Why Does Mother Cat Move Only One Kitten? (Explanations)

Why Does Mother Cat Move Only One Kitten

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:

cat mother moving her kittens often

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?

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.

In Summary

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.

8 thoughts on “Why Does Mother Cat Move Only One Kitten? (Explanations)”

  1. our outside cat just gave birth, she had three kittens (like they literally just came) one of them is a little farther off from the others and the others are being bathed by the mother, it started crying and whining and the mom leaned over licked it and then went back to the others, is there anything i can do to help it?

    1. I recently just took in a stray cat and found out she was pregnant not to long ago . She just had 5 kittens 3 days ago and recently just started moving one under the bed and she lays and feeds it .. I tried putting the kitten back with the other but she keeps moving the same one , what dose that mean and what should I do?

      1. Hi Brittney what happened to the one she kept moving. My cat had kittens 5 days ago and the other day she started moving one out and leaving it on the floor and feeding it. Idk how much longer I can keep up with always putting it back.

        1. Texas foster mama here- I too took in a stray pregnant outdoor cat who had five kittens and she keeps moving the same one. Can’t tell really if something was wrong with it but now she has moved it far away somewhere and she has not returned for the other ones – Mother Nature is savage and heartbreaking sometimes but that one im sure I can’t save – im focusing on the remaining ones and praying she returns to nurse them.

  2. My stray mother cat had 4 babies one did not make it they are a day over a week old she has taken one and moved it and stays with it and leaves the other 2 in the box with heat lamp they seem content she is a great hider as she is in a room in our barn cant get out but with out moving things and stressing her we cant find her what do i do

  3. Momma cat had 6 kittens. She has been a great mom and the kittens are all active and healthy looking. Today she moved 3 of them. She moved them in to a stack of tires and it is really hot. I moved them back together and she moved them back again. They are crying and she wont tend to them. I dont know what to do. I cant afford a vet for 3 babies and they are crying and it hurts my heart!

    1. Buy kitten milk replacement and the necessary bottles. Feed them at least every 1-2 hours, how much at a time depends on their body weight and age. Keep them warm preferably in a box with a warm blanket.

  4. My friends cats had 2 liters back to back the 1 adult cat jumped in with other adult cat n began her journey to mother hood now weeks later the mother cat moving the kitten behind friends chair not once but,twice

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