Few mammals are more maternal than felines. Cats make excellent caregivers to their young. If your own cat has birthed a litter, rest assured, she will take excellent care of her babies. This often involves removing the kittens from the nest they were born in.
Cats move kittens for privacy and protection. Birthing a litter is a private experience for a cat. She will be exhausted and sore afterward. Your cat will want to recuperate alone in a quiet space. She will bring her kittens with her to nurse them.
Mother cats are protective. She will not want you, or anybody else, touching her young. This will be reflected in her behavior. The kittens will be hidden from view. Bear this in mind while you move around the house.
Why Do Mother Cats Move Their Kittens After Birth?
Giving birth is a private experience for many cats. Your cat will be looking for a little solitude. This may result in your car relocating herself, and her new litter. Reasons for a cat to move her kittens include:
Your cat also moves her kittens to safeguard them. Wild instinct will kick in. Your cat will fear predators, such as coyotes and birds of prey. She also does not want her kittens handled to excess. This means they will be moved to avoid detection.
Newborn kittens are completely defenseless. For the first four weeks, kittens can do nothing for themselves. Thankfully, felines are naturally maternal. Mother cats will do whatever it takes to protect their offspring.
While kittens are so vulnerable, a mother cat trusts nobody to defend them but herself. The family dog could be a threat. The father of the kittens could hurt them, by accident or design.
Why Would a Mother Cat Hide Her Kittens from Their Father?
Paternal cats do not have the same instincts as mothers. The father of kittens may wish to play with them. In doing so, he risks hurting them. Lacking the natural urge to parent, male cats could cause damage.
This is not to say that male cats are inherently violent toward kittens. Some male cats act similar to mothers. They allow kittens to seek warmth, and even attempt to feed them. A lack of basic nurturing instinct can be dangerous to delicate kittens though.
As Biology of Reproduction explains, female cats will not enter heat for six weeks after birth. This is another reason why your cat is hiding. She will have no interest in further mating. If a male approaches during this period, she will likely respond with aggression.
Why Would a Mother Cat Hide Her Kittens from Me?
Kittens are adorable. You will no doubt want to handle and tickle them as soon as you can. This is why their mother hides them from you.
Your cat does not distrust you. She just wants to ensure that her kittens are completely safe. The kittens, and their mother, need a safe and private space. Constant attention from humans is a violation of this.
In the aftermath of giving birth, most cats seek peace and solitude. Birth can be an uncomfortable and private experience. Your cat may find a private place to recover and care for her young.
Once recovered, your cat will socialize. Leave her alone until she approaches you. This could take up to four weeks. You’ll know when your cat is ready. She will stop hiding and present the kittens to you.
What to Do When a Cat Moves Her Kittens
After a cat gives birth, grant her space and respect. Relax the rules of your house a little. Your cat may behave out of sorts. Her hormones need to return to a natural equilibrium.
Your cat will likely build a nest somewhere in the home. Allow her to do this and respect it as her territory. Do not attempt to move your cat or her kittens. She will behave aggressively if you do.
Wherever possible, avoid this area for around four weeks. Minimize footfall and noise. Avoid using the vacuum or making other loud noises. If you have children, tell them to stay away.
When your cat needs you during this time, she will find you. She will emerge periodically to use the litter tray and seek attention. Do not treat your cat any differently. Act as though she has never given birth.
While interacting with your cat, steal a look at her nipples. These should be swollen and prominent on her stomach. There will also be signs of wetness around the nipples. This suggests that the kittens are feeding and healthy.
Cat Moved Her Kittens and I Can’t Find Them
A mother cat hiding kittens can be problematic. You may not be able to locate the kittens yourself. Your cat has likely found a warm, dark and private territory to hide. Places to check include:
- Under furniture
- The bottom of closets (including the linen closet)
- Bedrooms and office drawers
- The oven
- The washing machine
Until you find the kittens, assume they could be anywhere and act with appropriate caution. Do not kick off your shoes. Do not toss things into a closet without looking. Do not start a household appliance without checking. Do not use a hoover anywhere out of your eye line.
If you cannot see your kittens, rely on your ears. You may be able to hear them. As Developmental Psychobiology explains, the kittens recognize their mother’s meow. Follow the sound of communication between cat and kittens. Kittens also cry for their mother when cold or hungry.
If you do find the kittens, leave them alone. Your cat will pick up your scent if you handle them. She will then move the kittens to a new hiding place. Trust your cat to meet the needs of her young. As long as all are alive, everything is under control.
Has My Cat Eaten Her Kittens?
