Why Do Cats Eat Their Kittens? Here’s The Answer

​If you're a cat lover, you may heard of a strange quesiton. 

​Do Mother Cats Eat Their Kittens?

Yes they do. According to this guide , sometimes a mother cat might do something really strange thing that might surprise you. But why do mother cars eat their kittens?

Well, this article is going to explain exactly this question. By the end of this article, you will understand why ( sometimes ) a cat eat their babies.

Let's get to the details

What this article covers:

Cats, by nature, are very protective of their young ones. Mother cats may become pregnant earlier than when maternal instincts kick in​. This doesn’t make her any less of a mother.

Male cats, however, have different behavior toward kittens. Baby cats may draw tom’s interest and bring hunting instincts to the surface. Others may try to kill or drive kittens away even when they have fathered them.

While not all male cats attack kittens, research found that it would be wise to separate kittens from male cats for safety.

Is It Normal for Queen Cats to Eat Their Kittens?

Animals eating their babies is normal behavior and it doesn’t just happen with mother cats. Some mothers will eat one kitten, while some consume the entire litter.

There are still a lot of studies being conducted to understand the barbaric act animals towards their young ones and science remains uncertain why it happens.

​Why Do Mother Cats Eat Their Babies

​The reason that mother cats eat their babies has not been pinned down to one particular thing. But, according to most cat owners who experience such with their furballs, it comes down to:

  • ​Stillborn
  • ​Birth defects
  • ​Mercy
  • ​Threats
  • ​Malnourishment

Cats showing this kind of behavior is not necessarily a reflection of their being inexperienced as a mother.

Deformed, Sick, Or Stillborn

Cannibalism is when an animal consumes a creature of the same species whether they are young or old. As expected, the word alone elicits a very strong reaction. As disgusting as it may be if applied to human behavior, so they are with animals.

However, human rationalizations and morals should not always be compared to animals. Cannibalism is rather common in the animal kingdom, for a lot of sensible reasons.

​Animals may give birth to young ones with disease, deficiency, body deformity, and other health conditions.

​This happens a lot with felines. Issues with a cat’s next generation are not always perceptible to the human eye and their olfactory sense can instantly sense a problem that we can not.

In such cases, the queen cat assumes that her baby won’t be able to survive for a long period. To shorten her little one’s agony, she eats them.

Kittens who don’t survive birth can strongly attract predators. Their decomposing bodies also pose potential hygiene risk to surviving litter.

Mothers consuming weak or stillborn kittens are merely trying to provide a better chance of survival for the others.

​Placenta and afterbirth offer extra nutrients for milk production just the same as weak of stillborn kittens. Another rationale reason for them to eat their young.

As disturbing as it may seem, this behavior has biological impulses that are important for animals, particularly cats.

Still, there are other reasons cats act in such a way that we can also be on the lookout, for prevention.

Stress

Stress is not a common reason cats eat their young. But, they should not be ruled out. The environment plays a big role during and after a cat’s labor. If it seems too stressful for them, it can trigger nervous behavior in the mother cat.

Such environmental stressors that may affect queen cats may include continuous foot traffic in the room, loud noises, over-manipulation of the pet, handling, etc.

It is not just the mother’s safety that nervousness is generated, but the fear that she thinks could happen to her litter.

She might believe her kittens will be taken away from her or that unnecessary parties will make her babies more susceptible to predators.

Other pets within the household may also be perceived as a threat, especially if she’s never socialized with them.

These stressors could lead to the mother cat eating her babies. It usually happens with first-time mothers since stress is overtaking their natural instincts.

The anxiety that comes along with stress leads them to make incorrect interpretations.

In this light, it would be best to submit to an expectant feline the best care during and after pregnancy to achieve a more relaxed, calm, and stress-free environment.

Lack Of Maternal Instinct

Most cats become mothers before their maternal instincts kick in. First-time mothers are clueless when their babies are born and may eat them out of confusion.

While this is unlikely and the reasons are not clear, it is possible that they were taken away from their own mother too early or that they may have their unique type of deficiency.

Mercy

When a mother cat believers their kittens are in danger from predators, their instinct is to protect them at all costs even if it means they have to eat them.

It can also be that the mother gave birth to too many cats. They know as a mother their capacity to bring up their kittens.

So, if her litter appears to be too large, she might get rid of a few by eating them. This makes her feel assured that she can provide enough milk for the rest of the litter.

Usually, she eats on the weaker and smaller ones, those that she thinks may not survive had she decided not to eat them.

Threats

Other pets or family members may be perceived as threats during and after labor. This includes pets that are of the same species.

It would be wise to introduce family members and other pets to kittens once they reach the weaning phase. Do it in a way that it does not overwhelm or put the kittens in danger.

Feline Mastitis

An infection known only to mammals because of the mammary glands is mastitis and it common to cats. This happens when the mammary gland is inflamed.

Feline mastitis has various causes and is potentially life-threatening for kittens. The infection from the mammary glans may be passed from the queen to the baby. The kittens’ vulnerable state may not be able to have their immune system handle it.

It can be very painful for cats when they experience mastitis. The pain may cause them to reject her kittens or worst, consume them on the spot. If you suspect this is the case, look out for symptoms of feline mastitis in your cat. This includes:

  • ​Litters not putting on enough weight
  • ​Cat doesn’t want to suckle kittens
  • ​Moderate swelling of glands / could appear hard
  • ​Abscesses or gangrene
  • ​Blood or pus discharges from mammary
  • ​Increased viscosity in milk
  • ​Anorexia
  • ​Fever
  • ​Vomiting

If the situation is confirmed as feline mastitis, you will want to remove the kittens from their mother’s care for the meantime.

