Will A Mother Kill Her Kittens If You Touch Them?

One of the most heartwarming scenes to visualize is a cat caressing her babies around her. Similar to all the mothers, a cat mother feeds them, nourishes them, and takes the best care of them.

How hard is it to even imagine a mother abandoning her children? A common myth about cats says that if you touch or move newly born kittens, their mother would abandon or even kill them.

Will a mother kill her kittens if you touch them?

The reality of this myth is yet to be unleashed. There can be several reasons why a cat might resort to abandoning or killing her little ones.

Let’s look into some differing views and studies, about a call leaving or killing her kittens, in case they were touched.

Will A Cat Really Kill Her Kittens, If Touched?

People around the world perceive this myth differently. However, here is what feline professionals and caretakers think about it.

Dr. Houpt:

Apart from fiction and general notions about this myth, here is a deep dive into what the facts have to say about it.

Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, Ph.D., is the James Law Professor of Animal Behavior at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She outrightly denies this myth. She adds, if you’ve had a cat for long and she is pretty familiar with you, your house, and your scent, she shouldn’t mind your interaction with the newly born.

Motherhood in cats is inbuilt and innate, like every mother out there. People take newly born kittens away from their mother, thinking she won’t mother her kittens well. Cats grieve the parting of their kittens but revive their normal behavior after hunting them for 2-3 days.

Adding on to the list, people believe that a mother cat would abandon her kittens if something was wrong with them. Dr. Houpt, however, reveals that although that is pretty rare, cats reject to groom a kitten that is unresponsive. Or she might kill it.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo:

Another view that originates from a Zoo in Washington, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, endorses something similar. The animal curators quote an event when a mother animal just delivered her baby. Surprisingly, soon after a while, she ate it.

Don’t be judgmental too soon. She gave birth to two further offspring the same week and was as nurturing and pleasant as any mother goddess. Later concluded, the fresh born that was eaten up, was ill enough to survive.

Animals do abandon, kill, or even eat their children but for a stern reason. And not for something as petty as being touched by a human. A cat follows no different trends.

Why Would A Cat Abandon Or Kill Her Kittens?

The logic is well furnished. Animals bear a soft heart and would never kill their babies for being touched by humans.

However, there can be several other reasons that are misinterpreted.

While people attribute such killing to ‘being touched by a human’, a cat may abandon or kill her kittens for one of the following reasons.

Ill Kittens:

Some kittens usually carry fatal diseases that can be contagious and harmful for the mother cat as well as the other kittens.

Such communicable diseases might include Feline Calicivirus, Feline Bartonella, Leukemia Virus, etc. These diseases can be harmful to the other kittens that inhabit the same place as the affected kitten.

While such diseases cannot be treated without proper treatment, a cat might abandon her ill kitten to save the others.

Also, a cat may reject deformed kittens or those that are born with severe problems just like a ‘Janus’ cat.


Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland. It can be caused by a trauma to the nipple, which can route bacteria to the mammary gland and cause a bacterial infection.

Mastitis in cats causes their breasts to swell and nipples to turn hard, swollen, and too painful to touch.

Such a situation makes it hard for the cat to feed her kittens, and she might reject feeding them.

Prolonged periods of being unfed can lead to malnutrition and, ultimately, the death of kittens.

It might seem like the cat has killed her young ones when it is just too painful for her to let them suckle and keep them nourished.

Bad Time Birth:

There are times during the year when it’s hard for the animals to survive.

Usually, winters are marked as a challenging season for animals. Most of them hibernate while others wander around in search of food.

Kittens that are born at such times in a wild state bear low chances of survival. Some cats would kill their kittens to save energies grooming such kittens, which wouldn’t survive by the day end.

Or the other way around, such felines die themselves out of malnutrition, lack of care, and weather extremities.

Premature Mom:

Being a ‘trophy-mother’ is never an easy task, whether that concerns humans or any other species. A cat too young to win the rank of a mother may feel confused or scared.

Besides, if a cat has felt traumatized or has gone through a tough time during labor, she might be too tired to take up motherhood.

Also, if a cat suffers physical insecurity or difficulty during labor, she might get too stressed or vigilant.

Such a hyper-vigilance and confusion can hinder the cat from feeding her newborn well. The nervousness of a newly assigned motherhood can be assumed as desertion by the cat.


The myth of a cat killing her children for they were touched by a human, sounds too heartless to believe.

As manifested by professional feline caretakers and other events, a cat would never kill her kittens for being touched by a human.

Like all other species, a mother cat loves her young ones and would do anything to keep them safe.

If you find little kitten wailing around, observe them if they are nursed well by their mother soon. Or call on the rescue local shelter or the nearest veterinarian.

Also, if you find a mother cat struggling with labor or nourishing her young ones, offer her generous compassion and care. Kittens are loved by their mothers, just like infants are loved by humans!.