If you cannot see or hear kittens, try not to worry. Wait a few weeks to be introduced. If this doesn’t happen, there is a slim chance your cat harmed her offspring. Cats kill or eat kittens for a handful of reasons:
- The kitten was stillborn, sick, or deformed
- The cat has developed mastitis
- There are too many kittens to feed and tend for
- The cat lacks the emotional maturity to rear kittens
A young cat may not be ready to raise kittens. In these cases, the cat will reject her offspring. She may even panic and kill them. Cats can reach sexual maturity as young as 4 months. This is often too young to start breeding.
If a kitten is stillborn, your cat will eat the body. This is hiding the evidence of nature’s error. Your cat may also kill sick or deformed kittens. Your cat thinks that this is for the greater good. It prevents disease from spreading throughout the litter.
Most cats will reject kittens rather than kill them. This means the kitten will not be fed or nurtured. Sadly, this leaves a kitten at risk of death. Kittens cannot survive alone for long.
Mastitis is a reason why a cat may reject kittens. As per the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, mastitis occurs when a cat’s mammary glands are scratched. This makes it too painful to nurse.
Why Does My Cat Keep Bringing Me Her Kittens?
This is a compliment. It suggests that you have a strong bond with your cat.
Your pet wants her kittens to be safe. Whenever she moves them, it’s with this in mind. By presenting her kittens, your cat is saying that she feels safer around you. She is also looking for assurance. Your cat wants to be told that she is doing a good job.
Your cat may also be looking for some help. Raising kittens can be exhausting and overwhelming. Female cats in the wild share feeding and rearing responsibilities. Your cat is asking for the same assistance from you.
Do not betray this trust by handling the kittens to excess. Praise and pet your cat. Gently pet and stroke the kittens. When your cat is ready for bed, help return her kittens. They will rely on their mother’s warmth overnight.
Why Does My Cat Keep Bringing Her Kittens to My Bed?
This is an extension of your cat asking for your help. She is shattered and needs a break.
If your cat moves kittens into your bed at night, she wants to sleep herself. She is hoping you will handle feeding and warming duties.
If you find kittens on your bed, your cat knows you will come here eventually. She is ensuring that you understand that she needs help. Warm the kittens up and return them to their bed.
If the cat later brings them back, take a closer look. If your cat presents the same kittens every time, there may be a reason. She could be rejecting these particular kittens.
Why Does a Mother Cat Move Only One Kitten?
If your cat is only moving one kitten, this is the first step to rejection. Something about the kitten is ‘other.’ It is likely sick, and your cat thinks the kitten will not survive anyway. Your cat is saving her strength for the kittens that will live.
Separate this kitten at once and see a vet. The kitten will not survive under its mother’s care. Tests will be required to assess the kitten’s health. If it does not have a contagious disease, you can bring the kitten home. It will need to be bottle-fed and cared for.
If you lack the time or ability to care for the kitten, ask a shelter. They may be able to take the kitten in. Just be aware that many shelters are stretched to breaking point. They may not have the capacity for a cat with special needs.
Mother Cat is Moving Kittens to an Unsafe Place
Cats usually choose a sensible place to house kittens. Your cat will have explored every inch of your home.
Your cat may choose a dangerous place to hide her kittens. She could hide them in the oven or washing machine. These places will be quiet and warm. Other locations could include:
- Untidy spare rooms
- Dusty closets
- Cleaning cupboards filled with chemicals
- Under stairwells
You must be careful with kittens in the home. Your cat will be belligerent about her hiding places. It may be unsafe, but she will struggle to accept this. Cats are agile enough to negotiate any terrain. This does not make it safe for a kitten.
If your cat does attempt to utilize unsafe hiding places, do not just move the kittens. At best, your cat will just move them back. At worst, your cat will attack you. You need to convince your pet to relocate her kittens. Let your cat think the move was her idea.
How to Get a Mother Cat to Move Her Kittens
You must have a safe but desirable place for your cat to nurse her kittens. It needs to meet all of your cat’s criteria for comfort.
First, choose the ideal location. This room needs to be:
- Dry, with good air circulation
- Neutral (never use room that is considered another pet’s territory)
Next, ensure this room has everything your cat needs. This includes:
- A bed for nesting
- A litter tray
- Fresh water
- Exercise equipment, such as a cat tree
To make the ideal bed, pad a cardboard box with towels or blankets. This box should have high sides. These will give your cat some privacy while she nurses. Just ensure your cat can safely get in and out.
Check on your cat – and her kittens – periodically. Your cat may want to stretch her legs and roam the house. This is a good chance to check the kittens are doing well. Handle them gently, for a short spell of time. This will help socialize the kittens.
Other than these occasional check-ins, leave your cat alone. She will come to you when she needs you. Until then, her kittens are her primary concern.