Normally, cats do not abandon their kittens if they are touched by humans. But there are some cases where it happens. The reason behind that is scent. Cats recognize things via smell. When they stay somewhere for a long time, they start to mark their territory. They do that by rubbing their own pheromones on them.
You may have seen cats rubbing their heads and cheeks on inanimate things and also on other living creatures. That is their way of claiming things. Cats do that to their owners too. It is because they really love their human friend and want to let other animals know that. Others can smell that and they will stay away.
When you get separated from your cat and then reunited after a long time, your cat will not recognize you. He or she can also be aggressive towards you. They will not recognize your smell as it would fade away after a while of your cat’s departure. Same thing can happen with their babies. When their babies get touched by other human beings for a long time, their smell may faint. Mother cat not being able to recognize her scent may abandon that baby.
Another possibility is when the mother cat thinks that it is time their babies learn to be self independent she will abandon them. When a human being takes interest in them, they try to make them go to him. Then after that humans may take them in. if mother cat’s survival is on the line or the existence of the kittens is bothering her then also she might abandon them.
Do cats eat their kittens if you touch them?
It does occur in wild food chains. House cats do not do that because they do not feel the need. There can be some circumstances which lead to this like when there is disturbance in the nest, mother cat can not properly litter or move in the nest then she can kill her kittens.
Sometimes when she feels that her babies are in danger but she can not do anything, she may kill them. She thinks that she is protecting them by killing. She does not want to endanger her life along with the newborns. So she decides to kill them and be safe herself.
Male cats sometimes kill the kittens so that the mother cat goes to heat. They also eat them if they are hungry. Mother cats do not want their months-long suffering to go to waste so they also eat them. This happens when they think they have to kill some to let others live. Sp they leave those who are strong and will survive, and eat the weaks so that their energy gets restored a little.
When the mother can not recognize her own kitten, she kills it. She may also eat it. This happens when their babies are touched by other animals or human beings. Their scent faints away. So mother cats fail to acknowledge them. Inexperienced mothers, desperate ones and stressed mom cats also make the same kinds of mistakes.
These all seem very unfair but remember that they are cats. Their way of living is not the same as humans. They do feel connected with their babies but not at the same level as us.
When Is It Safe to Touch Newborn Kittens?
It is suggested that as early as you are welcomed to touch the newborns the better. Mother cats however, get stressed when somebody touches their very young babies. They might even feel threatened and as a result attack you. So you should first notice if your presence is bothering the mother cat. If not, you can slowly step forward to pick one of the kittens up. If you see mom cat getting a bit uneasy, you should leave them be.
After 1 week you need to get involved because after they have become 3 to 5 weeks old taming them might be difficult. However, you can only hold them for a few seconds and then give them back to their mothers. At this fragile age they get everything from their mother only. If you interrupt the process for long consequences may be high.
You should not let children handle kittens. Even well behaved ones make mistakes. Kittens need to be handled very gently and carefully which a child may not do. So the right time is when the mom cat allows you to get involved. When the relationship between the mom cat and the owner is very good, the trust grows. Therefore she lets the owner take care of her babies too.
When the kittens are 3 to 4 weeks old, you may introduce them to other people which will increase the socialization of the kittens. You can let children hold them too but you need to be there to properly guide him.
How Do You Tell if Kittens are Abandoned and in Need of Your Help?
The shelters are full with kittens. Some of them are newborns, maybe 1 to 2 weeks old. Unfortunately the number of humans who want to adopt one is very low. So, when you take a bunch of cats to a shelter thinking they have been abandoned, please make sure they really are abandoned. Here are a few tips on how you can tell if a kitten is abandoned or not.
- Mother cat needs to get her energy back. That is why she will go searching for food. If there is a human nearby she might be afraid to come back to the kittens. She may be waiting for the human to go away. That is why you need to watch from afar if the kittens are really left alone or not.
- Kittens who are cleaned and sleeping peacefully are not abandoned. Mother cats always groom their babies. It is their first lesson to learn. They do not like to be dirty.
- You can spread some flour around the nest of the kittens and leave the place for a while. When you see paw prints which are big enough for an adult cat then you can rest assured that they are not abandoned.
What are other reasons that make a cat to abandon her kittens?
- Mental Issues – There is one psychological theory that mother cats sometimes think that their first born kitten is the only one. They think other cats are not her so that is why she abandons them. The first born kitten gets all the care. If there comes a situation where the mom cat believes that their existence is in danger, she might take the first born kitten and go somewhere safe. Other babies knowing so little of everything either die or get killed by other wild animals. This happens mostly with first time mothers. They get irritated easily. After such a long period of time and pain when the babies are finally born, the mother cat wants some peace which is not possible because of the kittens. This can stress the mother cat so much so that she abandons them.
- Disease – After giving birth not all mother cats are healthy. Some of them become so sick that they can not even take care of themselves. Very few die after giving birth. Some mother cats do not produce milk because of a condition named agalactia. Mother cat can have this condition due to various reasons. There can be something wrong with her pituitary gland. Pituitary gland releases prolactin hormone which actually develops mammary gland and produces milk. Agalactia can also be the reason for some defect in the nipples of the mother cat. Sometimes kittens are born prematurely. Mammary glands take time to develop fully. Only then the milk gets produced. This can also be another reason. Malnutrition is another vital reason for agalactia. A mother cat will need to eat 2 times more than a normal cat.