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The subject of a mother cat eating her kittens can seem gruesome and sinister. It is almost inconceivable to think that a mother could do this to her offspring. However, the answer to this question might surprise you. So, do cats eat their kittens?
Cats eat their kittens although this behavior is not typical. Feral cats tend to eat their kittens if they are unhealthy. This behavior is less common in domestic cats. Cats are known to eat their kitten’s placenta for its nutritional benefits.
Mother cats often do not eat their kittens if they are healthy, although it does happen. So what could cause a mother cat to eat her kittens? Various situations and circumstances can have an effect on the mother and cause her to eat her kittens. Let’s dive into some of the reasons why a mother cat might ingest her kittens.
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Why do cats eat their kittens
Although it is rare for a mother cat to eat her kittens, there are certain circumstances in which she may feel the urge to do so.
Diseases, deformities and illnesses
VSThey have a powerful sense of smell. Their sense of smell is 14 times stronger than that of a human. You may have heard of dogs that can smell cancer and other illnesses. Cats can work the same way. A mother cat may be able to sense or smell an illness, disease, or deformity that a human may not perceive.
If a mother cat senses that her kitten may be sick or unlikely to survive, she may kill it out of pity. If the chances of survival are very low and the kitten does indeed die, a breakdown of its hygiene not only poses a risk to the rest of the litter but also attracts predators to the nest. Thus, the mother will consume the weak or dying kitten to protect the rest of her litter and herself. Similarly, if a kitten is stillborn, it will also eventually consume its kitten for the same reasons. This appears to be a biological impulse associated with the “survival of the fittest” instinct.
Stressful environment or fear of danger for newborn kittens
This situation mainly applies to feral cats. Feral cats that live in the wild have a harder time surviving and face a wider range of dangers than domestic cats. If a cat senses that its brood is in immediate danger from a predator, it may feel that it is more merciful for it to end the life of its own kitten than to end up in the clutches of a predator. .
Mothers are also often very nervous after childbirth, so any additional stimulation could lead to sensory overload, causing stress in the mother. Examples could be high traffic areas, too much interaction with people or other animals, loud noises or other painful stimuli.
Anything a mother cat might consider threatening could cause her to eat her litter box out of stress. However, this is rare.
Stressful labor and childbirth
Giving birth takes a lot of energy, so a cat may eat a kitten for food and replenish lost energy. It can also occur as a result of stressful breastfeeding. Nursing requires a lot of energy and can be very exhausting for the mother cat. Studies indicate that nursing mothers show signs of high cortisol levels.
Cortisol is the stress hormone that regulates strong processes such as mood and fear. In case of high cortisol levels, it can induce a fight or flight response in the mother. On the other hand, these cases are also rare.
First time motherhood
Being a new mother can often be confusing for a cat. Having never given birth before, a new mother may not know what to do.
- They may not know how to care for their kittens and may be exceptionally harsh with their kittens, although this is often unintentional.
The hormone, prolactin, is a nurturing hormone that is excreted during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Essentially, prolactin is the hormone responsible for bonding a mother to her babies. Sometimes there is a delayed response of this hormone. This may be more common for a first-time mother. Therefore, when prolactin is carried over to a mother for the first time, she may not feel that immediate connection to her kittens and may not feel motivated to feed her newborn kittens. In unique circumstances, she may even perceive her newborn kittens as a threat or as prey.
Malnutrition or lack of nutrition
Female felines often eat the placenta for its nutritional benefits.
The placenta contains fibre, protein, iron, potassium and is thought to increase milk production. Along the same lines, a queen will sometimes eat a kitten or even an entire litter if she is malnourished or near starvation.
- This will provide nutritional benefits to the mother cat, which she can then pass on to any remaining kittens through her milk supply while nursing.
There are instances where a nursing cat will end up with mastitis, a condition in which the mammary gland becomes inflamed. This is caused by a bacterial infection and can be extremely painful for the mother, especially when breastfeeding. The infection can also be transmitted to her kittens. In extraordinary circumstances, pain, which in turn causes stress, can be a potential reason why a mother might eat her young. If she feels her kittens may be infected, she may feel the need to kill them humanely.
When a cat does not recognize its young
Cats rely on smell to identify their young. When the kittens are first born, their mother licks them to imprint her scent on them. If the newborn kittens have been disturbed by another animal or person, the mother’s scent could be masked, preventing her from recognizing her kittens.
- This is why it is crucial to refrain from handling kittens during their first week of life, unless necessary. The danger of a mother not being able to recognize her kittens is that she may mistake them for prey rather than offspring.
Do male cats eat their kittens
No. Male cats generally do not eat their kittens unless they are in dire circumstances like starvation.
On the other hand, male cats will eat other kittens that they did not father. The primary goal of a male cat is to continue his lineage and pass on his genetics.
When a cat is nursing, she is in no condition to mate. In reaction to this, a male cat may kill kittens that are not of his line, to bring the female into heat, so that he can mate with her to produce his own kittens. Male cats may also kill kittens for territorial reasons.
Do Cats Eat Their Kittens If You Touch Them
Cats generally won’t eat their kittens if you touch them. She will most likely move her litter to a new location. However, if the mother cat is confined or unable to move her kittens to a safer location, she may kill them if she fears for their safety and feels they might be threatened.
Likewise, in an attempt to get them to safety, a cat may accidentally kill its kitten by trying to push it under or into something.
Similarly, a female cat with psychological trauma can also kill her kittens. For example, a cat that has been abused may see fit to kill its kittens out of pity. It’s atypical.
As we mentioned before, scent is essential for the mother cat to bond with her kittens. By limiting contact with the kittens yourself, it reduces the chances that the mother cat will not be able to recognize her kittens. Again, it’s wise to exercise restraint for the first week or so.
How can I get my cat To Stop eating her kittens
When considering some of the factors that can cause a queen to eat her kittens, we must first approach this problem from a preventative angle as much as possible. This includes providing a calm and relaxing environment for your feline during pregnancy, birth and beyond. Try to avoid contact with the kittens for the first week. Be sure to watch your cat and her new babies carefully to notice any unusual behavior.
If you notice that the mother seems to be ignoring the babies or not caring for them properly, or if she is unusually rough with them, the safest option may be to remove the kittens from their mother. Once you remove the kittens from their mother, you will need to care for them as their mother would. Your veterinarian can help you determine the best way to care for your kittens.
If your cat exhibits a lack of maternal behavior, they may not be suitable for parenting. In this case, you may want to have her neutered so that she can no longer have kittens.
Do cats eat other cats’ kittens
Generally, most female cats do not eat other cats’ kittens. Most feline females are wired to work cooperatively in raising litters. The greatest risk comes from male cats seeking to breed.
This does not mean that some cats do not perceive small kittens as prey. Likewise, some queens may view kittens from other litters as their enemy, especially if she doesn’t get along with the other mother. Although there is a remote possibility of this happening, feline mothers are most notorious for stealing each other’s kittens and nursing them as a concerted, collective effort.