Why a Mother Cat Might Reject Her Young

There is little more precious than a mother cat caring for her babies. This is nature’s way, but there are times when something goes wrong. Occasionally, a mother cat will seem to lose interest in her kittens and may reject one or more of them, and even abandon them at a time when they need her the most. This is difficult to understand. Why would a mother cat reject her young? In search of answers to this question, we consulted reliable sources to get the opinions of experts in feline behavior to understand the possible reasons why some female cats won’t accept their kittens. The experts at Cat Time shed a little light on this heartbreaking phenomenon. There are several reasons why mother cats reject their kittens before it’s time. We discovered the 7 main reasons.

1. The cat is too young to have kittens

Some female cats become physically mature before they develop maternal instincts. Just as some humans take longer, if they ever develop these instinctual behaviors, cats mature at different rates. Some mama cats have no clue what they are doing because they are still kittens themselves. Although it’s fairly rare, it does happen, so try not to blame her. Instead, give her emotional support and try to care for the kittens on your own, or consult the advice of an animal health professional to learn how to care for the kittens until they’re old enough to survive without the special nurturing.

2. The litter size is too large

If a cat has a large litter, she may not be able to produce enough milk to feed all of the kittens. It can become a drain on her body. She may reject a few of the kittens so she will have enough to feed the rest of them. If this is going to happen, it usually becomes evident within the first 24 hours after birth. It’s wise to monitor new moms with large litters so you can intervene.

3. Deformity or illness

Mother cats will sometimes reject a kitten that has a physical deformity. While these kittens may be perfectly healthy aside from cosmetic imperfections, the mother will still refuse to care for them. It’s best to remove the kitten and not try to force the mother to accept him. She may reject all of the kittens and abandon them. Although it may not make sense, cats are eccentric creatures and you can only push them so far before they walk away and do their own thing.

4. The mother may be nearby

If you come across kittens born outside, and the mother is gone, it’s best not to assume that she has abandoned them. She may be out hunting. It’s wise to give it a few hours to see if she returns. If she doesn’t, she may have been injured or killed and cannot make it back to the nest to care for her kittens.

5. She may have mastitis

Nursing mother cats can develop an infection of the mammary glands called mastitis. This is a painful condition that involves hardness and swelling of the nipple. The area may become inflamed and so painful that she simply can’t stand the pain. She may not be rejecting her kittens at all. It’s best to consult a vet to get some help to alleviate her condition.

6. The mother may be ill

If the mother cat is sick, she may not be up to caring for the kittens. If she seems lethargic or has had a difficult labor, it’s best to seek professional medical assistance. She needs an examination to find out what the nature of the problem is, and treatment if necessary.

7. Poor nutrition

Mother cats who are malnourished before and after they give birth to a litter of kittens may not be able to make milk. This may cause her to reject all of the kittens in the litter. If she cannot feed them, she may become frustrated and walk away. It’s painful to allow them to suckle if there is no milk coming out.

How can you tell if a mother cat is rejecting her kittens?

The Nest explains that there are four signs that a mother cat is rejecting her kittens. The first is irritation or stress. If she acts irritated with the kittens instead of snuggling and cleaning them, it’s not a good sign. The second indication is if the kittens are constantly crying. The cries continue until she pays attention to them. If it doesn’t end, she’s ignoring them. The third sign that she is rejecting her kittens is if she pushes one or more of them out of the nest and refuses to care for them. If your cat does this, any attempts to force her to accept the kitten may cause her to reject them all. The fourth sign is a mother cat that shows aggression towards her babies. This is a sure sign that she has rejected them.

Final thoughts

Cats are complicated creatures and it can be hard to understand why they do the things they do. If your mama cat shows signs that she is rejecting her kitten, there is little you will be able to do to change her mind. The best course of action is to take the kitten or kittens she has refused, and keep them warm, and feed them with replacement milk for kittens. It’s possible to nurture them to the stage where they will be able to eat solid food on their own, but it’s a labor of love. Raising baby kittens takes a lot of time and effort, but when they start walking around and eating kitten food on their own, it will have been worth the effort.

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