Do cats sometimes kill their own kittens?
Image Credit:Carol Williams
Humans may find it upsetting, but mother cats occasionally kill their young.
They may act in this way due to hormonal imbalance, stress, fear, or a perception that something is wrong with their children.
two kittens and a huge mother cat
Why did my cat murder her young?
Most mother cats have strong maternal instincts that drive them to do all in their power to safeguard their kittens.
There are a few reasons a cat might decide to kill one of its kittens, however these are uncommon:
1. Disease management
The health of each of their kittens may be easily determined by their mothers.
The mother will decide to end the life of the sick kitten in order to completely eliminate any risk that it may be carrying a disease that could endanger the health of the rest of the litter.
a kitten with eye problems
Sometimes the mother will make the choice to conserve her energy and resources if the kitten is severely injured and has little chance of surviving anyhow.
She can then feed the remaining kittens in this way.
2. Congenital Malformations
The queen may also determine whether a kitten is malformed or simply unable to thrive on their own.
All animals historically had to be merciless in their breeding to ensure that some of these genes wouldn’t be passed on to their offspring, which may seem weird and cruel to humans.
The likelihood of a challenged or physically disabled kitten growing up is already decreased.
Therefore, in this circumstance, the mother would decide to assist the child who had the best chance of surviving.
Image Credit:Ulli Plümacher
3. They Can’t Identify Their Kitten’s Smell
This is the reason that people whose cats are about to give birth are frequently warned to stay as far away from the mother and her litter as possible.
Mother cat grooming youngster
If you handle the kittens and alter their scent before the queen has had a chance to mark them, you will regret it.
That doesn’t always mean they’ll assault the kitten, but they can decide to completely ignore it and stop giving it any food instead.
Given how crucial feeding is to newborn kittens, if it doesn’t happen, they may pass away in less than 24 hours.
4. She Might Think Their Placenta Is A Kitten
The cat may confuse one of the kittens, particularly a young one that is undeveloped, for a portion of their placenta if they haven’t yet cut the umbilical cords of their young.
After giving birth, the majority of animals, including cats, consume their own placentas.
They accomplish this, in part, because the placenta supplies them with nourishment after a protracted and challenging labor.
Additionally, they utilized to carry it out since failing to do so would cause larger predators to become aware of their existence.
5. Prolactin Hormone Deficiency
One of the most crucial hormones that a mother cat’s body must secrete in order for her to be able to give birth and care for the kittens is prolactin.
The cat may simply fail to recognize any of the kittens as her children if she is unable to give birth due to insufficient prolactin levels in her system.
Cats that have never previously given birth appear to face this condition more frequently.
It is challenging, if not impossible, for a cat owner to determine when their cat has an imbalance in prolactin.
Cat guardians frequently decide to care for the kittens on their own after observing the absence of a maternal instinct.
Sadly, the mother almost rarely participates in the process.
In fact, the cat won’t ever be able to establish a maternal instinct if enough prolactin isn’t secreted at the proper period, which is right after the delivery of the kittens.
6. Perception of Risk
The mother cat may kill the kittens if she is suddenly extremely stressed or afraid in order to prevent anyone else from doing so.
That would seem paradoxical considering that, as a species, humans often prioritize the welfare of their young over their own.
an anxious cat
However, things can be extremely different with cats.
They won’t waste time transporting the kittens to a safer location if they can see that there is a threat nearby, such as a larger animal that could strike at any time.
On the other side, they might be able to move some of the kittens to a new location, but they might decide to kill one or two of the kittens to ensure their own life so they can take care of the other babies.
7. An excess of kittens
Everybody engaged in the procedure, including the mother and kittens, may experience difficulties if the litter is particularly large.
cat with a large litter
The mother will find it difficult to obtain enough food to support the production of her milk for each of the kittens if there are too many of them.
Additionally, it implies that every single baby will cause the queen’s mammary glands some kind of harm, with some of them potentially having the potential to cause mastitis.
She may consume the tiniest kitten, which is likely to always be left behind, if she has lost a lot of energy during the labor or tough delivery.
She will then be able to focus on the kittens with the best odds of surviving.
Do cats consume their young?
Sadly, some people do.
Cannibalism can occur in mother cats, whether it does so because the cat is in fact voracious after giving birth or because she wants to eliminate all traces of herself and her litter from the region.
It is normally unusual for the queen to consume all of the kittens, in part because she would be unable to do so.
If you touch a cat’s kittens, do they devour them?
Most cats produce litters of at least 2-3 kittens, thus it would be exceedingly challenging for them to consume all of their young.
However, moms may consume their sick or prematurely damaged kittens, who have the lowest chances of surviving, especially if they have to run.
Some cats in the wild live in colonies where the remainder of the population may be able to repel a predator’s attack at least for a few days after they give birth.