Is It Safe to Touch Baby Animals?
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Is It Safe to Touch Baby Animals?

Do mother animals kill their babies if they have been touched by a person? When can I touch my dog's puppies? When can I handle my cat's kittens? Is it safe to touch baby birds? Can I touch a baby bird that fell from its nest or will its mother kill it? Is it safe to touch baby animals? If you touch a baby animal will its mother kill it?

You may have been told “Do not touch baby animals, the mother will kill it!”, but is this true? Any dog breeder, or farmer, will tell you that this is a myth. You can touch baby animals and the mother will not necessarily kill it, however this does not mean that you should touch baby animals. There are many reasons why touching baby animals may not be such a good idea, and may be the source of the myth about mother animals killing their young.

Handling Newborn Kittens and Puppies

Newborn kittens and puppies should not be handled until after their eyes are open. It is stressful to them and will worry their mother. There is no real reason to handle them unless one needs to be examined of health concerns, but holding them “just for the fun of it” should not be done.

Sometimes you may observe a kitten or puppy that has fallen out of the nest, in this case of course you should return it to the nest, however note that it may not survive. If it dies it is not because you handled it, perhaps it got a chill from being out of the nesting area, or perhaps the mother had rejected it and removed it herself. If you notice the same youngster out of the nest on a regular basis you should assume the mother is removing it, and has rejected it for some reason only she knows, not because you touched it.

If you do have to handle newborn kittens and puppies use both hands, never pick the animal up by the scruff of its neck, parent animals do this only because they have no other choice.

Once they are older, and their eyes are open, it is perfectly fine to handle them with care.

This information also applies to newborn rabbit kits, and other small mammal babies when kept as pets.

Handling Newborn Calves, Foals, and other Livestock Young

It is usually safe to handle newborn livestock animals, their eyes are open at birth and they usually stand up within an hour. The biggest risk of handling them is that their mother will get worried and may try to hurt you for getting too close to her little one, particularly if she is a first time mother.  Mares and cows being large and dangerous just because of their size.

Most farmers only handle the newborns briefly as to check gender, health, and to dip the umbilical cord in iodine.

©by author - ewe with newborn lamb

Handling Newly Hatched Chicks

Many people take newly hatched parrot chicks and raise them by hand, other than that there is really little reason to handle newly hatched chicks. Newly hatched chicks can be stressed or even can become overheated if held too much, so are best left alone, but holding them for short times won't really hurt them, and if they are with their mother she will not reject them.

If you find a baby wild bird that has fallen from the nest you should try to return it to the nest, noting that it may have been pushed out by the mother or other baby birds in the nest (some species of birds lay their eggs in another birds nest and that baby will push the real baby from the nest).

©by author - bantam cochin chicks and parents, chicks are a few weeks old

Handling Newborn Wild Animals

In many cases it is not safe, and not legal, to handle newborn wild animals. You must leave them alone. Do not assume the mother abandoned her young, in the case of deer, the mother often leaves her fawn someplace while she goes off to graze, returning later in the night. The only time you might consider getting involved is if you know the mother is dead, and even then it is best to call the wildlife professionals in your area, and not to touch the baby animal yourself.

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Comments (2)

I'd always heard than handling puppies helps socialize them. (After the eyes open.)

You have such solid and wise advice anyone can rely on. Thank you.