Watching your mother cat eat one of her young is one of the most horrible and heartbreaking things you are likely to see if you breed cats or care for stray cats who frequently have kittens.

Fortunately, it’s not extremely frequent, but it is conceivable. Keep reading to learn why cats do this and how probable it is that it will happen while you are watching so that you will be better prepared if there is a chance that you will have kittens in the future.

Why Do Mother Cats eat their kittens?

In the animal kingdom, it is typical for a mother cat to consume her young. Causes can be divided into two categories:

I. Kitten causes

  1. Stillborn kittens 
  2. Deformed kittens; 

II. The reasons come from the mother cat, including:

  1.  The mother cat was pregnant when she was too young 
  2. The mother cat wants to protect her baby 
  3. The mother cat is malnourished
  4. The mother cat can’t smell her baby
  5. The mother cat smells strange, the gland 
  6. The mother cat’s udder has a problem.

 Allow me to reveal all:

I. Cause from kittens

Although the causes of kittens are not many, those causes also account for a certain percentage. As I mentioned above, those causes are: 

  1. Stillborn kittens:

The condition of stillbirth in kittens is also known as Fading syndrome – Neonatal death. Includes fatal conditions in early life (less than two weeks).

Because organs and systems inside the body have not yet formed, kittens will be very susceptible to injury, infection, and factors related to the environment, nutrition, and metabolism.

Usually, the mother cat will give birth to many kittens simultaneously. Eating stillborn kittens will provide many nutrients to create milk for the mother cat to feed the live kittens.

In case the mother cat is born prematurely, and the kittens show signs of weakness, you should put the kittens away and take care of them separately. Usually, the mother cat can’t distinguish between the immobile kittens and the placenta so she will eat the kittens too.

  1. Defective kittens:

Not only can kittens with congenital disabilities and stillborn kittens be eaten by their mothers, but fragile cats are also in danger.

For the same reason as above, the mother cat eats the deformed kittens and has a lower chance of survival to increase the chances of other kittens living.

II. Cause of the mother cat

This is the leading cause of mother cats eating kittens, so it includes many reasons, including

  1. The mother cat is pregnant at a very young age:

As we all know, 6-month-old kittens can get pregnant. Some female cats inevitably get pregnant too early when their maternal instincts are not fully developed. In such cases, young cats kill their kittens out of confusion, as the kitten’s weak meows trigger their hunting instincts.

Some cats are very tired, stressed, or nursing kittens at the wrong time of year, killing their babies so they can adopt at a better time.

Some kittens born in the winter have little chance of survival, as the mother cat has no prey. This mostly happens with feral cats. In a group of feral cats, the alpha female sometimes kills the kittens of other females to increase her chances of survival.

Cat owners whose cats become pregnant too early, when less than 1-year-old, need to closely monitor the condition of the mother and kittens and take measures to keep the cat safe based on the cat’s behavior.

Close monitoring does not mean the cat owner regularly approaches or has direct contact with the cats.

Why Do Mother Cats Eat Their Kittens? (Explained)

  1. The mother cat eats her baby because she wants to protect her baby.

When the mother cat believes her cubs are in danger from predators, the mother cat eats her cubs to protect them from the clutches of predators.

You should limit letting other pets or animals near the cat’s nest. The mother cat may feel uncomfortable because of her territorial encroachment and threat to the safety of her cubs.

Strangers are also one of the threats to the mother cat during this sensitive period.

On the other hand, if the litter is too large, the mother cat can eat a few kittens to ensure enough milk for the remaining kittens.

  1. The mother cat is malnourished.

Female cats need a lot of nutrition during pregnancy. However, not all cats get enough food during pregnancy.

Many female cats become fussier during pregnancy and have no appetite. Malnutrition is inevitable. And as mentioned above, kittens are a rich source of nutrition for the mother at this time.

Therefore, you should focus on taking care of your cat’s nutrition during pregnancy and after birth if you don’t want the mother cat to eat the baby. Pregnant cats need to eat kitten food because it contains more protein, fat, and calories than adult cat food.

After the female cat gives birth, you should keep food near the nest so that the cat can eat it as soon as needed; it is a way to compensate for the cat’s nutrition after childbirth and during lactation.



  1. The mother cat can’t smell her kittens:

Cats have a potent smell; they often use their nose to smell their babies and distinguish them. The case that the cat does not sense the kitten’s scent usually occurs when the mother cat has a cesarean section because it does not release reproductive hormones.

Therefore, when the mother cat gives birth by cesarean section, you should let the kittens come into contact with the mother cat as soon as possible.

This is not only a way for the mother and kittens to be close but also to reduce the possibility of the mother cat eating the kittens.

  1. Mother cat smells strange:

Cat’s nose is susceptible. When a newborn kitten is hugged, caressed, or even has a strong smell in the place, the kitten likely has a strange smell that makes the mother cat not recognize her baby.

Unless you are a regular person with the mother cat and the mother cat is used to the scent on you, you can touch the kittens; otherwise, stay away from them.

  1. The mother cat’s mammary gland has problems:

If the mother cat loses milk after giving birth, but the kittens suckle too much, the mammary glands can become infected. Inflammation of the mammary gland can cause the mother cat pain, not wanting to breastfeed or even eat the baby.

The following signs can see a mother cat with mastitis:

  • The mother cat does not want to breastfeed
  • The mother cat has a fever or vomiting
  • The kitten constantly meows and wants to suckle due to hunger
  • The mother cat’s udder is swollen, painful, and may bleed or pus

If you see the mother cat and kittens showing the above signs, you should take the kitten away from the mother cat to avoid an unfortunate situation. Then bring the mother cat to the vet for treatment.

How to prevent Mother Cats from eat their kittens

To avoid the case that the mother cat can eat her baby, you can prepare and take care of the mother cat right before and after birth. Some things to do include :

  • The mother cat’s habitat:

  • the cat needs a warm, relaxed and clean place, away from the noise and many people. Cats feel threatened if they see many people and loud noises.
  • Food:

  • The mother cat, right before pregnancy, should be fed enough nutrients to ensure enough health. After giving birth, you should keep water and food near where the mother cat lies for their convenience.
  • The cat should only be pregnant when it is one year old or older because the cat’s body and psychology can mature enough to be a mother, avoiding psychological shock.
  • Do not pet kittens less than ten days old;

  • avoid coming near their habitat.
  • After a cesarean section, the mother cat should be introduced to the kittens as soon as possible.
  • If after the mother cat gives birth, you notice that a kitten is pushed away by the mother cat and rarely breastfeeds, you should take that kitten away and take care of it separately. In this situation, you must learn to take care of the kitten yourself. Or, if you notice a weak kitten in the pack, you should separate it from the herd and take care of it separately.

And if you catch a mother cat eating her baby, don’t frighten them. You should find out the cause of this to avoid unfortunate things happening to other kittens in the herd.

Final thought 

Usually, the mother cat killing or eating the kittens is rare and only occurs when the mother cat is overly worried or feels threatened, which cannot be avoided. Cat owners can always prevent cat depression or anxiety.

On the other hand, most domestic cats have a mental guarantee that the people in the house will not hurt their kittens and will provide adequate food for them. So you can rest assured that under no circumstances will your cat kill the kitten.

Related Article: 

Can You Get Diseases From Cat Saliva? (Explained)

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