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Does A Father Cat Know His Kittens?

If you have kittens, or are just interested, you may have wondered what role a father cat plays…

Does A Father Cat Know His Kittens?

Well, yes and no. A father cat, living with the mother and the kittens in your home is much more likely to recognize their kittens, but there is no guarantee that he will be paternal or even like them. The scent of the kitten will be familiar to them, but that’s assuming that they take the time to check.

Male cats, when they are in feral colonies outside of a controlled environment like your home, act indifferent at best to their kittens and at worst, may even attack them. Rather than taking a paternal role, once mating is done, they tend to move on and even mom will push the kittens away eventually.

That’s not to say that your male cat at home won’t be nice to their kittens, simply that they are not naturally geared towards fatherhood and you will want to monitor all interactions until you are sure that the male has taken to their young.

If you see signs of hostility, then you will need to separate them and reintroduce them carefully in a controlled and completely supervised manner to ensure the kitten’s safety.

Could a father cat hurt his kittens?

It is possible, yes, and so you need to supervise visits with the kittens to ensure their safety until you can assess how the male will treat their young. While it’s uncommon, if the male wants to breed with the female again, then he might try to get rid of the kittens to have her all to himself.

Females can get pregnant immediately after having a litter of kittens and in the wild, this tactic of ‘removing the kittens to get her attention’ can and does occur, so even if the kittens are his you need to supervise their interactions to make sure that the kittens are safe.

Do male cats have an emotional bond with their kittens?

White kittens playing with their mother.

White kittens playing with their mother.

Sometimes male cats do take to their kittens and when they take the time to learn their scents, then they will recognize that the kittens smell familiar and they might decide to take a paternal interest. Keep in mind, however, that it’s more common for the male to simply ‘mate and move on’.

As such, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the kittens and the father, at least until you can see that he is grooming them and that his body language reflects that he has taken an emotional interest.

Do father cats recognize their kittens after they leave?

Father cats likely will not recognize their offspring by sight, though the scent is completely different. Cats routinely smell each other and can detect aggression, gender, and several other traits about the animal they are sniffing.

It is believed that if they are related, then the other animal will smell familiar to them, but this doesn’t guarantee that the two will get along. Cats are wired to leave home early and to be independent, so you would likely need to introduce them as you would with a completely unrelated cat to see how the adult reacts.

If there is hostility, just take things slowly and supervise all interactions until you are sure that they are getting along.

Do kittens know who their dad is?

Mom takes all of the responsibility of feeding and caring for the kittens. While they will imprint on her, as the males are not known for their fathering skills and seldom ‘stick around’, the same kind of imprinting is not likely to occur with them.

In a feral cat colony, a kitten quite likely will not know their father, though in a home environment it is possible if he spends time caring for the kittens that they will learn his scent – just keep in mind that this is uncommon and the male cats are simply not ‘wired’ to be doting fathers to their young.

Can the dad cat be with the kittens?

If the father is showing no signs of hostility and especially if you see him grooming the kittens, then it should be safe to let them interact. Just keep in mind that there is no guarantee that the father will take any interest in them.

In wild cat colonies, the males simply mate and then ‘go on their merry way’, rather than taking any interest in feeding and raising their young. In your home environment, it may well be different, but you’ll need to watch them make sure that the male has no hostile intent towards their young.

What do father cats do with kittens?

Males aren’t instinctually wired to raise their kittens. While some types of animals will have the involvement of both parents, with cats the mother is usually left to fend for herself and to protect, feed, and raise the kittens on her own.

If a male cat does take an interest in their kittens, then he will likely groom them, play with them, and perhaps even teach them a few things, but you need to remember that when this happens that it is the exception – definitely not the rule.

In the wild, a male will sometimes kill kittens to get the mother ‘in the mood’ for mating again, and while cats certainly behave differently in domestication, you will need to keep a close eye on things until you know that they have become attached to their young.

When can kittens meet their dad?

Two brown kittens indoors in a box staring.

Two brown kittens indoors in a box staring.

At the very earliest, you can introduce them at 6 to 8 weeks of age, but all interactions must be supervised to ensure the kittens are safe. Some cat owners will even wait until the kittens are 8 or 9 months of age so that they can defend themselves or get away if the father is hostile to them.

Provided that you can supervise all visits and separate them immediately if things do not go well, then an introduction at 6 to 8 weeks will be fine.

Why does the dad cat hiss at his kittens?

While they will recognize some shared scent markers if they smell each other, as male cats do not instinctively take a parental role with their own young, then most likely a kitten is simply not going to be viewed as ‘theirs’.

How they interact with them will be entirely up to the nature of your specific cat. While some will recognize that familiar scent and ‘play nicely’, there is no guarantee and so you need to introduce them as if they were complete strangers.

Do cats know that they are related?

Kittens imprint on their mothers, but not their fathers, so while there is a mother/kitten bond at play and definite recognition, there is no guarantee that the father of the kittens will like them or recognize them at all.

While we believe that scent markers will tell the ‘dad’ that he is dealing with his offspring, cats are instinctually geared to be territorial and independent, and it’s more likely that he will just view them simply as ‘other cats in my territory’.

Lindsey Browlingdon