It's an exciting time for us humans when our cat has a litter of kittens. This special time is equally as scary and nerve-wracking for the mother cat. Her instincts tell her that she must protect her litter at all costs, which can make some of her actions appear strange.
Aggression toward Humans
Even the gentlest, most good-natured kitty can suddenly become a hissing, growling maniac when she becomes a mother. Momma cats are the only protection their newborn babies have, and they will go to extremes to keep the kittens safe. Even the sweetest pet cat sometimes has a hard time understanding that her people don't want to harm her babies. Most moms, especially first-time ones, will display aggression toward any person who comes too close to her kittens. The behavior may seem unusual for your sweet feline friend, but it is completely natural and will subside as the kittens get older.
Aggression toward Other Cats
They may have been the best of buddies since birth, playing and sharing every moment together, but the minute one cat becomes a mom, she usually wants nothing to do with any other cats. She may chase the other cat off, even if he's nowhere near her kittens. This is because male cats will often kill kittens, and the momma wants to make sure her babies are totally safe. Just as with human aggression, her tolerance of other cats will return as the kittens grow older and are able to fend for themselves.
Some cats move their kittens nearly every day, while others only do it if they get frightened or disturbed. Either way, moving kittens around to different locations is normal behavior. Out in the wild, moving kittens helps hide them from predators who might locate the babies by their scent. Domestic cats still have that same urge to move their kittens and may transfer them out of the nice nest box you've provided to a quiet, dark location such as the corner of a closet. Let the mom move the kittens as often as she wants, and try not to disturb her nest, so that she might not want to move them so much.
Calling to Kittens
Once the kittens start wandering out on their own, you may hear the momma cat making mewing noises. She is calling out to her kittens to make sure they don't wander too far. When she calls, she is expecting the kittens to come back to her. If they don't, she may start giving louder and more distressed calls. If your momma cat is wailing loudly, check to make sure none of her babies has become trapped somewhere behind a closed door or cupboard.
Mother cats can be very gentle with their kittens, grooming them and nudging them into the nest. They can also sometimes appear to be quite mean, hissing at them or batting them away. Unless the momma cat is causing serious injury to the kittens, which is not normal, let her deal with them in her own way. Kittens learn the social skills they will use for the rest of their lives from their mother and siblings. She teaches them what is and isn't acceptable for one cat to do to another. When a kitten gets out of line, she may swat or hiss at him to let him know that he needs to change his behavior.
- John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images