but discuss any chemical treatments with a vet to be sure you use a type that is not too strong.

What about housing?

Give the kitten a safe place to play and live. Cages can sometimes be convenient to use for kitten care, as they address safety issues as well as potential damage to your living area. Check out an idea for making cage life more comfortable by adding a loft bed.

Can my children play with the kitten?

Interaction can be very positive for both your children and the kitten. If you have young children, explain how fragile kittens are and supervise all interaction. This is a good chance to instill empathy in your child and to provide instruction on how kittens should be held and picked up – specifically not around their stomachs or necks. People want to adopt friendly kittens, and some kittens will need more help with socialization than others. Gently play with the kitten, and interact with it often to encourage this process.

How do I find a home for the kitten?

If you are able to give the kitten a good home yourself, consider doing that. It’s often very easy to take cats with you if you return home overseas. However, if you aren’t able to provide a home yourself, get started on re-homing right away. It’s easiest to find homes for kittens while they’re young.

Think up a cute name and write up an interesting profile. Make attractive posters to put in schools, shops, and veterinary clinics. If you don’t have an image editing program, you can download Comic Life or Gimp for free. Check out this sample poster and this sample poster, created by some of our volunteers.

If you have a blog, you can help advertise the kitten through video and pictures that way.

If you only have English language ability, post classified ads on popular expat websites such as Kijiji, Craigslist, GaijinPot, etc. If you have Japanese ability, post on Satoya-Boshu.

Regardless of where you post, screen potential homes carefully. Most people responding to ads for kittens are genuinely interested in adoption, but there are also people with bad intentions. Always visit the home, check that the address matches the identification, and watch how potential owners interact with the kitten. Be absolutely sure that the kitten will be spayed or neutered. Re-homing without insuring spay/neuter only creates the possibility of the tragic and unnecessary cycle of unwanted kittens continuing.

How do I make sure more kittens don’t appear?

Take a look around the area in which you found the kitten. Kittens are often found in places where stray cats congregate, and starting a TNR project in the area is the most effective way to make a difference. Trapping stray cats for spaying and neutering gives them the best chance for a healthier, safer life. It also stops the needless reproduction and suffering of kittens that may not be as lucky as those you found.

For more advice or assistance in helping cats or kittens, feel free to contact us or post on our Facebook group page.