Are you wondering, “why do cats move their kittens”? It is not uncommon that cats desist interactions and move their kittens away from you after giving birth. Your one-time loving cat becomes more aggressive, especially when you get too close to the newborn kittens. This behavioral change is necessary because your furry friend has just been through a difficult time and needs to heal. At the same time, she needs to care for her litter by providing a suitable and secluded space for them. The best you can do for your cat during this period is give her all the space she needs. This is not to say you should totally ignore her. In fact, for the safety of the litter, you also need to be involved, but from afar.
It would be best to let your cat complete this process on her own, as this ensures the natural bonding between mother and child. Your job is to observe her behavior throughout the time and intervene only when necessary. Why and why not worry or directly intervene; we will discuss subsequently. If you’re thinking, “why does my cat keep moving her kittens? Should I be worried?” This article has all the answers for you.
Top 6 Reasons Why Cats Move Their Kittens
A new cat mother will leave no stone unturned protecting her litter. Consequently, she will not hesitate to move her kittens to a different location at the slightest detection of a threat. While you might try to provide a suitable space for her, a mother cat may choose to snub all that and do her thing. Your cat will have to rely significantly on her instincts to decide what is best for her babies during this period. Even before labor, a cat seeks a quiet, safe, and warm space to bear her kittens.
The newborn kittens remain blind and deaf for the first two weeks, making them vulnerable to attack. Therefore, the security of the litter is the responsibility of the mother cat, and she will stop at nothing to ensure that they survive.
Being a mother cat comes with a high dose of aggression. Even the most docile cat will become a beast when she becomes a mother. Any attempt by you, anyone, or anything to touch her babies will not happen without a fight. At this point, everything, and everyone, including you, is a potential threat to her babies. This is why she takes them far away from the male cats that tend to kill kittens.
A cat’s postnatal period is a sensitive one in which she does not interact much with anyone, including you. The new mother will move her kittens from a spot with significant noise and traffic. If you are the type to play loud music or have neighbors that do so, your cat will not be comfortable with that. In the same vein, if you move too much around her babies, your cat will have to move her kittens.
Also, a mother cat will not appreciate you feeding her kittens or putting them in front of visitors. It is quite intrusive; she will have to move her kittens to a different space. Though understandably, you are excited about your new kittens, the new mother cat will become uneasy with you having to come around frequently.
Finally, your cat needs space from the father of her newborn kittens who may want to mate. In contrast, the female cat will not enter heat until six weeks from when she bears her babies. The new mother needs time to care properly for and bond with her kittens for at least 45 days after birth.
Baby cats need more warmth than adults, as they cannot regulate their body temperature exactly. In other words, they lose heat quickly, which may lead to their death. Often, you will find that kittens lie very closely with one another. Also, a mother cat keeps her litter warm by maintaining body contact with them. If she observes that they are not getting enough warmth, she will have no choice but to move her kittens.
Sometimes, however, the mother cat may not observe that her kittens are losing temperature. This negligence stems mainly from tiredness and frustration. In this case, you can intervene by providing a heat pad or heater to increase the temperature. You can also place hot bottles and towels around your litter.
4. Dirty Environment
Cats are arguably the cleanest domestic pets. They are very meticulous about their cleanliness, and that is why they spend so much time grooming themselves. It is commendable that you prepare a clean space for your cat and her kittens. At the same time, it is still up to the mother cat to determine what is and what is not. If your cat thinks the area is dirty, she will have to move the litter. She may grow uncomfortable with too much dust, water spill, bad smell, and many other things, which will cause her to seek a better spot.
A dirty environment and offensive smell might attract unpleasant visitors to an area. For example, garbage attracts bugs, flies, roaches, etc. Also, these areas attract annoying rodents such as mice and rats. In fact, rodents are the most likely animals to transmit diseases to your pets. They are epitomes of germs and dirt that pose significant health risks to your cat and her kittens. Though cats are excellent rodent killing machines, they might not have the patience to deal with them at the moment. What she needs at this time is to bond and care for her young, not kill rodents. If there are one or two rodents, she will swiftly put an end to the situation. However, constant visits will have her move her kittens.
A lot of the litter’s training comes with mother-kitten bonding. At least, for the first two months, your cat will maintain a close relationship with her kittens. The litter learns directly from their mother during this period as she is their first teacher. This is a critical time for their mental and behavioral development. According to a study by International Cat Care, close contact between a cat and her litter aids behavioral development. For example, the kittens learn to groom one another, thereby recognizing the smell of one another.
By the end of the first month, the babies start to move around independently, familiarizing themselves with the environment. The mother monitors these movements and makes sure they do not wander too far from her. She moves them to different locations around the home to socialize.
