Warning: This article, “Do cats eat their babies?”, is purely informative. On CatLicking we do not have the skills to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to bring your animal to the veterinarian if it presents the symptoms of a fever or a disease.
Eating a kitten, the cutest living being in the world, seems completely crazy and despicable at the same time.
However, it is a behavior that is (to some extent) normal in the animal world.
So don’t reject your cat if she has killed one or more of her kittens.
Continue reading our article to get all the answers you’re looking for and how to deal with it.
Why Do Cats Eat their Babies?
There are several reasons why female cats may eat their kittens :
- Because they are weak or sick
- Because of stress
- To protect them from predators
- Because of a lack of maternal instinct
- She has Feline mastitis
- She’s not properly nourished
- She feels threatened
- She does not recognize her kittens
Weak or Sick Kittens
In order to answer the question “Why do cats eat their babies”, it seems important to us to clearly explain that when an animal devours a member of its own species it is considered cannibalism.
The word is strong but it is not a strange behavior in nature.
Sometimes, some kittens in a litter may be born with a disease or deficiency that is not noticeable at first sight and that the mother can detect through her powerful sense of smell.
In these cases, the cat assumes that the kitten will not be able to survive, so she decides to eat it; she ends the day of her kitten so that it does not contaminate the rest of the litter.
The same thing happens with kittens that suffer from some kind of deformity.
It is about the same thing that happens with the weakest kittens.
In all litters and especially those of 5 or 6 kittens, there are larger, stronger kittens and others smaller and weaker.
Although it doesn’t always happen, some mothers consider it smarter to get rid of the weakest kittens in order to reserve milk and care for those most likely to survive.
These behaviors may seem cruel to you, but it is only natural selection that governs all species in one way or another.
The Cat Is Stressed
Usually a domestic cat will not kill her kittens due to stress, but this possibility should not be excluded either.
An environment that is too noisy during gestation or delivery, an incessant flow of people, harassing your pet with care and attention, not offering her a peaceful place to give birth are all reasons that can trigger nervous behavior.
The cat is stressed not only for herself and her own safety but she is nervous because of the fear of what might happen to her litter (being taken from her, being eaten by predators) and sometimes this feeling leads the mother to eat her babies.
This sad event can also happen if there are other animals around and the mother sees them as possible threats.
This behaviour is more frequently observed in new mothers, when stress is able to cancel out her maternal instincts.
In fact, it is fundamental that you provide the mother-to-be with the best care during the entire period of her pregnancy.
The more you avoid stress and the more you offer her a relaxed and quiet environment, the less likely she will eat her kittens.
To Protect Them from Predators
In the wild, felines have the instinct to protect their young from potential predators. Domestic cats retain this instinct.
If the place where the litter is located is exposed to unfamiliar noises, or if people she doesn’t know come to visit her, the cat may eat her babies in order to protect them (even if in the end, it’s the same thing!).
A Lack of Maternal Instinct
It’s also possible that your cat lacks maternal instincts, in which case she’ll have absolutely no interest in caring for her babies or she simply won’t know how to do it, which may cause her to get rid of them by eating them.
In order to avoid this tragic event and to be able to save as many babies as possible, we recommend that you observe your cat’s behavior after delivery and if you see that she lacks maternal instincts and that the life of the little ones is in danger, you will have to take care of her.
She Has Feline Mastitis
Mastitis is a common infection in many mammals that affects the mammary glands. This infection can lead to the death of the mother and kittens but it is a very easy to treat infection.
The problem is that it causes a lot of pain, especially when the kittens suckle, which can cause the mother to reject or eat them in order to avoid suffering as much.
If you think this could be the case with your hairy companion we recommend that you consult a specialist very quickly to avoid things getting out of hand.
She Is Not Properly Nourished
A cat can eat her babies if she feels that she lacks the nutrients she and her kittens need. She will only eat one or two if she feels it is enough.
So make sure you feed your cat well and provide her with a diet that allows her to feed her kittens well.
She Feels Threatened
Your cat may feel threatened by other pets or other people sharing their living space.
Be sure to provide your mommy cat with a calm and safe space for her and her little ones.
She Doesn’t Recognize her Kittens
It is likely that the cat does not recognize her kittens as her own or as members of her breed. This usually happens in cats that needed a caesarean section because they did not produce the maternity hormones that are normally activated during birth.
In the same way, in some breeds or with new mothers, it happens that cats confuse their kittens with small prey instead of seeing them as their children.
For this reason it is recommended not to touch the kittens (unless it is absolutely necessary) because the human scent eliminates the cat’s aroma which could cause her not to recognize them.
How to React If your Cat Eats her Babies?
First of all, you must stay calm. We know that attending this event can be very impressive for you but you must not let yourself be carried away by your emotions and you must not despise your cat.
It is simply a behavior that has its reasons and is natural (even if it is not for us).
Instead of rejecting your cat, based on the reasons we have just given you, we recommend that you try to understand what the reason for this behavior is.
If it is a health problem or stress on your cat’s part, you should resolve it as soon as possible by consulting your veterinarian.
If some of the kittens in the litter are still alive or if you realize in time that your cat is biting her kittens in order to get rid of them, we recommend that you take care of the kittens yourself so that nothing bad happens.
Don’t hesitate to take her to a specialist so that he can evaluate her state of health.
In the same way, if all the kittens have been eaten, we recommend that you sterilize your cat to prevent this from happening again.
Don’t forget that you will always have to offer the same affection and love to your cat despite what you have seen and it is together that you will overcome this tragedy.
Maternal Problems of the Cat
Sometimes mommy cat show problems with maternal behavior with her young.
She may show indifference towards her babies, or on the contrary, an excessive, even aggressive maternal attitude.
You must be vigilant if your cat doesn’t take care of her young, refuses to feed them, is aggressive towards them, doesn’t bring them back among her brothers and sisters or keeps changing places.
If your mommy cat has overdeveloped udders and keeps objects close to her that she treats like her babies, you must also be alarmed.
You can first of all temporarily separate the mother from her kittens and feed them yourself.
If the situation does not improve, call your vet.
Conclusion on Do Cats Eat their Babies
Even though eating its own young may seem shocking to us humans, keep in mind that it is a natural instinct in a feline.
It is therefore very important that you take great care of your cat and that you offer her a place where she feels safe so that she can take care of her babies in the best possible way.
Mother Cat and her kitten Photo by Uta E. from Pixabay