Why Do Cats Eat Their Kittens? Understanding This Feline Behavior

Why Do Cats Eat Their Kittens?

In most species, save their baby made by a mother who should not come at the expense of her health. Consequently, many large species can absorb the fetus again if adverse conditions. If the pregnancy is too far along, then they cover the cost after they are born. In many cases, mother cats eat newborn kittens.

From a mother’s perspective, this may manifest as a compulsive act caused by stress and anxiety. All cats (and most animals) will eat newborn kittens to cover some cost of childbirth. If the bad thing-a is a sick or skinny mother, or a chaotic condition, then the mom may just keep eating.

Why Do Cats Eat Their Kittens?
mother cat and kittens

For new mothers, the experience of giving birth can be incredibly stressful, particularly if it is their first time. In some cases, this stress can manifest as confusion and disorientation, leading them to accidentally chew on their newborns’ legs or tails while attempting to clean them. This behavior is not intentional and is simply a result of their inexperience.

However, certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of this behavior in cats. First-time mothers, as well as those in unsafe or chaotic environments, are at a greater risk. Additionally, mothers who are suffering from illness or malnutrition may be more likely to exhibit this behavior, as their bodies may be struggling to cope with the demands of pregnancy and childbirth.

In addition to eating a dead or sick kitten as a means of keeping the environment clean and free from disease, it is not uncommon for mother cats to sometimes kill and even eat healthy kittens, particularly when under stress.

This behavior is more likely to occur in young mothers who may be inexperienced and more prone to rejecting their offspring. Additionally, older mothers with hormonal imbalances may also exhibit this behavior as they struggle to bond with and care for their young. While this behavior may seem shocking or distressing to humans, it is important to remember that it is a natural instinct in many animals and can be influenced by a variety of factors.

Why Do Cats Eat Their Kittens?
mother cat and kittens

Sometimes, mother cats may not bond with their kittens or recognize them as their own, leading to confusion and distress. In these cases, the kittens may be seen as threats or prey and may be attacked by the mother.

It is also worth noting that cats (and dogs) may kill their young if they feel depressed or unsafe. This can occur when humans attempt to move animals that have just given birth to a more comfortable and secure location within the home.

Animals often choose where they give birth because it is where they feel safe and comfortable, so moving them to an unfamiliar location, no matter how comfortable or secure it may be, can cause significant stress for the mother and increase the likelihood of her killing her young.

Newborn kittens video

Cats are known to be fiercely protective mothers who show love and care for their young from the very beginning. When giving birth, they instinctively eat the afterbirth, which is roughly the same size as the kittens. However, it is important to note that they will only eat their young if they are stillborn or flawed in some way.

Similarly, dogs typically do not eat their healthy offspring. However, there are instances where a mother dog may become distressed and exhibit aggressive behavior towards her puppies if she feels they are in danger. For example, if the owner allows too many visitors to come and see the new puppies, the mother may become overwhelmed and stressed, potentially leading to dangerous behavior toward her offspring.

It is worth mentioning that in rare cases, a puppy may be born backward and bloated, as happened in one litter we had. Despite having a heartbeat, we had to intervene and clear the puppy, wrapping it in a cloth and holding it until it could breathe on its own.

Why Do Cats Eat Their Kittens?
A Domestic Cat

It was a sad situation, but unfortunately, there was nothing we could do to save the deformed puppy. Once we returned it to the mother, she ate it along with the afterbirth. While this may seem disturbing to some, it is a natural mechanism used in the animal kingdom to provide mothers with the necessary nutrients they need to recover from childbirth.

In the wild, mothers must go out and search for food, which can be a difficult task, especially when caring for newborns. Eating the afterbirth and any stillborn or deformed offspring provides them with the necessary energy and nutrients to recover and care for the remaining healthy offspring.

When animals are kept as pets, they often have access to the necessary food and resources to recover from childbirth without having to resort to eating their young or afterbirth. However, it is still natural and not harmful to allow the mother to clean and eat the afterbirth if she chooses to do so. If it is removed and disposed of properly, it will not harm the mother or her young.

Why Do Cats Eat Their Kittens?

In the process of cutting the newborn’s umbilical cord, animal mothers can sometimes accidentally cut too far and cause excessive bleeding or even an umbilical hernia. If the mother is having difficulty with the task, you can use a sharp object such as scissors, making sure to cut about 2-3 inches away from the stomach.

To prevent a hernia, it’s important to assist the mother while she’s chewing through the cord. This can be done with both kittens and puppies and can lead to better outcomes for both mother and offspring.


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