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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