Why Do Mother Cats Attack Their Older Kittens? 7 Vet-Verified Reasons

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Photo by Dr. Alice Ahau Frost

Information is based on the latest veterinary research.

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It may be surprising to see a mother cat become aggressive towards her kittens, but it’s not all that unusual. There can be many reasons why cats attack kittens. Most cases are quite normal and there’s no need to worry unless your kitten is in actual danger, but there are times when you may need to go to the vet for a checkup.

Let’s explore the possibilities.

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7 reasons why mother cats attack older kittens

1. the kittens have grown up

A mother’s role in nature is not only to feed and protect her kittens, but also to prepare them for independence. Kittens can reach sexual maturity as early as four months, and at this point the mother may feel that the kittens are ready to face the world without their guidance. She may display hostility toward them to encourage them to “fly the nest.” This is the cat’s way of showing the younger children that they can no longer rely on them.

Kitten and adult cat breed European Burmese, father and son are sitting on the background of trees.gray, brown, chocolate color
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2. she’s in heat again

Cats may return to heat soon after giving birth. It can be completed in as little as eight weeks after giving birth. If this happens, the queen may feel that it is time for her to give birth in order to prepare for the next pregnancy.

3. redirected aggression

When cats become frightened or aggressively excited by something they have seen but cannot have, they can lash out at anyone or anything closest to them. There can be a delay in reaction, so a cat that passed outside the window 30 minutes ago may cause the mother to violently attack the approaching kittens.

Cat fighting with other cats
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Four. irritation or illness

For a moment, imagine yourself in the mother cat’s shoes. While you’re trying to enjoy a well-deserved snooze, five or her six young children use you as a climbing frame and pull all sorts of pranks to get your attention. Don’t get me wrong. When a mother cat is irritated with her kittens, there is a good chance that she will lash out (stroking, hitting, biting, etc.) to try to get the kittens to back off and feel safe.

When a mother cat is unwell due to illness or injury, it is not uncommon for her to act more aggressively toward her kittens than usual. When cats are unwell, they don’t want to be interacted with and prefer to be left alone. The kittens will not understand this and will want to play and cuddle with their mother as usual, but this may trigger them to become violent as they want to leave their mother alone. For example, if a mother cat has mastitis (inflammation of the mammary glands), she may become more aggressive than normal because feeding her kittens becomes painful.

Signs of illness or pain in cats include isolation, lethargy, changes in appetite, changes in litter box environment, sudden mood changes, poor coat condition, and decreased coordination. , these are just a few examples. If you think your cat is unwell, consult your veterinarian.

Five. correct bad behavior

One of the most important lessons a kitten learns from its mother is how to properly socialize and socialize with other cats. If one of the kittens is behaving in a way that she doesn’t like, she will usually walk away to show the kitten that she won’t tolerate her stupidity.

If the kitten continues to be mischievous, the kitten will progress to vocal correction (hissing, growling, and/or meowing). If vocal correction is ineffective, use physical correction by swiping, slapping, or biting the offender. She has no intention of hurting the kitten. She is just trying to show what is acceptable and what is not.

Cats fighting on the sofa
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6. Behavior based on territoriality

Cats are territorial animals, and once the mother cat and her kittens reach sexual maturity, they exhibit territorial behavior. Adult kittens can become a threat in terms of food and other resources, including space. This is especially a problem in small homes with multiple cats. If a kitten intrudes on its mother’s favorite sleeping spot, don’t be surprised if she swings at him to remind her that this is her territory.

7. play

It’s common for cats to bite or wrestle with their mates, but in the case of a large mother cat and her kittens, it may look like aggression when it’s just play. Signs that the mother is just playing include taking turns wrestling, chasing, and jumping on each other, bouncy body language instead of firm body language, lack of vocalizations, and failure to pull out nails. .

Cat attacking another cat on the floor
Image credit: Oleg Opryshko, Shutterstock

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Should a mother cat stop attacking her older kittens?

Most of the time, no, just let her do whatever she wants. Maybe she’s just keeping the kitten in its place or teaching it proper handling. These are important lessons for kittens to learn from their mothers. You should only intervene if the mother cat appears to be really hurting the kittens, or if the attacks seem particularly vicious and prolonged.

Tips to prevent mother cat and kitten attacks

Occasional biting or stroking is normal, but if your cat attacks kittens frequently, it may be time to re-evaluate whether you’re overstepping your bounds or whether your resources are being threatened a little too often. I don’t know. Here are some tips to keep your cat happy.

  • Make sure she has enough food and water.
  • If your kitten has a habit of stealing her mother’s food, separate her from her mother while she is eating.
  • Make sure mom’s favorite spot is just for mom.
  • It provides a safe and private place for mom to retreat to when she needs it.
  • Give your kitten enough space to find its territory.
  • Reduce stress around you as much as possible.
  • If your cat is frequently aggressive, you may want to seek the help of a professional behaviorist.
  • Find homes for 8-10 week old kittens and return their territory to their mother.
  • Schedule a spay to prevent the mother cat from becoming pregnant again.

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In most cases, a mother cat will show aggression to teach her older kittens a lesson or out of a sense of territory, but this is never abnormal.

However, if this behavior becomes more frequent, it may be a sign that the mother cat is unwell, too stressed, or that the kittens need to be weaned and removed from her territory. If you think the mother cat is unwell, contact your veterinarian for advice. If your cat becomes aggressive towards kittens (especially if they are less than 8 weeks old), do not breed from that cat again and have her neutered as this behavior may recur with future kittens. is recommended.

Featured image credit: Margarett24, Shutterstock

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