What Can Happen If a Kitten Gets Separated Too Early?

Ideally, this adorable kitten should stay with his mother until he is twelve weeks old.
i Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Kittens, with their sweet and adorable faces, are hard to resist. Those tiny paws and gentle meows can create the urge to scoop them up and take them home, but not so fast! They must be given time to develop before being separated from their mother and litter mates.

Fearful Nature

Socialization for a kitten begins with Mama Cat. A kitten learns much of her behavior toward people and other animals based on her mother's responses to them. By playing with her litter mates, a kitten begins her journey in understanding social cues. If this important window of time is missed and she is taken from her mother and litter mates too soon, a timid and fearful personality may result.

Rough Play

By playing with her litter mates, a kitten learns how to play and develop that playful kitten cuteness to its full capacity. She also learns how far to go in playing, such as how hard it's OK to bite. When separation occurs too soon, a kitten will not pick up on these cues. She may even have a bite that breaks the skin, simply because she never learned the difference between playfulness and roughness.

Illness and Low Weight

Kittens depend on their mother's milk to grow into strong, healthy cats. Without his mother's milk, a kitten may be at an increased risk of getting sick and being underweight. Lacking sufficient antibodies in his system, he may not develop or grow at a normal rate. Bottle-feeding is always an option for kittens separated from their mother too soon, but kitten formula cannot replace Mama Cat's milk or the antibodies within it that serve as a shield against disease.

Litter Box Accidents

A kitten's mother not only nourishes him and helps him properly develop, but she also teaches him how to be a cat. She teaches him the oh-so-important skill of using the litter box. A kitten learns this skill best from his very own mother and separating him too soon makes it more difficult for him to catch on.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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