Why Do Mother Cats Attack Their Older Kittens? Experts Findings

Mother Cats Attack Their Older Kittens

Mother cats are known for being nurturing and protective toward their kittens. However, it can be alarming and confusing for cat owners when a mother cat suddenly becomes aggressive with her offspring, especially when they are newborns or getting old. This behavior can range from aggressive attacks to ignoring or rejecting the kittens. So why do mother cats attack their older kittens?

Experts Findings

  1. She wants the kitten to build its territory
  2. There are limited food and shelter resources
  3. She establishes her dominance and asserts her authority over them
  4. Some mother cats have a naturally more aggressive temperament
  5. To train the kitten for weaning
  6. Stress and Anxiety are making her aggressive
  7. The mother cat is in pain or discomfort due to illness or injury
  8. She is a first time mother

In this blog post, we will delve into the possible reasons why mother cats attack their older kittens and what you can do to address and prevent this behavior.

Why Do Mother Cats Attack Their Older Kittens?

There could be several reasons a mother cat may attack her older kittens. Here are some possible explanations:

Why Do Mother Cats Attack Their Older Kittens?

1) Enforcing The Kitten To Build Its Territory

The mama cat may attack her kittens to encourage them to find their territory and seek independent living.

As kittens grow and become more self-sufficient, they start exploring their surroundings.

This can be stressful for the mother cat, who may feel that her territory is being infringed upon.

By attacking her kittens, the mother cat signals they must establish their own territory or litter box and learn to fend for themselves.

This behavior is natural and helps prepare the kittens for adulthood, but it can be distressing for owners.

If you are concerned about your cat’s behavior, it’s essential to seek the advice of a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

2) Limited Food And Shelter Resources

Limited food and shelter resources can make a feline tense for its dependent kittens.

Felines often compete for resources such as food, water, and shelter. If the mother cat observes limited resources, she may become more aggressive towards her kittens to ensure she and her offspring can access the resources they need to survive.

This behavior may also be exacerbated if the mother cat is stressed or malnourished, which can cause her to be more protective of her needs.

3) To Train The Kitten For Weaning

As kittens age, they rely less on their mother’s milk and begin eating solid food.

The mom cat may become more aggressive towards her kittens to encourage them to eat independently and eventually wean them. Read Cat Weaning Guide.

Train The Kitten For Weaning

4) Establishing Dominance

Cats are naturally territorial animals, and a mother cat may attack her older kitten to establish her dominance and assert her authority over them.

As kittens age, they become more independent and may challenge their mother’s authority. This can be stressful for the mother cat, who may feel that her position as the dominant member of the group is being threatened

By attacking her older kittens, the mother cat sends a clear message that she is in charge and that her offspring must respect her authority.

While this behavior can be concerning to witness, it is a natural part of cat behavior and helps maintain the group’s social order.

5) Aggressive Mom

Some mom cats may be naturally more aggressive and attack their babies without reason. Various factors, including genetic predisposition, previous negative experiences, and environmental stressors, can cause aggressive cat behavior.

Understanding the underlying causes of cat aggression can help cat owners provide the best possible care for their pets and ensure their safety and well-being.

6) Stress And Anxiety

Feline stress and anxiety are the leading cause of many feline abnormal behaviors.

According to pet experts, mother cats can attack their kittens when they feel stressed or anxious.

7) Illness Or Injury

If a mother cat is sick or injured, she may become more irritable and lash out at her kittens.

Cats instinctively protect their young; if the mother cat is in pain or discomfort, she may become more aggressive towards her kittens to defend herself.

ill mom cat with kittens

8) Unexperienced Mom Cat

Witnessing a first-time mom cat attacking her kittens can be alarming and distressing. However, it’s essential to understand that this mothering behavior is not necessarily uncommon or abnormal.

Sometimes, a mother cat may become stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, leading to aggressive behavior toward her kittens. This could be due to a lack of experience, illness, or external stressors.

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Tips To Stop A Mom Cat From Attacking Their Kittens

cat angry on kitten
  • If a mother cat is attacking her babies to enable them to find their territory, providing enough space to move around and explore is essential.
  • Introduce toys and play areas to keep them occupied and gradually increase their time away from their mother.
  • It’s necessary to provide adequate food and shelter for both the mother and her kittens. Ensure the mother cat has access to clean water and high-quality cat food. 
  • Provide the kittens with a warm, comfortable, and safe environment.
  • Provide soft and easily digestible food to make transitioning from nursing to solid food more accessible.
  • If the mother feline is attacking her little kittens to establish dominance, separate them and allow them to interact with their mother under close supervision.
  • If the feline friend is generally aggressive towards her kittens, separate them and seek the help of a veterinarian or a professional animal behaviorist.
  • Try to reduce the stressors and provide a calming environment for the mama cat and her kittens.
  • Provide a safe and quiet place for the mother cat to retreat if she feels overwhelmed.
  • If the mother cat is ill or injured, it may cause her to become more aggressive. Seek veterinary care as soon as possible and ensure the mother cat and her kittens have a clean and comfortable living environment.
  • If the mother feline is an inexperienced or first-time mother, provide support and guidance throughout the process.
  • Seek advice from a veterinarian or an experienced breeder to ensure the mother and her kittens are well cared for.


How long does maternal aggression last in cats?

Maternal aggression in cats can last from a few days to several weeks. The duration of maternal aggression can depend on various factors, such as the mother cat’s personality, age, the number of kittens, and the environment.

In general, maternal aggression tends to be most severe in the first few days after the kittens are born, as the mother cat is fiercely protective of her young.

The mother’s aggression typically decreases as the kittens grow older and become more independent.

When the kittens are weaned and ready to leave their mother, maternal aggression usually subsides completely.

How do I know if my cat is hurting my kitten?

If you suspect your cat is hurting your kitten, monitoring their interactions closely and looking for signs of aggression or injury is essential.

Aggressive behavior, such as hissing, growling, swatting, or biting, indicates that the cat may be hurting the kitten. Excessive grooming of the kitten by the cat may also be a sign of an attempt to control or assert dominance.

Look for scratches, bite marks, or injuries on the kitten’s body that the cat may have caused. If the kitten seems afraid of the cat or avoids it altogether, this may also indicate that the cat is hurting the kitten.

In such cases, it’s crucial to separate the cat and kitten and seek advice from a veterinarian or an animal behaviorist to address the behavior and ensure the kitten’s safety.

How long will it take for my cat to stop hissing at my new kitten?

The time it takes for a cat to stop hissing at a new kitten can vary depending on several factors, such as the cat’s personality, age, and past experiences.

Sometimes, it can take only a few days for the cat to adjust and accept the new kitten, while in other cases, it may take weeks or even months.Unexperienced Mom Cat

Final Thoughts

OK, so why do mother cats sometimes attack their older kittens?

The reasons behind a mother cat’s aggressive behavior towards her older kittens can vary.

It could be due to natural instincts to encourage independence and survival skills or a response to stress, illness, or discomfort.

As pet owners, it is essential to understand these behaviors and take steps to provide a safe and comfortable environment for both the mother cat and her kittens.

By observing their behavior and providing appropriate care, we can ensure that our feline companions lead happy and healthy lives.

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