how long does it take for a mother cat to forget her kittens

How Long Does It Take for a Mother Cat to Forget Her Kittens?

You might get overwhelmed with emotions at first sight of a mother cat whose kittens have just been taken away. Even though she’s yet to realize it, she might never see her babies again. And all she can do is cry around in search of her tiny kittens. So, how long does it take for a mother cat to forget her kittens?

It takes about 10 weeks for a mother cat to forget her kittens. After 10 weeks from birth, kittens are usually ready and weaned to be sent to a new home. By that time, the mother cat must have taught her kittens how to survive without her motherly care. Nonetheless, when her kittens are moved, your cat may display some signs of missing them – crying and searching the entire house.

However, do you know you might be reading those signs wrongly? Mother cats are remarkably attentive moms. A mother cat grooms her babies, teaches them how to survive, and purrs when they rub bodies. It’s almost impossible to imagine her forgetting them. But she will. If she’s separated from her kittens, they’ll become estranged. So, all that crying around the house might be for the reason you think.

How long does it take for a mother cat to forget her kittens? 10 weeks, as earlier mentioned. But there are other things to keep in mind to understand how a mother cat and her kittens’ separation works.

Do mother cats get sad when their kittens leave?
Image by Dim Hou from Pixabay

Do Mother Cats Get Sad When Their Kittens Leave?

While mother cats are super protective of their kittens at first, they eventually start weaning them after 4 weeks. Then at 10–12-week-old, the kittens will be fully weaned and ready for a new home. So, when your cat’s kittens are moved far away from her, she may not get upset.

After her kittens are moved, she may feel lonely and meow a lot while searching the house, hoping to get a response. After a couple of days of searching, when she realizes that they are truly gone, she’ll move on, and the searching and meowing will reduce.

Meanwhile, it may seem cruel to us humans, but if we think about it, we’ll understand. Kittens often need another home of their own. As soon as they grow up, the females will search for partners to mate, while the males try to expand their territory to breed more.

Your feline pet gave birth to a litter of kittens, and as it is, those tiny cuties are ready to be moved to another home of their own. While worrying about what mom cat will handle losing her babies, remember this: it’s totally natural for kittens to leave the nest; no need to feel bad about it. Do mother cats get sad when their kittens leave? Not exactly, but she’ll miss them for a few days.

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About Moving Your Cat’s Kittens

While you’re feeling bad about mother cat losing her babies, she might be considering when next she’s going out after a long stay indoors to wean her cuties. She misses them, but she’s not as hurt as you may think. That’s their nature – her kittens are close to being big girls, so they can do fairly well without their mama. Let’s break it down:

Empty Nest

When her kitties first move, normally, your cat may get a little upset. This typically happens for a couple of days, and then she’ll return to her usual routine. It’s not cold for her leg so quickly, and it’s only natural. Her kittens will move to have their own lives, eventually birthing kittens of their own.

The kittens are most times which we should be a bit bothered about, at least for the first few days. In some cases, a kitten may seem depressed or refuse to eat for some days for not seeing his mom.

Sticking Around

If you let them, the mom and her kittens will remain together. And with time, their bond will grow stronger. Far into adulthood, Mom may bring her babies scraps of food and still groom them. Cats typically form a large social group, normally consisting of a mother cat and her kittens, as well as other offspring they might have had.

These social groups stay together to raise the new litters of kittens. The group usually includes only female cats since the males leave for their own nest and territory.

Weaning Kittens  

At around 4 weeks old, mom will begin to wean her babies. She’ll teach them how to hunt for food and expects them to start taking solid food instead of depending on suckling. She may even growl at them when they try to suckle to encourage them to get food elsewhere.

Sometimes, she may move her kittens to an area closer to her favorite hunting spot or the food dish to give her babies easy access to food. After 10 to 12 weeks, the kittens must have been fully weaned and ready to be moved away from their mother.

Stranger to Mom

For humans, no matter how long a mother stays away from her child, she’ll still easily recognize him. But that’s not the case with kitties. A mom cat and her kittens’ nesting together have a unique smell that they all recognize. So, once her babies are separated from her for a long time, that smell gets lost.

Her kittens will have a different smell from their new home. And if her baby is brought back to her after a long time, she’ll treat her as another stranger. It’s also the same for cat siblings. Their recognition for one another fades away when they are separated, and they become strangers.

Do kittens miss their mom?
Image by Sofia Kostova from Pixabay

Do Mother Cats Remember Their Kittens?

