Newborn kittens are delicate creatures, and their mother cats usually know exactly what to do in order to keep them healthy and comfortable. Human caretakers, if available on the scene, just need to be around to provide helping hands should any problems arise. Kitten rearing generally isn't a male cat's strongest suit.
Within the world of domestic cats, fathers definitely don't have big roles in looking after their offspring. The duties of caring for kittens lie squarely on the mother cats' shoulders. From nursing the wee babies to strong health to showing them how to hunt and retrieve food on their own, queens do essentially all of the work in raising their youngsters. The aim of male cats is different -- to move their DNA all around and keep their characteristics alive and strong for generations to come.
Although mama cats definitely do most of the work in managing litters, father cats, if around, do occasionally spend time with their kittens, although not often. Tomcats not only sometimes engage in fun-loving play sessions with the little furballs, they also sometimes help to groom them, licking them to cleanliness and brimming health. Although these behaviors are extremely uncommon, they are not nonexistent.
Although some father cats may be completely harmless around their newborn kittens, it may be smart to keep them away, just for caution's sake. Some tomcats have attacked and killed their own offspring as a means of getting the busy mother cats to focus on them -- and then go back into estrus for mating purposes. Tomcats also sometimes kill kittens that have different fathers -- a way of eliminating living proof of the rival fathers' DNA. Since newborn kittens do not require paternal assistance, there is no need to have the father cats -- or any other male cats, for that matter -- around.
Help from Other Females
Although tomcats generally aren't too helpful in kitten rearing, mother cats do frequently get assistance from other mature females, thankfully. Female cats occasionally help raise kittens from other mothers by grooming the little ones, being attentive to them as their mothers are away hunting for food and even sometimes delivering food themselves.
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.
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Felis catus
- The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat; John W.S. Bradshaw, Rachel A. Casey and Sarah L. Brown
- Cat Watching; Desmond Morris
- Animals Make Us Human; Temple Grandin
- The Everything Cat Book; Karen Leigh Davis