What Makes Mother Cats Move Kittens?

by Betty Lewis, Demand Media
    Mother cats will often move their kittens.

    Mother cats will often move their kittens.

    If you've ever had a momma cat and kittens, chances are mom moved her babies at some point. Although you may have put together a nice, comfy nest for Missy, she may have decided to move her family elsewhere. Don't take it personally, it's not unusual behavior.

    Moving Kittens is Normal Cat Behavior

    Cats tend to be private animals, regardless of their living situation. House cats and stray or feral cats are similar in that they prefer to find a secure, safe place to have their kittens. A cat will spend some time scoping out places to give birth, and sometimes the spot she ends up in is not her first choice. In such cases, or if mom feels the place has been compromised, she may move her brood. For cats who live outdoors, reasons to move a litter may include the presence of predators (such as dogs and birds of prey) or exposure to weather.

    I Made Missy a Nice Nest, What's Wrong With It?

    You may have spent some time and effort fixing Missy a nice, cozy spot for her to deliver her babies, but don't be offended if she snubbed it. It's not unusual for a cat to have her own preferences about where the best spot is for her new babies. Most cats prefer a quiet, secure spot where she and her kittens will be left in peace. Newborn kittens are completely dependent on their mothers, and mother cats take their role very seriously.
    If Missy gave birth in a place that has a lot of noise, bright lights or foot traffic, chances are good she will search out a more secluded place. Even if she chose her birthing spot after some searching, she may decide that her litter is getting too much attention and decide to move the kittens. Common options are behind or under sofas, chairs and beds and in drawers, closets, cabinets and boxes.

    How Much Space Should I Give Mom and Babies?

    Be patient and allow Missy to care for her kittens in a quiet spot, free from interruption from children and other animals. You should make sure she has plenty of food and fresh water nearby and watch her for signs of anxiousness. If she seems anxious, she could be feeling that her kittens are not secure. Give her space and time to relax in her surroundings with her new family.

    Other Helpful Tips

    Kittens are adorable, and just about everyone loves cuddling with them. It's best to resist the temptation for a while, though, for the good of mom and her babies. If Missy is unhappy with the attention, she will move them again. It's best to assume she would like more privacy than less.
    Some believe it is best to wait about three weeks before handling kittens -- definitely do not handle them before their eyes are open. Children should be limited in their interaction with small kittens and should always have adult supervision when with the babies. Everyone should wash their hands before handling young kittens.
    If you come across a litter of stray or feral kittens outside, do not assume the mother has abandoned them or been harmed. Often the mother will be off securing food or moving the litter. It is best to wait to see if the mother returns for her kittens.

    About the Author

    Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master’s degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.

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