Why do cats reject their kittens?
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Revealed: Why do cats reject their kittens?

Cats are excellent mothers, and the thought of a mama cat rejecting her kittens is heartbreaking. Watching the queen groom and lick her babies is such an enjoyable and heartwarming sight. While a mama cat will care and viciously guard her offsprings, some cats reject their kittens.

Cats reject their young ones if the kitten is deformed/birth defect or sick. Sometimes especially in first-time mothers, the maternal instinct does not kick in, and mama cat will abandon her kitties. 

Why do cats reject their kittens?

  • Deformities/birth defects
  • Sick kitten
  • Sick mama cat
  • Premature mum/first time
  • Size of the litter.
  • humans overhandling young kittens

Why do cats reject their kittens?

1. Deformities/birth defects.

Cats reject kittens who were born with deformities. It does not matter to mama cat if the kitten is perfectly healthy, as long as the kittie is deformed, she does not want her near her litter.

2. A sick kitten

Cats will reject sick kittens when trying to save the rest of the litter. Mama cat does not want all her kittens ill and to do so, she’ll reject the sick kitten. Cats use their instincts to make decisions and for the survival of the rest of the litter, one needs to go to isolation. Some common kitten illnesses include anaemia and having a low birth weight.

You can consult with your vet to seek treatment for these cute young kitties.

3. A sick mama cat.

A sick mama cat has a higher chance of rejecting her kittens compared to a healthy queen. Although there may be other underlying illnesses, Mastitis is the biggest culprit.

Mastitis makes it painful for mama cat to nurse and breastfeed her kittens. It is characterized by a swollen hard nipple that is hot to the touch. Although it may seem as if the queen is rejecting her kittens, she is merely avoiding pain! A sick mom cannot care for her young ones!

4. A first-time mom

Some first-time moms have trouble taking care of their litter, especially when maternal instincts do not kick in. While it’s normal for first-time queens to experience confusion when trying to take care of their litter, some cats end up not learning how to nurse leading to rejection.

First-time queens also have high chances of experiencing complicated labours which may, in turn, lead to deformed kitties, ultimately leading to mama cat rejecting her kittens.

Motherhood is difficult regardless of the species, and it is essential to be supportive to a first-time queen before she figures everything out.

5. The size of the litter.

Why do cats reject their kittens?

If mama cat gets a large litter, she will reject some of them to provide milk to the rest of the kittens.

Fun cat fact:  Did you know cats (both male and female) have an average of between 6 and 8 nipples. However, some will have up to 14 while some will have them in odd numbers!

6. Humans over handling kittens.

When humans over-handle young kittens under 6 weeks, the mother cat may fail to recognize the kittens’ scent leading to rejection and may even lead to the cat eating the kitty. Avoid excessively touching kittens up until they are 6-8 weeks old and always handle the kittens when mama cat is present.

Signs of cats rejecting their kittens.

Carefully observe mama cat within the first 24 hours for the following signs of rejection:

  • Mama cat does not feed/nurse her kittens.
  • Mama cat isolates and physically carry the kittens from the nest.
  • The queen hisses at the kitten(s) and may try to bite them.
  • Mama cat eats a kitten.
  • Mama cat abandons a kitten(s).

Is it on purpose for cats to reject their kittens?

Cats reject their kittens on purpose because either the kitten is sick, deformed or the queen is sick. When rejection occurs, mama cat is deliberately making it clear that she does not want anything to do with that specific kitten. However, in some instances, mama cat may be dead and may not have purposefully rejected her kitties.

How long does it take for the mother cat to reject her kittens?

Mama cat will stay with her kittens from their birth up until they are 6-8 weeks old. She will then introduce them to solid foods and slowly introduce the kitties to the rest of the world.

My mama cat introduced her kittens to the rest of the family by carrying them from the room she slept in and bringing them to the sitting room. Although the kitties were afraid, they got used to us and with time, they came by themselves. At this point, mama cat was rejecting her kittens and did not let them suckle.

Why do cats reject their kittens?

How long should you wait before touching a kitten?

Wait until the kitten is 6 weeks old before touching them to avoid the mother rejecting the kitties. If you want to touch them during their first days, do so only when the mother is there. Avoid over-handling the kittens during their early days as this leaves them with your scent, a factor that may lead to mama cat rejecting her kitten.

Queens find their kittens through scent and their tiny meows. If you leave your scent with the kitties, mama cat may be confused and may think the kittens do not belong to her. In some instances, she may confuse the kittens with prey and end up eating them.

Related: Why do cats eat their kittens?

What to do when cats reject their kittens?

Consult with your vet to check for any underlying illnesses. Request for special formula milk so you can feed the kitties. Alternatively, you can search for a surrogate mom to suckle the kittens.

Have you seen a mama cat rejecting her kittens before? Let me know in the comment section!

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