Orphan Season

posted: by: Dawn, RVT Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Spring has sprung (well, kind of).  With spring comes what wildlife rehabbers call Orphan Season.  Veterinary Staff call it Puppy and Kitten Season.  In other words, there's an influx of baby animals, some which become orphaned or sick and need human help.

It is very common to see wildlife babies out and about, with or without a parent in sight.  Not every baby you see without a parent is an orphan.  In the wild, many parents leave the young to find food (for themselves and for the young).  They may also leave to encourage a predator to follow them away from the baby.  If the mother has several babies to move, she may be in the process of moving them one at a time.  It is best to observe the area from a hidden location to see if mama returns.  It can take up to 24 hours for mama to return to the young for feeding.

An animal's best chances for survival are with the parent.  However, for young that are injured or truly orphaned, a human's best efforts are better than nothing.

Wild animal babies should go to a wildlife hospital or experienced rehabber.  Actually, it's illegal to harbor any wild animal without the proper permits.  If you find a wild animal baby in need of human assistance, use gloves or a towel to pick up the baby and place it in a carrier or box with soft bedding.  Covering the box or carrier with a towel to place the baby in the dark will help keep it calm.  If you are unable to take the baby to a rehabber right away, keep the baby in a dark, quiet area.

Do not attempt to feed the baby without advice from an experienced wildlife rehabber.  Most species cannot digest cow's milk, and giving it will make it the baby sick.  Simply keep the baby warm and dry until you can transport it to a wildlife hospital/rehabber or are given different instructions.

Puppies and kittens may be fed special formula made for puppies and kittens.  The age of the baby determines how often it should eat.  The younger the baby, the more often they need to eat....around the clock!  Pet nurser bottles are best to use, although droppers or feeding syringes can be used as well (use caution not to give too much when using droppers or syringes).  When using the powdered formula, mix only as much as you need for 1 - 2 feedings.  Warm any premixed formula at feeding time.

Puppies and kittens need to be stimulated to urinate and defecate until they are about 4-5 weeks old.  Use a moistened baby wipe or warm, soft washcloth to gently rub the genital area after feeding.  Most times the baby will urinate, often defecate as well.  When you start noticing urine and feces on the bedding, you know the baby is starting to potty on its own.

When the pup or kitten is about 4 weeks old you may introduce solid food.  Canned puppy/kitten food is good to start.  This is the messy stage where they crawl through the food and get more on them than in them!  Mixing a little formula with the food can help the transition as well.  At this stage, you may also provide kittens with a very shallow litter pan with a covering of litter in it.

Warmth is paramount with all babies.  Tube socks filled with dry rice and microwaved for 1 - 2 minutes are great heat sources.  Place them near but not touching the babies.  Heating pads/discs are discouraged as it is harder for the baby to move away from the heat if it becomes too warm.

Babies like warm, dark, quiet areas for the first several weeks.  Keep this in mind when they are in your home.  Keep children and house pets at a distance so as not to scare the baby or transmit any possible diseases.  When transporting the animal, keep the vehicle as quiet as possible-windows up, radio down, voices low.

For more information on wildlife orphans, visit https://www.ohiowildlifecenter.org/