Mother's Behavior toward Kittens

by Bridget Coila, Demand Media
    A new mother cat will be focused entirely on her kittens.

    A new mother cat will be focused entirely on her kittens.

    When your cat has kittens, her personality may seem to undergo a change, but she's just acting as any mother would. While she still adores you, her owner, she needs to focus on her babies for the short time that they are young in order to ensure their survival.

    Immediately after Birth

    Right after she gives birth, a mother cat's entire attention is on her new kittens. After cleaning off the afterbirth that clings to the newborns, the mother licks and nudges her kittens to show them where her nipples are so they can start nursing. She also licks their hindquarters to stimulate the kittens to defecate, and cleans them up with her tongue.

    Early Kitten Care

    In the early weeks of their lives, kittens are entirely dependent on their mother. The new mom will display protective behavior, and may hiss or growl at other pets or people who come near her babies. If she feels nervous or threatened, she may move the kittens to another, more secluded, area of the home. Providing your cat and her kittens with a quiet, calm environment is the best way you can help her take care of her kittens during this phase of their lives.

    Teaching Lessons

    As her kittens get older and start exploring their world, a mother cat takes on the role of teacher as well as nurturer. At about 4 to 6 weeks of age, kittens need to learn how to use a litter box and interact with other cats. The mother teaches her kittens these skills. She may also teach them how to hunt, and eventually weans the kittens by gradually reducing their access to her milk. As the kittens grow and become more independent, she continues to watch over them and intervene when they get too rowdy or display inappropriate behaviors.

    Developing Relationships

    Once a kitten is a few months old, his individual feline personality has begun to emerge. At this point, if the kitten is still in the same household, he and the mother cat can start to develop the foundations for their eventual adult feline relationship. Some mother cats and kittens maintain a close loving relationship into adulthood, while others become rivals for food and affection in the household.

    References

    About the Author

    Bridget Coila has been writing professionally since 1998 and specializes in health, nutrition, pregnancy, pet and parenting topics. Some of her articles have appeared in "Oxygen," "American Fitness" and on various websites. Coila has a Bachelor of Science in cell and molecular biology from the University of Cincinnati and more than 10 years of medical research experience.

    Photo Credits

    • George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images