Mama cats have a natural instinct to move their newborn kittens. This can be confusing for pet parents, especially if they’ve provided a safe, cozy space for Mom and her babies to bond.
There are a few common reasons mother cats move their babies during the days and weeks after birth, which we’ll cover below. We’ll also share expert tips on stopping your cat from moving her newborn kittens. And finally, we’ll describe the steps you can take to ensure Mama and her babies are healthy and happy.
Why Do Cats Move Their Kittens?
Immediately following birth, a mother cat’s top priority is protecting her newborn babies. In many cases, new mothers have an impulse to move their kittens, which is perfectly normal.
There are four main reasons a mama cat feels the need to relocate her litter. These include:
New mother cats are hyper-aware of any potential dangers to their babies. For this reason, many mothers attempt to move their kittens. Perceived threats could be something as simple as noisy children, kitchen appliances, or other pets in the home.
In addition to safety and security, mama cats want their babies to feel cozy and content. New moms may go on the prowl for a quieter, dimmer space to raise her kittens and recover from the birthing process. You may notice your cat attempting to move her newborns to a dark, secluded area of your house.
Your mother cat wants to nurse and cuddle with her babies in a clean environment. If she doesn’t feel their current space is clean enough, she will likely relocate her kittens to a fresh, new area. Keep in mind that even if their original space is clean and tidy, Mama might be deterred by strong or unpleasant odors.
Mother cats who give birth in the wild have to be conscious of any possible dangers. Even when a cat gives birth in a safe indoor space, she is constantly on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. It’s instinctual. When a cat moves her babies after birth, it’s often to avoid leading predators to her kittens’ scent.
In all four scenarios listed above, the mother cat uses her instincts to keep her newborns free from harm.
How Can I Stop My Cat from Moving Her Kittens?
As you’ll read in the next section, it’s not always advisable to stop an adult cat from moving her kittens; however, if you want the mama and her kittens to stay put, the following tips may help:
- Keep the area clean and as odor-free as possible.
- Ensure the area is dim, quiet, and relaxing.
- Keep other pets away from the area.
- Give the new family plenty of privacy.
- Monitor Mom and her kittens from a distance, when possible.
- Hold off on socialization for the first two weeks, then gradually introduce the kittens to family members, other pets, and your home environment.
Why Shouldn’t I Stop My Cat from Moving Her Kittens?
When a cat is intent on moving her kittens, it’s not always a good idea to stop her. Determination and instinct often wins, so even if you attempt to keep the kittens in their original space, their mother will likely attempt to move them until she succeeds.
In most cases, mother knows best, and human contact with kittens is discouraged unless there’s a good reason, according to AnimalPath.org. How much you can interact with the kittens also depends on the mother’s temperament, as new mothers often exhibit signs of feline aggression.
Here’s what to do if your mother cat is insistent on moving her babies:
- Make sure the area is safe, private, and clean.
- Add clean towels and blankets to ensure the spot is comfortable.
- Let the mother move her kittens on her own, when possible.
What Should I Know About Post-Natal Care for My Cat and Her Newborn Kittens?
While it’s important for a mother cat to have plenty of private time with her kittens, good post-natal care is essential. Here’s how to give your new cat family the best care possible:
- Keep a close eye on the cats. Monitor the mother and her kittens for any changes. Common health problems in kittens include:
- Intestinal worms
- Ear mites
- Upper respiratory infection
- Diarrhea due to viral pathogens
Contact your veterinarian if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Fever or low body temperature
- Decreased appetite
- Persistent whimpering or crying
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Pale gums
- Make a post-natal appointment with your veterinarian. He or she will examine each feline to ensure Mama is healing properly and the kittens are healthy and thriving.
- The vet will check for any infections, illnesses, or diseases in each kitten, and the mother may need a post-natal vaccination.
- Feed your mother cat high-quality wet food. Be sure to keep the mama cat supplied with fresh water and high-quality food, as she will need plenty of energy to nurse and care for her babies. A kitten food is usually recommended for lactation, but your vet can help recommend something suitable.
- Use non-clumping litter. Although the kittens won’t be using the litter box for the first few weeks, if Mama tracks clumping litter back to her babies, there could be problems. As a general rule, always use a non-clumping litter, at least until the kittens are done nursing.
- Change bedding daily. You’ll want to keep the nesting area clean and dry. We recommend layering towels and/or blankets to simplify this process. Try to keep at least one blanket the same after each change, as the scent is important for the kittens to feel safe.
- Prioritize flea and worm control. Ask your veterinarian about safe flea control for both Mama and her babies. It may also be recommended to worm them, as some worms can travel through the uterus or milk to infect the kittens when they’re very young.
- Handle with care. When you begin socializing the kittens, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after each handling.
- Consider spaying your cats. If you plan to get the mother cat spayed, the 5-week mark is a great time to schedule the procedure. Kittens can generally be spayed or neutered when they are two to three months old.
A Final Note on Caring for Kittens
While welcoming a new litter of kittens into your home is exciting, we understand it can be a stressful and tiring time for pet parents. Be patient with yourself as your navigate this new experience, and don’t hesitate to contact your vet if you have any questions or concerns.