Do cats eat their kittens?

Cats indeed have different personalities. Some cats would continue to care for the kittens until they are close to maturity. Other cats would abandon days-old kittens thus care would be left to the hands of the cat owners. Other cats would kill their kittens. But the worst thing a cat owner would see is a pet that is eating its kittens. This distressing situation occurs. We know cats to be obligate carnivores. Cats also have the inherent ability to hunt. However, it is rather inconceivable for these animals to eat their own kittens. Why do cats eat their young?

The hunting instinct

Eating their own kittens can happen in a household where the pet tom cat has fathered the litter. Tom cats do not really contribute to the rearing of the kittens. Cats have very sensitive scenting abilities. A tom cat that has smelled the scent of another tom while the queen is in heat may decide that the litter is fathered by another. There would be no remorse in killing and eating the kittens that were considered as prey. The size, the movements as well as the sound of the kittens would not be too different from the cat’s usual prey thus just like any other prey, the kittens will be killed and eaten. Maternal instinct is usually developed by a pregnant cat. This maternal instinct though may not be enough to override the inherent hunting ability. The queen will view the kittens as another prey and therefore would be killed and eaten.

Protection/survival

The disgusting (at least to us humans) behavior of eating the kittens can be the mother cat’s way of protecting the young. Cats would find a secure place where it will deliver its litter. Perceived threat from humans and from predators would make the queen transfer the kittens to another location. If the cat is confined and it is not possible to relocate the litter, some cats would simply kill and eat the kittens. Experts attribute this situation to the cat’s frustrated instinct to protect the kittens. Kitten deaths naturally occur for various reasons. The smell of the carrion would draw predators to the nest. Queens would therefore need to dispose of the dead kitten to protect the surviving litter. The queen can relocate the nest or move the dead kitten away. Another way by which the queen would protect the kittens from predators within smelling distance is to eat the kitten. The queen’s pregnancy and delivery may be ill-timed. Kittens born at the time when food is scarce like mid-winter would have a poor chance of survival. Mother cats that cannot find food for themselves would eat the kittens. This situation usually occurs in feral and stray cats. In some cases, only weak kittens will be eaten. By reducing the number of kittens that have to be nursed, the litter would have a better chance of surviving.

Difficult pregnancy and parturition

Difficult pregnancy and parturition can result to a highly stressed queen. It is also possible for the kittens to have abnormalities. Abnormalities of the kitten that cannot be noticed by the pet parents will certainly be noticed by the queen. A mother cat would not was time and effort nursing and caring for a kitten that has a very poor chance of survival. Mother cats that find it impossible to successfully save the kittens would decide to kill them instead. A stressed mother would want to recoup energy lost during the pregnancy and lost nutrients spent in nursing the litter. The queen will then eat the kittens to reabsorb the nutrients so that it can regain health and attain breeding condition at the soonest possible time.

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