Kitten Health
My neighbors were just given three little kittens. We don't know how old they are are, but they are tiny and we all think they were taken away from their mother too soon -- my guess is that they're about a month old. The neighbors have started keeping the kittens in a cage outside because they can't stand the smell (it's a big cage, and they will only be in it till they are big enough to fend for themselves outside). I am worried because it's started to get cold and windy and I often see the kittens shivering. I put a wool sweater in the cage for them to snuggle into, but am worried that it might not be enough for such little guys. Now their eyes are getting very goopy, and this concerns me. I've had lots of cats but never any this small, so I don't know if goopy eyes is normal or usual for little kittens. Sometimes it's so bad that an eye will get stuck shut for a while. My neighbors mean well, but they know absolutely nothing about cats. Is something wrong? Do I need to tell them they should take the kittens in? Is a trip to the vet in order for the goopy eyes? They don't have a lot of money and will not want to make the trip unless it's absolutely necessary.
"Goopy eyes" usually means they're sick from something like a cold, but it's hard to say how bad.  That always seemed to happen on our farm to the kittens that kids found and played with a lot.  Sometimes they got over it; sometimes they didn't.  Either the stress of being handled, or the exposure to germs, or something else about it was hard on them.  Kittens that had no human contact while small always did better.

Anyway, to survive the cold, they're going to need protection from the weather.  Animals can handle pretty cold temperatures, as long as they can nest somewhere that isn't drafty.  If they're just in a cage out in the open, they at least need a box with some straw in it or something, and it needs to be out of the wind and rain.  Even then, if they were weaned too young, they probably won't make it.

Also, if the smell is a problem, that means they don't have enough bedding (or the people are too picky).  Give them several inches of sawdust or some other absorbent bedding, and change it often, and there won't be a strong odor.
These are good people, but they have no clue. I'm seriously considering offering to take the kittens in till they are bigger.
Lock your neighbors in a cage outside for a week.
My parents made this mistake with a kitten when I was little.  The kitten ended up dead.  The cage may be preventing them from getting sufficient shelter from the wind, and their eyes may be getting gummy just from exposure.  You can buy a lined cubby and put it inside the cage, giving them a sheltered place to curl up together while they sleep and that will really help.  They may also be malnourished from being weened to early.

It sounds to me like these are special needs kitties and if your neighbors aren't able to meet those needs, they may be better off being put down.  If you feel like taking them on, go for it.  They're not too terribly expensive until they reach the age where they need shots and sterilization.  A good way to handle that expense is to require that whoever adopts them from you pays for those.
Definitely get them out of the cage somehow, be it by fostering them or by talking these people into handing them over to a no-kill shelter.  Bring 'em a pie and then ask them if you can cat sit until they get older, and the neighbors probably won't even be insulted.  There's not enough kitten and fur for them to keep each other warm out in that cage, even with an old sweater.  They would probably be OK in a barn or something this time of year; in a pinch, a kid's play house would do.  They should be kept clean, fed small amounts often,  and have plenty of room so that they're not all up on top of their own waste products. 

They might just simply have kitten eye oog, which resolves on its own if you sponge their eye off daily with a little lukewarm water.  Then again, they might need some antibiotic cream that you can get from a vet for about five bucks.  It might also be something a little more complicated if they were feral or barn cats when they were adopted, and shots might be required.  Most areas have some kind of Humane Society or cat network-type of organization that you could tap into for assistance. Find those people in your area and let them help. 

Good luck!
Thanks, everybody.

The kittens seem to be doing better. My husband spoke to the neighbors and explained that they are too little to be left outside for long periods at this time of year, and they have been taking them inside at night and for part of the day, and letting them run around outside when it's sunny. I put a thermal blanket in their cage, which I also found a cover for, so now they bed down purring instead of shivering. I also fix them a soft-cooked egg everyday in my belief that this is the perfect food for babies of all species. And every morning I go over to take them out of the cage and play with them -- I know, it's such a big sacrifice.

I've been asked to kitten-sit tomorrow, and I shall take Magnificat's suggestion and wash their faces.

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