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Aethelwine's avatar

What does a mother cat do when one of her kittens dies?

Asked by Aethelwine (42961points) June 23rd, 2011

Our cat had kittens a week ago. They are in a barn.

Our daughter has been checking on them and noticed one of the kittens felt cold last night and was meowing differently than the others. I told her we would check on it in the morning. Now the kitten has disappeared.

How do I explain this to my daughter? Did the mother take it away somewhere? Did the father? Did a wild animal possibly take it?

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24 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Sometimes they eat it. Most often they will just abandon it, though. She may have taken it away from the other kittens if she is in the same spot and the kitten isn’t.

Another animal could take it, but I doubt a wild animal would have gotten that close to the kittens without you hearing a serious ruckus. The queen wouldn’t let a potential threat that close to her young.

Aethelwine's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf She was standing guard when we checked this morning. I knew something was up then.


ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@jonsblond yeah, it is sad when that happens. It’s a toss up between eating the remains and moving it away from the others, but let’s just assume the latter since it doesn’t sound quite as bad.

FutureMemory's avatar

I would guess that she ate it.

Plucky's avatar

Usually, when a cat abandons one of her kittens, it means the kitten was most likely sick. This is actually quite common. Sometimes the illness is noticeable to us, and sometimes it’s not. She will not care for a kitten that she senses won’t make it she has other healthier kittens to care for. Often, the mother will eat the sick one. Other times, she will simply abandon it. Cats are very instinctual.

Not all cats are great mothers (especially new moms). However, if this was the case, she would have abandoned the whole litter.

Hibernate's avatar

First of all the mother won’t eat the kid so you could feel some relief here.
[ if she was to eat one she wouldn’t stop at one .. or you’d see this happening in the past since it’s not the first time she had kittens… or you’d keep her under supervision and not let her alone :) ]

Maybe he died and the mother took him away or just like you said another animal.

Plucky's avatar

@Hibernate Mother cats eating one, or all, of her kittens is a very common (and normal) behaviour.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Hibernate sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but @PluckyDog is absolutely right. It does happen.

Aethelwine's avatar

My daughter is going to love this story~

The girl needs to know though. She does live on a farm.

A whole kitten in one night though? Is that why daddy is meowing at the window now like he’s starved? I need to go check their food dish. ;)

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@jonsblond if it is any consolation, I was probably about her age when I learned the same lesson. I turned out reasonably okay… depending on who you ask. ;)

Aethelwine's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf you’re a morbid freak you’re cool :)

Hibernate's avatar

You take it to the letter ,,, IF [ but it’s less likely to be true ] it’s the first time then it’s possible but it’s not the first time the cat has kittens.

Then again I did not say it does not happen but you did not read the part about being first time.

The mother cat does not let the father cat to be near the kittens so the father eating them is again less likely to be true.

But then again it does not matter.

bkcunningham's avatar

I’ve been around dozens of litters of kittens. I have never heard of a cat eating a kitten. Sometimes cats aren’t very attentive mothers or will reject a newborn kitten that they instinctively know isn’t going to live. But a cat eating a kitten? Never heard anything like that before in my life.

Blondesjon's avatar

Confession time.

I ate the kitten. Now, before you all freak out, have any of you ever tried baby cat? It’s delicious.

tastes like kitten

Aster's avatar

I’ve only heard of dogs killing their puppies if they think the puppies have been picked up and played with after birth to excess by humans.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Here is a piece of a long post from another site. The poster says that she has done research on this.

Some kittens are born with abnormalities that humans cannot detect. For this reason they may not thrive, they may even act or smell ‘wrong’ to the queen. Where one or two kittens are either killed or abandoned, these kittens are often found to be somehow ‘faulty’. The mother simply does not want to waste energy on raising kittens that have little chance of survival. In addition, she has expended a lot of energy during pregnancy and she may eat all or part of some of these kittens in an attempt to recoup some of those losses (just as she eats placentas) and to dispose of ‘carrion’ that could potentially lead predators to her nest. The same goes for kittens which have an illness – she can smell the problem, humans cannot. Source

Plucky's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer The original source for that material is British author Sarah Hartwell. She runs a website called Her article can be found here. :)

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@PluckyDog Thank you! Yikes! I wonder if I should flag my post now.

blessedmom5k's avatar

Just want to say, we personally (unfortunately) witnessed our cat eating her stllborn kitten. We had wrapped itin a towel and put it on our dresser so we couold be bury it in the morning (it was late) and my husband woke up in the middle of the night to something wet on his knee. It as the head of the kitten she was gnawing on. Yeah. Disgusting. Kitty Godfather over here. I try not to think about it but I know it DOES happen….obviously.

bkcunningham's avatar

@jonsblond‘s kitten that disappeared was a week old though. Do you think the cat would eat a week old kitten?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@bkcunningham I agree with your question and wondered the same thing. We had a pair of gerbils that killed/ate their babies right after they were born (first batch). For a kitten a week old, it seems doubtful. Kill and cart off? Yes. Eat? Surely not.

A friend and I were walking around a lake one day and witnessed a disturbance in the water. Upon closer inspection, it was a mother duck with a whole bunch of ducklings attempting to drown one of her brood by jumping on it. We finally noticed that it appeared to have a broken neck, probably from an attack of another critter. As horrifying as it was, there was a bit of nature’s instinctual beauty in it.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Oh, wait, I missed the part about them being a week old. I doubt that it was eaten.

bkcunningham's avatar

I’ve seen a mother cat continue to nudge and lick her newly born dead kitten after cleaning it. She’d nibble at the cord and genitals area trying to get it to meow and rouse. It would have almost seemed that she was eating the kitten in her frenzied attempt to make it show signs of life. As the next kitten was born, the mother would still devote a little nudge to the dead kitten knowing something wasn’t right. After the entire litter was born, she tried to move her babies to a new location; including the dead baby. She finally abandoned the dead kitten and devoted her time to the hungry kittens who needed her attention.

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