It’s always exciting for us humans when our kitty has a litter of kittens. This special period is equally as nerve-wracking and scary for the mother cat. Her instincts tell her that she needs to protect her babies at all costs, which might make some of her behaviors appear strange.

Mother cats are super protective and attentive towards their babies. They groom them when they are little and gives them survival skills. It is very difficult to imagine that they’ll forget each other, but that is what will happen in reality. Mother cats forget and let go of their babies once they are moved for a long time. 

The major reason behind this is their mutual scent. Cats recognize things and remember them via smells. That is why they always leave their scents behind. You must have seen your kitty rubbing her face and body against inanimate objects, walls, or even you. She is doing that to mark her territory so that she can always tell that she’s on her turf. It is also a warning and signal for other cats.

How Long Does It Take for a Kitten to Forget Her Mother?

Mom cats and their kittens have a very strong bond. As soon as her kittens are born, mama cat will develop an enormous sense of motherly love towards her kittens. It’s always hard to think that one day soon they’ll ‘forget’ each other.

A kitten is reliant on his mother for the first few months of his life. A Kitten should NEVER be separated from his mother earlier than his 8th week. If a kitten is separated too early, there’s a huge chance that he’ll not become a well-adjusted adult cat. 

Kittens who are separated from their mamas too early will not only experience nutritional deficiencies, but they’ll also most likely have behavioral issues. That’s because kittens can only learn how to be good cats from their moms.

When kittens are separated from their moms, both they and their moms will miss themselves for several days. However, the longer the time a cat spent with her kittens, the lesser time she’ll need to move on. In a few days, mama cat will go back to her normal routine and, with time, birth another litter of kittens.

Although it might seem horrific for humans to be separate, mother and child, it’s not the same for kitties. That is why cats start to wean their kittens early, and by the 12th week, they’ll be fully ready to move on to another home.

Do kittens miss their mom?
Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

Is it a bad idea to separate a kitten from her mother?

Mother cats control the life of their kittens for the initial few months of their lives. Then the kittens learn to live independently after that time.

Nevertheless, you should not separate a kitten from his mom when he’s still being weaned. Mother cats generally begin their weaning process after four weeks from birth and finish it by 12 weeks. If you separate the mother’s kittens during that period, the kittens might become malnutritional and not live up to becoming a well-adjusted cat.

A kitten gets all his nutrients from his mama for the first few weeks, and he cannot digest any other type of food asides from his mother’s milk.

But if you remove the kittens away at the right time, the mama cat will return to her carefree self in a few days.

It is usually harder for the kittens to adjust to a new home, and they’ll miss their siblings and mother. If that is the case with your new kitten, spend enough time as possible to make him feel at home.

Introducing the new guy to other felines in the house can be helping him feel comfortable and adjust faster.

How to Comfort a Crying Kitten?

The first thing to do to stop your kitten from crying is to ensure that he isn’t hurt. If your new kitten is hurt in any way, contact the vet. And once you’ve confirmed that the kitten is true, not in ill or in any sort of pain, consider if he’s cold or hungry. 

If he is, feed him or give him a warm bottle of water covered with a fluffy fabric.

If the problem is none of the above, the most likely reason as to why your cat is crying and how you can comfort him is that he’s lonely. So, play with your kitten as much as you can. Let him experience new things to keep him engaged and entertained.

After you’ve tried all of these, and your kitten is still not happy or still crying – it’s best to teach him that crying won’t always get him what he wants. Whatever that is. Also, keep in mind that some cat breeds are just naturally noisier than others.

How to comfort a mourning mother cat?

After your mama cat has lost her little kittens, either by adoption or by death, if you notice any extreme changes in her behaviors, it’s best to consider if your kitty is passing through so much grief. While your furry friend is mourning, she may become louder than usual, increase or lessen her food intake to adjust her sleeping pattern.

While you might feel the urgency to rush to your pet with help, sometimes, the best option is to give her all the space and time to mourn.  Don’t force attention on your kitty if she doesn’t want it, but try to play with her as often as you can and accommodate her when she desires your companionship.

Nonetheless, if you observe any severe enough changes to cause harm, do well to consult your vet.

when do mother cats leave their kittens
Photo by Maria Shanina on Unsplash

Final Thoughts

All in all, we can say that the mama cat can be well-adjusted to the fact that she’ll never see her kittens again. While this behavior may seem cold-hearted, keep in mind that it is a natural process for the mama cat, regardless of breed, and you need to accept it – we all should.

However, you need to wait until her kittens are either 12 weeks old or older before separating them away from their mamas.

This period will help both the mama cat and her kittens to have healthy and happy, separate lives of their own.

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