How to Tell If a Mother Cat Has Abandoned Her Kittens

How to Tell If a Mother Cat Has Abandoned Her Kittens

Although it is heartbreaking, at times, mother cats abandon their kittens. A mother cat possesses very intense senses when it comes to the kittens’ health and might reject them, for instance, if she notices that they are unhealthy or weak. However, she might also leave her kittens alone for a long time to search for a new location or find food. You should hence ensure the kittens do not get abandoned by providing the best care possible to the kittens and the nursing mom. Here is an exclusive look at how to tell if a mother cat has abandoned her kittens and know whether to step in and provide assistance. 

How long can a mother cat be away from her kittens?

During the first weeks of life, the mother cat will only leave the kittens a few times a day. She might get out of the nest where her kittens are located to go stretch, use her litter box, grab some food and check the area for possible hazards. Feral cats in the wild will leave the kittens to hunt when they have to and return to the kittens immediately. Domestic cats have an easier time as you will help provide them with food and water. By about three weeks, the mother cat will get out of the nest for longer as the babies are more independent and mobile.

As long as the mother cat is mature enough in terms of maternal instincts, she understands she requires to be there constantly to take care of the young ones. Immature kitten moms probably abandon their kittens as she does not know what she should do for them. 

why do cats abandon their kittens
Image by Adrian Maur from Pixabay

What to do if mother cat rejects kittens

If all signs from above indicate that a kitten or a group of kittens are truly abandoned, it is time for human intervention. Some of the recommendable actions to take include;

  • Call the local rescue if you don’t want the responsibility of taking care of them; but rescues might also decline you for lack of resources. Even if they don’t accept the kittens, they will most likely give advice and give you tips on taking care of abandoned kittens.
  • If a local rescue does not accept the kittens, you need to find a way to feed them because they require to eat every few hours with the frequency reliant on their age. This is usually done by bottle-feeding them with kitten formula. It is also vital to be pampered by providing them with a warm nest and helping them defecate and urinate. 
  • Always keep in mind that your veterinarian is the best source of information regarding kitten care. Inquire for information about the frequency and amount of feeding, how to help the kittens urinate and defecate, and ways to keep them warm and clean from the veterinary. 

How to tell if a mother cat is rejecting her kittens

The best ways of telling if a mother cat is rejecting her kittens include; 

  • If you find kittens when their mother is off, you should try determining if the mother is coming back before you take action. Try to stand away from the kittens because if you remain too close, the mother cat might not approach. The mother cat might even not return for several hours when agitated by human presence. If you require to leave before the mother cat returns, you should try scattering some flour around the kittens and check for paw marks when you return. The mother cat will not reject her kittens if touched by humans. 
  • Look at the mother cat for signs that she is distracted, irritated, or distressed. Usually, cats should cuddle their young ones to keep them warm, suckle them and lick the kittens to keep them clean. If the cat is not doing any of these nursing actions, she might be rejecting the kittens. Any sign of aggression towards the kittens might also be a sign of rejecting her ones. 
  • If you find a loner kitten wandering, this is an indication that it has been neglected. You might try returning them to the mother, but she might reject the kitten again.
  • Another sign of abandoned kittens is kittens that are dirty and unkempt. When the mother cat is around, she grooms the kittens keeping them tidy and clean. Moreover, you can listen carefully to how the kittens’ mews or cries. A kitten that sleeps soundly is most likely not abandoned, while an abandoned kitten will cry for attention continuously. 
  • If you note that kittens are vanishing one by one, you should not be alarmed. This might be a sign that their mother is actively checking for a new location. 
  • You should only remove the kittens from their nest if there is no evidence of a mother cat after various hours or if the kittens are in imminent distress or danger. If several hours pass and the babies are fussy, dirty, and loud, it is safe to consider them abandoned. 

Most people panic and want to get the kittens and care for them immediately. However, caring for listens, particularly young ones that have not started to eat solid food, is a lot of work. Most people are not ready to take on it. If they have actually been abandoned, they will require urgent care such as keeping them warm and giving them kitten formula. 

what to do if mother cat rejects kittens
Image by what2ver from Pixabay

Why cats abandon their kittens

One of the most gratifying moments to experience is a mother cat feeding and caressing her little kittens. Even in shelters, nursing mother cats often accept and nurture motherless kittens as their own. So, what would make a mom cat abandon or reject her kittens? There are a number of reasons cats leave kittens. A lot of the time, when individuals presume kittens have been abandoned, they are not. The mother cat is just out hunting so that she can feed herself and her kittens. However, there are times that the cat will actually abandon kittens. The most common reasons why cats abandon their kittens include;

• A stressful environment

If the environment is stressful, the mom might not feel safe raising kittens. This often occurs when the feral queen has kittens that have been handled more than once by humans, or the kittens are very close to predators such as coyotes or dogs. The mom will typically try to move the kittens before they give up on them. She is just trying to be cautious so that she plus the babies have the best chance of survival. 

• Deformity or illness

Sometimes, a mother cat can reject sick kittens if she thinks they don’t have a chance of survival to avoid spreading the illness to all the kittens. This situation often occurs with a single kitten that the mother removes from the nest to enhance other kittens’ chances of survival. Occasionally, a whole litter is sick, and the mother cat cannot take care of them. More so, the mom might abandon a physically challenged kitten. According to experts, it is recommendable to remove any ultimately rejected kittens, so the mom does not reject others in the litter. 