At the age of eight weeks, the kittens learn the basics of hunting from their mother. They watch the art of stealth and attack the queen exhibits and read how she makes the kill. By weeks twelve to sixteen, they can now hunt independently.
6. Excessive Exposure to Light and Noise
Kittens remain blind and deaf for about fourteen days after birth. By the time they begin to open their eyes and ears, excess light and noise will adversely affect their senses. Therefore, a space with direct sunlight, noise, traffic, etc., is not the best option for newborns. For this reason, the mother cat will have to move the litter to a quieter space with no excess lighting. You need to keep your sound system at a reasonable volume during this period or keep it off totally. Loud music or noise only causes distress to your kittens.
In certain cases, the noise may not be from your home. Some of these noises come from the sound of moving cars, vehicle horns, noise from neighbors and pedestrians, staircase squeaks, and more. Also, if you have a dog that barks frequently, your cat might move the litter to a quieter space.
Where Do Cats Hide Their Kittens?
There is really no particular place cats hide their newborns. The cats depend on their instincts to protect their young from too much exposure to humans and animals alike. As quiet private pets, they enjoy spaces free from any form of discomfort, so you do not have to worry. Your kittens are safe. However, if you have reason to worry, you should check the cozy, dark, and quiet spots in your home. For indoor cats, you may check under your bed, empty boxes, bathroom, behind your refrigerator, etc. If your cat has access to your compound and beyond, you may need to follow her discreetly.
Sometimes, a tired and frustrated mother may keep her kittens in areas with predators. In the same vein, after four weeks after giving birth, mother cats occasionally lose track of their young. At this time, kittens are now at liberty to explore the surroundings and may wander too far. This is why you need to be quite observant and restrict their movement by shutting the doors that lead outside. In this case, you need to help reunite her with her babies before it gets too late. Once her kittens lose their smell, the mother rejects them without looking back.
How to Stop Your Cat From Moving Kittens?
Are you worried your cat will locate somewhere else in order to protect her kittens? While a cat might consider moving her kittens, there are a few ways you can stop this from happening. Below are the precautions you can take to ensure this.
1. Provide a Clean, Quiet, and Warm Space
Perhaps, this is the most significant need of a cat that has just given birth. Instinctively, a cat will hide her kittens in a clean, quiet, and warm area free of predators. Though you may try to provide a box or spot of the soon-to-be mother, it is no guarantee that she will appreciate the gesture. At the same time, it is not a bad idea to try. However, if she agrees to take the litter box, you have just assumed a new role of a cleaner. To avoid the removal of the babies by the mother, you have to clean the box and the area routinely and quietly. Also, you need to regularly change the blanket when it gets dirty from spilled food and any dirt at all.
2. Avoid Touching her Babies
This is one of the best things you can do for your cat. Constant visits to her babies can make her uneasy and cause her to look for another spot. At the same time, we strongly suggest that you resist the urge to pick and cuddle with the kittens. Carrying the newborns means removing them from their source of food, security, and warmth. This will inevitably lead to your cat moving her kittens. In summary, unless it is necessary, avoid excessive interactions with the kittens for at least fourteen days. Also, you need to restrict movement around the space, especially if you have children or a lot of visitors.
3. Provide Food and Water in a Timely Fashion
Lack of sufficient and quality food is another reason your cat will move its litter. If the mother cat runs out of food, it is only logical that she moves to a location where she can get food. Bear in mind that she is currently feeding multiple mouths, making her lose nutrients fast. It is essential that the cat consumes quality food to replenish the lost body nutrients. Lack of this may result in stunted growth in her kittens. So long your cat always has food, water, security, and warmth, she may not need to move her newborns.
4. Make Sure All her Kittens are Healthy
If you notice your cat neglecting or separating some kittens from the others, you need to intervene. The newborns she is rejecting are presumably sick, weak, or the litter is just too large for her. Usually, it does not take too long to decide on those to keep and neglect. Humanly speaking, this is cruel, but it is normal cat behavior. In the animal kingdom, it is survival of the fittest. Here, you need to take the ones she shows less care to the vet as quickly as possible.
At this point, you now know it is pretty normal for your cat to move its litter. You do not have to worry about this behavior. In fact, it is wise that you let her do what is best for her litter. Your cat moves its kittens because of issues like cleanliness, quietness, security, and warmth. You cannot blame a mother for wanting to provide these basic things for her newborns.
As your cat ensures all of these, you have to make sure you support her by staying away from the kittens. Also, make sure she has constant access to quality cat food to keep her strong and healthy throughout this period.
By the fourth week, your new kittens should be up on their feet and ready to socialize. At this point, your cat’s aggression will have subsided; therefore, feel free to handle them. However, do not allow them to wander too far because the moment a kitten loses its unique scent, the mother ceases to recognize it as its own.