Why Do Mother Cats Hide Their Kittens?


By Ruthie Bently

Cats are the most recently domesticated species, but some scientists argue that cats should not be considered domesticated. Nevertheless, like our canine companions, our cats do many things based on their natural instincts. Some of these things include: hiding or burying food, kneading, hunting, claiming territory and mating. Another natural instinct that a female cat has and some will use is hiding their kittens.

A feral cat will hide her kittens to protect them from predators and intact tom cats. Newborn kittens are blind and cannot protect themselves, so they rely on their mother to keep them safe. Coyotes, hawks, eagles and owls are not above killing cats if they are small enough to overpower and kill. Even a domestic dog can kill kittens by accident while trying to play with them. Male lions will kill cubs in the pride that are not his when they take over a pride. While cats are not lions, there have been reported incidents of intact tom cats killing kittens. Understanding this will help you deal with your cat hiding her kittens.

Cats are secretive, private creatures and while they may birth their kittens in a safe, secure place they may still move them later. A mother cat may feel uncomfortable with the place she has had her kittens. She may feel it is unsafe for her kittens and may move them. A room may have too much foot traffic going through it. The area may be too noisy or the lighting may be too bright for her liking. A mother cat may move her kittens if the situation is too stressful for her. She may move them to a closet, under a bed, into a dresser drawer, under or behind the sofa or a chair, into a kitchen cabinet or another odd place. Your cat may also “claim” the territory she moves her kittens to and defend it aggressively.

One common reason a momma cat moves her kittens is because too many people are looking at her kittens too often or too soon for her comfort. While you do want the kittens to be well socialized and you can handle them immediately after birth, your cat needs to feel her refuge is a safe, secure place for her kittens. To make your cat comfortable, her refuge should be in a quiet place where she can be with her kittens undisturbed. Children and other animals should not be allowed near her hideaway. If you have young children, make sure you educate them about how to treat your cat with kittens before she has them. I would suggest keeping people away at least until the kittens open their eyes (at about eight days old).

When you are ready to begin socializing the kittens, young children should not handle the kittens unless supervised by an adult. They may injure the kittens by accident. Visitors that have cats of their own should not be allowed near the babies before the kittens have been inoculated, and anyone handling the kittens should wash their hands first.

Not all cats hide their kittens, and even cats that are very comfortable with their surroundings will move their kittens from time to time. The best thing to do is not to interfere. Try and keep tabs on where she is moving them to, so you can step in if there is an emergency. To rephrase the title of an old TV show: “Mother Knows Best.”

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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17 thoughts on “Why Do Mother Cats Hide Their Kittens?

  1. My cat had here kittens on my bed and kept them there for about 2 weeks. But the next day they were gone. I’m afraid because I don’t know where they are!
    This is not the first time she has done this. Before she had a litter of 6 and had them in my neighbors garage. Didn’t find them till about 1 month later.
    Reading this article really put me at ease thanks a lot. Oh by the way will she bring them back?

  2. My young first time mother cat was poking around looking for tight spaces last night so I had a feeling she was going to move her 2 kittens when I went to sleep. This morning the kittens were behind an entertainment cabinet in the garage. It wasn't suitable safe or clean so I kind of made her comply with my removing them back into their original birthing box. I thinkshe was mad that we have been handling the kits but only once a day and we make sure they stay close and in her sights. She just wants to hide them from us. We just put them in a dog sized kennel with a door and made her stay in it with the door shut for a while until she felt like it was safer than her last hiding spot. So you can manipulate nature if you know its better for them than the stressed out mother carrying them all over the place. Locked in a kennel is what she seems to like best now. But we have been handling kittens less to ease her mind

  3. my cat doesnt hide all of her kittens… she has just recently started this thing where she will take one specfic kitten and hide her and not feed her and now she gets very aggressive with her. and they just turned 8 days lastnight. im afraid for my kittens but i have no clue where to turn with this problem.

  4. My cat had 5 kittens on Halloween.1 died,he/she had a broken leg,because she was trying to move her kittens.She was staying at my sisters house,then we moved them back to my place.Now she can’t make up her mind where she wants to keep them.She has moved them 4 times already….within 4 hours!Your article helped me out a lot,I was really getting worried!I think I will just let her be…..thanks for the article :)

  5. My cat had 4 kittens 3 days ago and she wouldn’t let us leave her alone so we kept moving her box to our lounge during the day and in our bedroom at night. But tonight she is trying to move them under our bed. We did freak out but after reading this I’ll leave her too it. We thought she was being silly as she only a young mum so we out it down to her being too young to understand. Thanks for info it really helped me.

  6. hi my sons cat has had 5 kittens on Saturday its her 2rd litter witch she had both litters on my sofa so i dont understand why she had moved 3 off them an left 2 on the sofa iv had to put the 3 shed hid back to her as she hid them ware there is loads off wires an i still dont understand why move just 3 an not them all as when i get up for work she was feeding the 2 she left on sofa

  7. A cat has been coming to my garden every evening for food for the past 2 months, she had 3kittens sunday evening, down a gap between my neighbours conservatory and fence, they were still there wednesday, but today friday the kittens arent there now, i saw the mother this morning and gave her food, although she has been coming for food upto 4/5 times a day since giving birth, the past couple of days she hasnt come so often, she is a stray so dont know where she has taken them now, just hope they are all ok

  8. A cat took to under my oil take 2 weeks back and had a 3 kittens about 4 days ago , I’ve been leaving food and water out for her and she’s been eating it but this morning she’s gone and 1 of the kitten is gone too .. I was hoping to leave her with her kittens as long as possible before calling animal rescue to find them homes .. Any advise ? Just let her be ?

  9. I am also new to having mother and kittens. She moved them last night and didn’t know what to do as it was an unsuitable place due to also having a dog. Not too woried now I know it is a natural thing they do.

  10. Good article! Thank you! My cat has been hiding her kittens alot. Though Iknow it is natural it fears me because she hides them in the garage

  11. My cat just moved her kittens for the first time yesterday. Kittens are 11 days old already so I’m confused by her actions. But now I will let her have it her way as long as I know where she’s hiding them. How long will this stage last?

  12. thanks for info , coz im a 1st timer for this thing and im so confused why she’s always moving away her kittens with our other cats thought it would be easy to let the momma and kittens to be with our other cats but since she put her 4 kittens in their poo bin i was so aware why she’s doin this until 1 of her kitten died and now i read this i understand why ,i put them now under my bed ..i dont want my cat feels bad now 1 of her kitten died as a mother instinct i know how does she felt..thank u again..more power

  13. Thanks for the info, I find if very informative as my kitty has just had a litter of six and has moved her kittens once and if looking for another place.

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