• Mastitis

Some mother cats might get a mammary gland infection which could result in mastitis. This can occur naturally or because of kittens scratching the mammary gland when suckling. This causes the nipple to be hard, swollen, and very painful to handle. So it might look like the cat is rejecting her babies while actually, it is excruciating to allow them to suckle. 

• A sick or underfed mother cat

An underfed or sick mother cannot take care of her kittens. Mother cats with feline infectious peritonitis and feline leukemia often have a debilitating illness that makes them abandon their kittens. More so, if the mother cat is underfed or has a lack of prey, she may abandon the litter because she cannot feed them. 

• Premature motherhood

A very young mother cat who is yet to develop maternal skills might act disinterested or confused. Some of the moms begin this way and then figure out their motherhood responsibilities with time. However, some don’t. The cat might also act disinterested if she was traumatized during birth; for example, if she was not in a safe place or had difficulty in labor. Her nervousness and hyper-vigilance may make it hard for her to lie down and relax for the kittens to suckle. 

• The size of the litter

If the litter size is too large, it might cause rejection from the mother cat. Insufficient milk for all kittens might cause the mother to reject a few kittens to save milk for the rest. If you observe carefully, you will probably notice such behavior within the first 24 hours of birth. 

Finally, some mother cats are just not maternal and do not make good parents. If this is the case, you should not breed her in the future, as this trait might be passed on to her offspring. 

how to tell if a mother cat is rejecting her kittens
Photo by Emila Yusof from Pexels

How to take care of an abandoned kitten

Your cat has become pregnant and delivered her kittens. Now the time has come for her to nurse her kittens, but she will not nurse them for one or several reasons. Maybe she has rejected one or more of her kittens; what do you do as a concerned cat owner? If you are sure the mother cat has abandoned her kittens and you have decided to take on the responsibility of caring for the abandoned kitten, you need to understand some care tips for the kittens

• General care and bottle feeding 

Before transferring the kitten to your home, you should first prepare the items you require for bottle feeding. You should find a small kitten feeding bottle to administer the formula to the kittens. They will require to be bottle-fed approximately once every two hours. Warm the formula and feed one teaspoonful to every kitten. It is crucial to bottle-feed the kitten with milk for the next one month. You can introduce kitten food around four weeks of age, and immediately the kitten is eating on its own, slowly begin decreasing the amount of milk you give them. You can also determine the age of the kittens by comparing them to other photos. 

Next, kittens do not do well in the cold. Hence, you should check that they are warm and, if not, warm them up before you begin feeding them. To tell if the kitten is cold, you can touch the kitten’s feet, pad, mouth, or ears. If any of these parts feel cold, it is probably because the kitten’s temperature is lower than the optimum temperature. 

Low temperatures can be deadly to kittens, and you should take action immediately. You can do this by wrapping it in a thick small towel or blanket or holding the kitten close and rubbing gently with your warmed palms. To maintain the kitten’s warmth, wrap the carrier in a small blanket, but you should ensure to leave some holes or space to allow some air and avoid suffocation. 

• Milking formulas for kittens

For abandoned kittens, it is recommendable to feed the newborn kittens with powdered kitten milk (replacement) formulas instead of canned milk. Avoid feeding the kitten’s human baby formula or cow’s milk. They are not nutritionally suitable for kittens and can result in health issues and even demise if you feed them for a prolonged time. The high-quality powdered milk formulas are nutrient-powered and help to ward-off diarrhea. Hence, you should only use kitten milk formula from the start of bottle feeding to avoid diarrhea. 

Also, ensure that the powdered formula you are using is fresh by opening the top and smelling it. If it has a sharp odor like that of chemicals, cheese, or cooking oil, it is dangerous to feed to the kittens. You should also check the expiry date to avoid feeding them any formula past the expiry date. 

After opening the kitten milk replacement formula, you should refrigerate it immediately and store it in the refrigerator. Take care of it as fresh milk. You can’t keep opening the milk formula out of the refrigerator for a long time before it spoils. 

• Feeding, urination, and defecation

Other than lacking the ability to digest and eat solid food, newborn kittens cannot urinate or defecate without help. So, you should stimulate them to pass waste after each around-the-clock feeding. Doing this after every three hours is best. You should also not overfed the kittens or skip their meals as this might result in issues such as diarrhea and the accompanying dehydration. Whereas it is stressful to deal with the cleanup following diarrhea, it may be dangerous to the young kitten. In case of diarrhea, it is best to get a veterinarian to check the kitten at the onset of diarrhea and avoid possible triggers when you can. 

will a mother cat abandon her kittens if you touch them
Image by Franz W. from Pixabay

Bottom line

Motherhood can be difficult for any species. Hence, it is essential to give these mother cats consideration, compassion, and help if they require it, just as you would for any stressed mom. Nursing mother cats require a lot of extra calories; hence it is best to provide them with a steady source of food and water, particularly dry kitten food if possible. If the mother cat and the kittens seem healthy, the best thing should be to allow kittens to stay with her. Kittens should remain with the mother until they are eating solid food, a four and six weeks. So, whenever possible, you should keep the mom in the picture

Help us grow. Share this post.

Similar Posts

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *