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Mother Cat Looking For Her Dead Kitten (Is This Normal?)

If you have noticed that your cat is looking high and low for its kitten that passed away, you may be wondering why…

Why is the mother cat looking for her dead kitten?

The mother cat is grieving. While this is heartbreaking, this is normal behavior, and you can expect the mom to be upset for a few days to a week. Cats grieve, just like humans do, and the mom cat may believe that you can help her kitten, even though the worst has occurred.

This can also work the opposite way, however, and she may be angry with you, but you will need to be patient. This aggression or grief will pass, but it will take a few days.

Do mother cats get emotional about their lost kittens?

A brown and black cat standing outdoors and staring.

A brown and black cat standing outdoors and staring.

Yes, mom can get very emotional about her kittens, as she knows that something is wrong.  Cats are instinctively wired to raise their young, just as we are, and likely for the next week or two, you will need to console your cat.

Fresh food and water, a clean litter box…, all of these things will go a long way. Your cat will get better, but she is going to grieve for a space and the best that you can do is make her comfortable.

Should I remove the dead kitten from its mother?

Yes, you will need to leave the kitten with its mother, so that she will understand what has happened. Cats are practical, and while she will grieve, she will turn her attention toward the remaining kittens of the litter in time.

Why do cats eat dead kittens?

The mother cat is doing something that is very practical. By eating the kitten, she is absorbing nutrients to raise the remainder of her litter, as well as keeping the kitten’s scent away from predators.

While it may seem harsh, she is keeping the rest of her kittens safe, and it’s practically. Cats normally have a lot of young, and by reabsorbing nutrients she is making sure that the rest of her kittens are safe.

Why did my cat bring me its dead kitten?

Your cat thinks that you can help and this type of response is completely normal, if painful. The best that you can do is to allow her the grief and in time she will be okay.

Unfortunately, kittens have a high mortality rate, averaging around 15 to 30% of each litter, and the best you can do is to spend time with your little one until they are feeling better.

Do mother cats recognize their kittens after they leave home?

Two kittens walking outdoors on a path with brown leaves.

Two kittens walking outdoors on a path with brown leaves.

Cats can tell by scent if they are related, though they are territorial and often won’t get close enough to do so. That said, yes, females can tell the scent of their kittens, or at least they will know that the other cat smells familiar.

What could cause a kitten to die?

Kittens die from a litter quite commonly, with a 15 to 30% mortality rate being the average. If it’s her first litter, the mother may not have enough milk, or could simply be overwhelmed. Just keep comforting her and in time, she’ll be okay, but beyond this, there is not much that you can do.

What do I do if a kitten dies?

There is nothing that you can do and sadly, kittens die. Only a small percentage of them will survive, and the best that you can do is to help the mother. It is unfortunate, but even with healthy mothers, there is statistically a certain level of loss.

Comfort your cat and be there for her and within a week or two, she’ll seem more like her usual self. Loss takes time, so you will need to be patient, and your kitty will pull through.

Do mother cats bury their dead kittens?

Yes, if they can, although it’s a lot less easy to do when you are not in the wild. Indoor cats may bring their kittens to you, or even put them aside and ‘out of the way’, so don’t be surprised if this is what happens.

Cats, apex predators that they are, are aware that the scent of their kitten might attract predators, and so it’s only natural for them to try to ‘get it away’. While this seems quite harsh, it is normal behavior, and the best thing that you can do is to comfort your kitty.

What are the signs of a grieving mother cat?

Being able to know when your cat is grieving is not too difficult. Much like humans, grief is a constant and quite recognizable, but let’s look at a few signs that can help you know 100% that your cat is grieving their kittens.

  • Problem urination – Cats may mark areas out of stress and this is completely normal. If your cat is doing this, simply clean it up, and try to keep things stress-free for a few days. Your cat’s behavior will change, but right now they are stressed with the loss of their kitten.
  • Loss of appetite – It’s not abnormal if your cat skips a meal or two while grieving. Keep them close and watch out for them, of course, but a loss of appetite is certainly not unexpected when your cat has lost a kitten.
  • Lethargy – Less energy is understandable. Remember, your cat has just lost a kitten, and she is going to grieve. Keep her well-fed and make sure that the litter box is clean, and within a week she should be okay. For now, however, the ‘wound Is fresh’, and the mother cat is mourning her lost young.
  • Moping – Your cat might simply go the ‘fully human’ route and display moping behaviors, such as looking down, having a low energy level, and refusing to play.

This is normal, more often with mom cats than males, but it can occur with both genders. Your cat will get better, but you’ll need to keep close for a week or two as they will need you during this difficult time.

Lindsey Browlingdon