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My Cat Keeps Walking Away From Her Kittens

If you have noticed your cat continually walking away from her kittens, then it may concern you and lead you to wonder why it’s happening, and if it’s a cause for concern…

Why does my cat keep walking away from her kittens?

When kittens are in their first week, they need regular feedings at a schedule of once every 2 to 3 hours. This, understandably, tires out mom a bit and she’s going to want to stretch her legs from time to time. So, once the kittens are a little older, it’s not uncommon to see the mom away from her litter.

Keep an eye on her and watch the time. The odds are that the kittens are getting close to the time that they can begin solids and by 3 weeks of age, they only need feedings every 4 to 6 hours.

If the kittens are old enough then the away time is okay – mom is just taking a break because motherhood is hard work.

Should I be worried if my cat walks away from its kittens?

A litter of four kitten indoors staring.

A litter of four kittens indoors staring.

In most cases, no. It is highly unlikely that mom is going to abandon her kittens, although as they get a little older she will start taking breaks from her nest to stretch her legs and to get in a little exercise.

While some need a little more time, most kittens are starting to get ready for solids at around 5 weeks of age. At this time, their premolars are coming in, so they will likely start sampling a little solid food from mom’s bowl very soon.

By 3 weeks, they only need feedings every 4 to 6 hours, and at 4 weeks of age, they need feedings every 6 hours. Consider the time that has passed and make your best judgment or doublecheck with your vet if you are worried. That said, unless she is walking away in their first 1 -2 weeks then you needn’t worry.

Mom’s just getting a little exercise.

Could a cat reject her kittens?

It is possible, but she isn’t going to reject the entire litter. If the mom keeps walking away and the kittens are young, then start counting them. Sometimes mom is simply relocating the kittens somewhere quieter and a head count can show you if this is the case.

With rejection, statistics tell us that 1 kitten out of every litter might not make it, though this is not always the case. If mom does reject kittens, it will typically be one or two that she moves away from the rest.

If you see this, then contact your vet – you may need to nurse the rejected kittens if they are to survive.

What could cause a cat to reject her kittens?

Typically, if a Queen rejects her kittens, it is going to be for health reasons – either hers or theirs. Cats are very scent-oriented and when you see a cat smelling another cat’s behind, as odd as it looks this is a very informative experience for them.

By sniffing, a cat can tell if another cat is related to them and what kind of health issues they have. If one of her cats is cold or especially if they smell ill, then mom might move them away from the litter to prevent other kittens from getting sick.

If you see a mom isolating one or more kittens and refusing to feed them, this might be the case. Now, if mom is not feeding ANY of the kittens then you need to get her to the vet.

Mastitis and other conditions may be preventing her from feeding them and you want to address this right away or the kittens might not make it.

What do you do when a mother cat rejects kittens?

If the mother cat rejects her kittens then you will need to contact your vet immediately. Depending on their ages, they will have different feeding schedules, and you might have to feed them kitten formula yourself.

For instance, 1-week-old kittens are very needy at such a young age and require a feeding every 2-3 hours if they are going to survive. Check with your vet right away so that you can make sure that they get enough milk – every second counts when they are young so you need to move quickly.

How can I help my cat and kittens to be happy?

A kitten glaring at grass and flowers.

A kitten glaring at grass and flowers.

Make a nest for the Queen and her kittens in the quietest spot in the house, preferably with a bit of shade as well. You can do this by cutting out the bottom of a cardboard box, leaving the walls high enough that kittens can’t easily wander outside of it.

Line the box bottom with plastic and then put some newspaper on top, so that it’s easy to clean, and make sure that the litter box, food, and water are nearby so that mom can get to them with ease. After that, just try to disturb mom as little as possible and don’t handle the kittens much until they are older.

Mom will appreciate the peace and everyone will be happier with the result.

Is it OK for me to touch my kittens?

You can, but it is best to keep handing to a minimum until they are at least 3 weeks old. By 3 weeks, they only need to eat every 4 to 6 hours, so you can play with the kitten a little after they’ve eaten and gotten a little rest.

By making sure that they eat first, you can avoid the kitten getting late meals, but you should also limit the play to 15 to 30 minutes at the very most. Until around 5 weeks when they are beginning solids, this will be the best policy so that you aren’t taking away from their time with mom.

How long after a cat has kittens can you touch them?

That’s up to mom, actually, and early handling is encouraged, though you need to practice moderation. Even newborn kittens are okay to handle, but you must limit this to just a few minutes at a time, as they need regular and frequent feedings from mom and shouldn’t be away for more than 4 to 5 minutes.

Just make a general rule for yourself that until the kittens are at least 3 weeks of age, all handing will be done with mom close by and in visual range. That way if you see the other kittens about to feed you can put the kitten quickly back and it’s also less stressful for the mom.

Is it normal for a mother cat to sleep away from her kittens?

Yes, it is normal for a mother cat to take a nap away from her kittens from time to time, though the kittens will usually be a few weeks old when she does. When they get a little older, the kittens don’t need as regular a feeding schedule – with 4-week-old kittens only needing a feeding every 6 hours.

As such, don’t be surprised if mom wants a little space, as keeping up with a litter is hard work and sometimes, she just wants a little ‘me time’.

How long can newborn kittens be away from their mother?

With newborns, it is okay to handle them, but the best practice is to limit this to just a handful of minutes at a time. When they are newborns, they are very needy, requiring regular feedings, as well as grooming from mom since they cannot urinate or defecate on their own.

So, stick to 5-minute handling intervals until they get older so that mom can do her job. There will be plenty of time to play with the kittens when they open their bright eyes and start getting into trouble on their own!

Lindsey Browlingdon