If you have a litter of kittens and a proud mother cat at home, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s an amazing experience. Watching how a mother behaves and interacts with her kittens is fascinating, and sometimes confusing.
Some cats will move their litter from time-to-time. While some will move just one kitten. If you’re experiencing this with your cat, here’s everything you need to know about why mother cats move their offspring:
Why does mother cat move only one kitten? It’s rare, but there are a few reasons for this behavior. It often means mother cat thinks there is something wrong with the kitten so she’s separating it from the nest.
To better understand why mother cats move their babies, here are some of the reasons to explain this behavior:
You’re Disturbing Them Too Often
It’s hard not to keep checking in on a mother and her newborn kittens. They are so cute, aren’t they? I bet you’ve shown a few friends too… popping in a little more often than mother cat would like.
If she thinks you’re disturbing her and her kittens too often, there’s a chance she will up and move them. Of course, she’s not completely aware that you’ll just find her new spot. But, it’s a sign that she wants a little more privacy and peace.
They Have Outgrown Their Space
Those little kittens grow up fast. Most cats nest into a snug little space as they are about to give birth, and within a few weeks, they need to move somewhere more spacious.
Most mother cats move their kittens at around 3-4 weeks due to this reason. If you want to be proactive, you can try and set up a nice big box with blankets and help her out. There’s no guarantee she’ll use it though.
I used a large dog cage we have here when we had our last litter. I kitted it out with some soft bedding, put food and water bowls in the corner, and left the door open. She checked it out a couple of times, then one morning when I woke she was in there with her babies!
It’s Her Natural Instinct to Protect Her Young
In the wild, cats move their young as a way to protect them from predators. It’s a natural, instinctual thing, and like a lot of other behaviors, it’s something domestic cats will also do.
All you can do is minimize the disruptions and provide blankets, food, and water near wherever she moves. She shouldn’t move her litter more than once a week. At least, I’ve never heard of a cat moving this frequently.
As kittens start to wean off their mothers, she will often move them nearer a food source too. This is completely normal, so don’t be surprised if you come downstairs one morning to find all your cats huddled up near their food bowls.
But Why Does Mother Cat Separate One Kitten from the Others?
It’s sad when it happens, but one of the main reasons why a mother cat moves or separates one kitten from the others is because she thinks it’s ill or has some form of defect.
You can try taking the kitten back to the nest if there is nothing visibly wrong with it. Sometimes the mother will care for it like she does her others. If she moves it again, however, you need to take the kitten to a vet to be checked out.
The sad truth about kittens and their survival rate is that around 10% of kitten die before 8-weeks. This is mainly due to birth defects, diseases, infections, and not getting enough nutrition from their mothers.
Cats are very perceptive and will separate a kitten if they think it’s sick to avoid affecting the other kittens.
What Should You Do When Mother Separates a Kitten?
If your cat is separating one of her kittens, here are some things you can do to help:
Kitten Care – The first time it happens, make sure the kitten is somewhere safe and warm. There is a chance she will be bringing the others and making a new nest.
I’ve written up some articles on kitten care here.
Give It Back – If 12 or so hours have passed and there are no visible signs there is something wrong with the kitten you can try and return it to mother. Keep a close eye on how the mother interacts with the kitten. If she’s not accepting it, you’ll need to remove it.
Take to a vet – If the mother cat is rejecting a kitten and removing it from her nest and abandoning it, you need to take it to a vet asap. As I explained, it’s likely because the mother intuitively knows there is something wrong with the kitten.
Hopefully, this post has helped to answer, ‘why does mother cat move only one kitten?’
It’s one of the most exciting and fascinating things watching a cat give birth, then care for her new babies. If she’s separating one of her young because there is something wrong, I do hope you can get them the care and attention needed.
But, hopefully it’s just a case of a mother being confused and nothing serious. Sometimes new moms hide or put their kittens somewhere safe, and manage to forget where they’ve put them. It happens.
If you’ve experienced any of these behaviors with your mother cat I’d like to hear about it. Just drop a comment below, thanks.