Do cats eat kittens?

Cats are predators…these animals are also obligate carnivores. We humans understand that our pet cats need to hunt as they need to eat the meat of mice, birds and other small animals. Cats would hunt even if they are provided with enough food as hunting is an innate habit. However, we are puzzled and disgusted when the pet cat kills and eats kittens. Yes, cats can eat their own and other cats’ kittens.

Maternal instinct comes to the fore when a cat gets pregnant and gives birth. This maternal instinct allows first time queens to know what must be done to the newborn kittens. However, hormonal imbalance can be the reason why some queens would have poorly developed maternal instinct. A queen can kill and eat the kitten if it is unable to switch off is innate hunting instinct at the sight of the helpless kittens. A cat that has not yet gone through pregnancy or has not yet given birth would not have maternal instinct. The sight, sound and the smell of the kittens will switch on the hunting instinct so that a kitten will be stolen when the queen is not around. Just like another prey, the kitten will be killed and eaten. Mother cats would eat the placentas and in doing so may continue eating the kitten. This is a situation that usually occurs if the queen is highly stressed during the parturition. A mother cat may not want to exert effort in rearing a kitten with abnormalities. The kitten may be born dead and the mother cat would eat the kitten in an effort to dispose of the carrion to prevent predators from finding the surviving kittens. The protective instinct of the mother cat can be the reason why it would eat the kittens. Cats, especially feral or stray ones would find a secluded place where they will deliver the kittens. If the nest is disturbed or discovered by humans or by other animals, and the cat has no way of protecting the litter or moving the nest to another place, a cat can kill and eat the kittens in an effort to protect the litter from the perceived threat. Cats have different personalities. Generally, cats would allow humans to handle the newborn kittens. However, some individual would kill and eat a kitten that was handled and carry the scent of humans. The scent of the queen is obscured so that the kitten is no longer recognized as her own.

Male cats are known to kill and eat kittens too. Cats have innate hunting instinct. The sight of a helpless kitten especially if the mother cat is not around would trigger the tom cat’s instinct to hunt. Cats are solitary animals but feral and stray cats commonly form organized groups. These groups are commonly dominated by females. A male cat’s role would be to mate with the females. Available female cats though will be mated by other toms. The self interest of the resident tom cat can be the reason why it would kill and eat the kittens that were fathered by other male cats. Cats have very sensitive scenting abilities. A tom cat can easily smell the distinct smell of another tom. The resident tom has two reasons for killing the kittens fathered by other cats. One is to ensure that only his offspring will be allowed to survive and to join the group. A queen that has no kittens to nurse will come into estrus in a few days. The female cat will then be mated and the tom cat will ensure that the kittens that the queen will raise are his.