Yes, cats do eat their kittens sometimes, but it’s not something that happens often. Feral cats are more likely to eat their kittens if they’re not healthy. Domesticated cats don’t do it as much. Cats also eat the placenta of their kittens because it provides them with nutrition.
Most of the time, mother cats won’t eat their kittens if they are healthy, but it can happen. So, what might make a mother cat eat her kittens? There are different situations and circumstances that could impact the mother and lead her to consume her kittens. Let’s explore some of the reasons why a mother cat might devour her kittens.
Why Do Cats Eat Their Kittens
Although it doesn’t happen often, there are situations where a mom cat might decide to eat her kittens.
Diseases, Deformity And Illness
Cats possess a strong sense of smell, which is 14 times more powerful than that of humans. Just like dogs, cats can also detect diseases and illnesses through their sense of smell. In fact, a mother cat can detect a disease, illness, or deformity that may go unnoticed by humans.
If a mother cat senses that one of her kittens may be sick or unlikely to survive, she may choose to kill it as an act of mercy. When a kitten is unlikely to survive and eventually dies, its decomposing body poses a hygiene risk to the other kittens and attracts predators to the nest. Therefore, the mother cat will eat the weak or dying kitten in order to protect the rest of her litter and herself. Similarly, if a kitten is stillborn, she may also consume it for the same reasons. This behavior appears to be a biological instinct related to the concept of “survival of the fittest”.
Stressful Environment Or Fear Of Danger For Newborn Kittens
This scenario mainly pertains to wild cats. Wild cats, which live in nature, encounter more challenges and risks compared to domesticated cats. If a cat senses that her litter is at immediate risk from a predator, she may consider it more compassionate to terminate her own kitten’s life rather than subjecting them to the predator’s grasp.
Moms are usually more anxious after having babies, so any extra excitement could overwhelm their senses and make them stressed. This could include crowded places, too much attention from people or other animals, loud sounds, or anything that causes pain.
It’s uncommon, but if a mother cat feels threatened, she might eat her kittens due to stress.
Stressful Labor And Delivery
When a cat gives birth, it may consume one of its kittens to regain energy and nourish itself. This behavior can also occur due to the stress of breastfeeding, which requires a significant amount of energy and can be exhausting for the mother cat. Research suggests that lactating mother cats exhibit increased levels of cortisol.
Cortisol, which is the hormone responsible for managing emotions and fear, can trigger a fight or flight reaction in the mother when its levels remain high for an extended period. However, it’s important to note that such instances are uncommon.
First Time Motherhood
Being a first-time mother can be perplexing for a cat. Since she has never experienced childbirth before, a new mother cat may feel uncertain about how to proceed.
- Cats might not know how to take care of their kittens and could sometimes be too rough with them, but usually, it’s not on purpose.
Prolactin, a hormone released during pregnancy, labor, and birth, is responsible for creating a bond between a mother cat and her kittens. However, there can be a delay in the release of this hormone, especially for first-time mothers. As a result, a first-time mother may not immediately feel connected to her kittens and may lack the motivation to care for them. In certain situations, she may even view her newborn kittens as a danger or potential prey.
Malnourishment Or Lack Of Nutrition
Female cats frequently consume the placenta due to its nutritional advantages.
The placenta has fiber, protein, iron, potassium, and is believed to boost milk production. Similarly, a mother cat may occasionally consume a single kitten or even a whole litter if she is undernourished or on the brink of starvation.
- By doing this, the mother cat can get important nutrients that she can then give to the other kittens through her milk while she is nursing.
Sometimes, a mother cat who is nursing her kittens may develop Mastitis, which is when the mammary gland becomes swollen and painful due to a bacterial infection. This infection can also affect the kittens. In rare cases, if the mother cat is in extreme pain and stress, she may consider eating her kittens as a way to prevent them from suffering if she believes they are sick from the infection.
When A Cat Does Not Recognize Their Young
Cats use their sense of smell to recognize their kittens. When the kittens are born, the mother cat licks them to leave her scent on them. If someone or another animal disturbs the newborn kittens, the mother’s scent may be covered up, making it difficult for her to identify her own kittens.
It’s really important not to touch the kittens during their first week unless you really have to. The problem is that if the mother cat doesn’t recognize her kittens, she might think they’re prey instead of her own babies.
Do Male Cats Eat Their Kittens
No, male cats usually don’t eat their kittens unless they are in dire situations such as being extremely hungry.
However, male cats will consume kittens that they did not father. The main goal of a male cat is to ensure the survival of its bloodline and pass on its genetic traits.
When a mommy cat is taking care of her babies, she can’t have babies again. Because of this, a daddy cat might hurt kittens that aren’t related to him, so that the mommy cat becomes ready to have babies again and he can make his own babies with her. Daddy cats might also hurt kittens to protect their territory.
Do Cats Eat Their Kittens If You Touch Them
Usually, cats won’t eat their kittens if you touch them. Instead, they will likely relocate their litter to a different place. However, if a cat is unable to move her kittens to a safer spot and feels worried about their safety, she might end up harming them if she perceives a threat.
Likewise, when a cat tries to relocate her kittens to a secure place, she might unintentionally cause harm or even death to one of them by attempting to push it under or into an object.
Similarly, if a female cat has experienced psychological trauma, she may also choose to harm her kittens. For example, a cat that has been mistreated may decide to end the lives of her kittens as an act of mercy, although this behavior is not common.
As we said earlier, the smell is important for the mom cat to form a connection with her kittens. By not interacting too much with the kittens, it reduces the chances of the mom cat not being able to identify her kittens. Therefore, it is advisable to be patient during the first week or so.
How Do I Get My Cat To Stop Eating Her Kittens
To understand why a cat might eat her kittens, it’s important to focus on prevention. This involves creating a peaceful and stress-free environment for your cat before, during, and after pregnancy. It’s best to avoid handling the kittens during the first week and closely observe your cat and her newborns for any abnormal behavior.
If you see that the mom cat is not taking care of her babies or being too rough with them, it might be best to take the kittens away from her. Once you do that, you’ll need to take care of the kittens like their mom would. Your vet can give you advice on how to do that.
If your cat doesn’t act like a good mom, she might not be suitable for being a parent. In that case, you might consider getting her spayed to prevent her from having more kittens.
Do Cats Eat Other Cat’s Kittens
In general, the majority of female cats do not eat kittens that belong to other cats. Female cats are naturally inclined to work together in raising their own litters. The main concern is usually male cats who are seeking to mate.
It’s possible that some female cats might view small kittens as prey, and some mother cats may see kittens from different litters as enemies, particularly if they don’t get along with the other mother. However, it’s more common for cat mothers to steal each other’s kittens and care for them together.