Have you ever wondered what mother cats do with a dead kitten? There are specific responses that a mother cat does as a way of grieving.
We feel pain when losing a loved one, and it’s the same for cats.
A kitten’s death may occur before even being born or lives for a short time.
And the mother cat tends to react in specific ways in response to the death of its kitten.
Like how human mothers protect their children, cats are generally protective, and a kitten’s death traumatizes them.
Their protective instinct usually is strong, which is why they tend to be defensive if you try to get close to their kittens due to fear of losing them.
In the same way, their protective instinct is what prompts them to have different reactions when a kitten dies.
When a mother cat is about to give birth, it finds a haven to deliver her babies and protect them. They rarely allow humans or any other animals to come near.
Many reasons can cause the death of a kitten before birth and after birth.
So what do mother cats do with a dead kitten?
1. Mother Cat Eats The Dead Kitten
There are instances mother cat eats her kittens once they die. However, don’t misjudge them quickly because it is an act of affection.
They eat their dead kittens to protect their bodies from being eaten by other animals.
Because if they found another animal feasting on their kitten’s remains, they would feel horrified.
Also, in the case of stillbirth, the mother cat will feast on the kitten as it helps provide nutrients, which will then be dissolved in milk, from which the other kittens benefit.
Individual cats may eat one kitten, while some will eat the whole litter.
Also, in other cases, the mother cat eats their kitten due to congenital disabilities, feeling sorry for the kitten, external threats, and malnourishment.
Mother cats love their young ones and wouldn’t want to see them suffer.
So the next time you see your cat eating its dead kitten, be compassionate to them.
2. Licks The Kitten
When the mother cat realizes that the kitten is not moving, they tend to lick the kitten furiously. This action is to check whether the kitten is alive or not.
You will also note that the mother cat will smell the kitten to see if there is any movement.
When the cat is still alive, the mother cat often licks the kitten to groom its skin.
It is also a form of showing affection. When you see other animals lick their young ones, it only shows how their saliva helps heal the wounds their young ones may have.
When they realize their kitten is no longer alive, give the mother cat enough time while licking its loved one.
3. Hide The Dead Cat In The Closet
Sometimes, when the mother cat realizes that her kitten is dead, she may carry it and hide it somewhere, like in a box or closet.
They will then go back to the other kittens and nurse them.
Hiding their dead kitten is another form of grieving and letting them go.
You will also notice some behavioral changes in the cat. For example, your cat will start searching the house, have different sleeping patterns, and so on.
If the mother cat used to be an attention seeker, she may start wanting to be alone.
Alternatively, if the mother cat was previously a loner, she will start searching for attention.
4. Bury The Dead Kitten
Cats are also fond of digging their litter. Thus, when a kitten dies, the mother cat may decide to bury her kitten in the ground to keep it safe.
If any predator sees the kitten, it may quickly want to eat it.
However, the mother cat assumes they will be more protected if she buries the kitten.
They also feel distressed by the death of their kitten and thus wouldn’t want any human or animal near it.
Thus, it would help if you will give your cat enough time to grieve. If the cat notices any threat, it may decide to carry the kitten by its mouth and bury it in a safer place.
All these are acts of love for the kitten.
The mother cat will dig into the ground, bury the kitten, then cover and lay there for some hours while grieving.
Doing so helps your cat accept the death of its kitten.
You may also notice that your cat is losing interest and appetite for a while.
Don’t fear at all. It is entirely normal.
5. Cleaning The Kitten
If the mother cat experiences a stillbirth, she will continue licking and cleaning the dead kitten even after realizing its death.
The mother will keep on cleaning the cat in disbelief. Therefore, you shouldn’t try to stop the cat from cleaning her offspring, as it helps in the journey of acceptance.
In a different case where the mother cat sees a predator eating her kitten, she may return to the same spot and call out for her kitten.
This can even happen for a month before she gives up.
6. Cat Brings The Dead Kitten To The Owner
Whenever cats find dead mice or any other animal, they tend to bring it to the pet parent to show them gratitude.
Also, it is a form of love and trust.
Because you have made the cat family, they always feel a sort of belonging.
Thus, when they bring the dead kitten to you, it also tells you that you shouldn’t eat the dead kitten.
Since you and the cat are fond of each other, it automatically gives you the responsibility to help care for the kittens.
Thus, the next time a mother cat brings her dead kitten to you, don’t hesitate! She is just trying to involve you in her grief and wants you to be there for her.
She also brings it to you because she trusts you will know what to do with the dead kitten.
Their maternal instincts help them be protective while the kitten is alive and dead.
After a cat gives birth, it will rarely allow you to come close to its kittens while taking care of them.
They also protect their young ones to prevent you from taking them away from them.
After birth, you may also notice how fierce they become to protect her kittens.
7. Leaves The Dead Kitten
A wild mother cat needs to fend for its young ones. Thus, she may end up leaving them to go scout for food.
A predator can quickly come and start feasting on the kittens. So, if one remains unhurt, the mother kitten may end up leaving the dead kittens and saving the last one who is alive, even in the face of danger.
That’s how much mother cat cares about their kittens.
In her mind, she knows that she has no control over her situation and may opt to run for safety.
8. Lays On The Kitten
Sometimes, when the mother cat realizes that the kitten is dead, she may decide to lie down on it.
She also won’t allow you to take the dead kitten away from her. Thus, you can give her food and take the dead kitten, and put it away when she goes to eat.
Also, when she decides to go to the rest of the litter, she takes the dead kitten and disposes of it.
However, ensure the mother cat doesn’t catch you taking the kitten away. Her maternal instincts are powerful, and she may end up scratching you.
You may then decide to bury the kitten, take it to the veterinarian, or wait for it to decompose.
A mother can react differently when a kitten dies, which includes licking the kitten, eating it, bringing it to the owner, leaving the kitten, cleaning it, hiding it, or burying it.
Giving your cat enough time to grieve and allowing her to stay alone for a while is also vital.
However, when she fully recovers, have some fun with her or even give her treats to help boost her mood.
It would be best for you to check whether your cat is mourning a loss.
Then, try as much as possible not to stress it and give it the necessities it needs.
Purrfect n’ Pawesome is the brainchild of Amanda, who has been into researching and writing about pets to help other pet parents in nurturing their adorable pets. Currently, she runs Purrfect n’ Pawesome along with her team of experienced and dedicated pet experts. Along with being an awesome writer and entrepreneur, Amanda is a cat mom to two innocently spoiled cats, Balanca and Scruffy.
She has been writing about pet care and nurturing and wants to share her readers’ experiences, learnings, and knowledge.
Over the years, she had the opportunity to work with various pet owners having multiple breeds, and that exposure gave her experience and the lessons of a lifetime.
Her family, her entire universe revolves around her two cats, who give her endless support and inspiration to move ahead with her objectives in life. Amanda is a live example of a balanced approach to all parenthood questions we all face in life.