Your mother cat's instincts begin to guide her on the care of her kittens even before they are born. Instincts will continue to tell her when she needs to watch over her tiny babies with constant care and when it's time to give them independence to explore the wide world.
As her delivery time draws near, your mother cat may hide in dark, quiet and secluded areas. Her instinct is telling her to find a safe place in which she can give birth to and care for her kittens. Some mother cats become aggressive toward other pets and people as the birth gets closer. This is her instinct telling her to drive away anyone who might threaten her or her babies when they are at their most vulnerable.
As the kittens are born, they will be delivered inside an amniotic sac. Your mother cat's instinct will tell her to begin licking the sac to break it open. Once the sac is broken, the mother cat will lick her newborn baby to stimulate his breathing and circulation. She will then sever the umbilical cord and guide her baby to her nipples where he will begin nursing even before his other brothers and sister are born.
Your mother cat's instincts tell her that her newborn babies are completely dependent on her. She will rarely leave them during their first few weeks. This is because they cannot keep themselves warm and she must regulate their body temperatures. She knows she has to stimulate them with licking in order for them to urinate and defecate. She also will instinctively swallow their waste so predators will be less likely to find them.
Her instincts also tell her when it's time to begin letting go. Within a few weeks, the babies who were born blind, deaf and completely dependent on her will begin to run, climb and wrestle with their brothers and sisters. Your mother cat will know when it is time to begin weaning the kittens from her milk and introducing them solid foods. Her instincts will tell her to let her babies explore a little further from her watchful eye. She may remove herself from the rough and tumble activities of her kittens but be nearby to intervene if someone needs to be reminded to play nice.
Bethney Foster is social justice coordinator for Mercy Junction ministry, where she edits the monthly publication "Holy Heretic." She is also an adoption coordinator with a pet rescue agency. Foster spent nearly two decades as a newspaper reporter/editor. She graduated from Campbellsville University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English, journalism and political science.