Mother Not Recognizing Her Young

When cats undergo a caesarian section to give birth, they fail to familiarize themselves with their kittens. When they don’t recognize that the kittens came from them, the birth-related hormones that bond mothers to their litter are not released.

The result is the mother not recognizing her kittens and out of fear or confusion, she eats them. Similarly, infirst-time mothers, it may happen that the cat may confuse her babies as prey rather than her own.

This just shows how important it is to not over manipulate cats. The smell from a human’s touch can keep mothers from recognizing her litters. Although this is relatively rare, it would be best if it can be avoided.

Malnourishment

This situation happens more with stray cats than domesticated ones who receive a well-balanced diet before, during, and after pregnancy.

As with any creatures bearing babies, cats require more nutrients when pregnant. They may be adults but you still should feed them from pregnancy until her kittens have weaned.

Talk to your veterinarian if your cat is becoming a picky eater or if they refuse to eat. The period when they nurse their litters is critical for them therefore their fat, protein, and calorie intake should be increased.

Supplement your cat’s hunting by ensuring she has access to a balanced diet until the kittens wean. Always be sure to approach her nest with caution. Better yet, leave the food where she can easily find it.

It is always your option to capture, spay or neuter both mothers and litters when the babies wean.

How to tell if my cat ate her kittens

To tell if your cat ate her kittens, you need to look for the babies. Let's say she had 3 babies and next day, you see only 1 or 2. You searched everywhere but seems like the little one is missing. It's almost certain that the mother ate it.

Other Behaviors That Are Normal for Mother Cats

Moving Her Kittens

When the mother feels that their current area is unsafe, she tends to move her kittens frequently.

It may appear she is eating them because of her grip through her mouth. She’s not. It’s just their way of carrying little ones.

However, pay attention to her cues and create adjustments when needed.

Ignoring Her Kittens

Ignoring and rejecting are two different things. You may notice the mother sitting on the litter or not allowing them to feed. This behavior is her general response to the environment, including the kittens and you.

Aggression

Hostility happens for a lot of reasons. But, most likely, the threat she perceives is what pushes it. You will see her hiss, growl, or attack you, family members or other household pets that go near her litter.

They sure are cute to look at, but keep your distance when you observe. Intervene only if the mother or any of the litter requires emergency attention.

What to Do If A Cat Eats Her Babies? How To Stop?

Seeing a mother cat eat her babies can be terrifying. But, you should keep yourself together and remain calm.

Avoid overreacting as it will just make the situation worse. The behavior is totally beyond what people call natural, but they are animals.

They have reasons and they should not be held against them.

Rather than rejecting the cat, understand why she consumed her babies in the first place. Most of the reasons we mentioned are helpful for you to base your observation from.

However, to be certain, a visit to the vet won’t hurt. It could be an underlying sickness or the illness has been passed to the offspring.

Understanding what’s going on with the mother and the kittens is the first step to treating the problem.

If you notice a kitten out of the litter that is more sleepy or unhealthy, take them from their mother’s care before they get eaten. Take over their care by feeding, keeping them safe, and more. Sooner or later, you will wean them onto solid food.

Talk to your vet for more practical advice in raising kittens. By the time you separate the kitten from the mother, you become responsible until the kittens eat and eliminate waste on their own.

Here’s a clip that you can refer to about taking care of newborn kittens.

You will need a formula for kittens, syringe and nipples, and kitten nursing bottles for starters. It won’t hurt to have them handy even before the cat delivers, just to make sure.

FAQ

1) Do male cats eat their kittens? If so, Why?

Male cats do not eat their kittens in most cases. But they sometimes attack them. & sometimes they do kill simply because they resemble prey.

2) Will cats eat their own newborn kittens?

If the mother cats feel they are in danger, Yes they can eat their own newborn kittens.

3) Do cats eat their sick kittens?

Most probably not. But if she is in stressed due to the sickness, she might try sometimes.

4) Do cats eat their kittens if you touch them?

If you or your family member continually peek at the new arrivals, handle them or interfere too much, she will possibly try to move them, or will simply eat them.

5) Why do mother cats attack their kittens?

Sometimes, the mother can not recognize their own babies. If that's the case, she will try to attack. & sometimes, she might be playing with them in the form of attack which is pretty normal.

6) Is it normal for mother cats to bite their kittens?

Yes. it's pretty normal. If she feels unsafe or any treat, she would try to bite them and move away from that place.

7) Do mother cats eat their kittens if they die? If so why?

It's very possible for mother cats to eat their kittens if they die. But not very often.

8) When do cats eat their kittens?

It's very hard to tell when they eat. But they will try to do so whenever she feel unsafe, angry or unsure.

​Conclusion

What is barbaric, cruel, and vicious for humans is normal for cats. They have reasons to eat one or more of their kittens. These reasons range from mercy to malnutrition.

It is better to understand that you can’t always prevent queen cats from this behavior. They have animal instincts that you don’t. This includes knowing just how many she can raise from the litter she just delivered.

Pay attention and react accordingly as cats can only communicate their distress through their actions.

Provide them plenty of calm environment, a balanced diet, and water. Mediate only when necessary for the kitten or the queen cat’s survival.

Leave a Comment