Why Do Mother Cats Hide Their Kittens?

July 18, 2010


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).

Cat-AnimatedWhen 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

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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Comments

  1. Debra Hurley says:

    She’s an out door cat should I follow her until I find the place where she wants to have them??

  2. Debra Hurley says:

    my cat goes outside and she had a litter a while back and I kept one of them. Now she pregnant and doesn’t want to stay in except to eat and I’m afraid she’s going to have them outside and I’m so scared for them all!! Please help me!!!!

  3. nicole says:

    my kittens are 16 days old and now suddenly momma cat is movie only one baby away from the others but she still nurses it .. idk what to

  4. jynnelle says:

    My cat had kittens 5 days ago. They were safe in a large rubbermaid bin. She moved them under my large kingsized sleigh bed. I cant reach them now. Im worried they may get lost somewhere in my bedroom or get hurt…. i also have a st.bernard dog and im scared she’ll step on kittens! . I dont have a spare room. I dont know what to do. Should i lock momma in my room with her litterbox and food???

  5. jackie says:

    My cat had kittens on the 25 in a closet. She Is Very ProtectiveOf Them But She Won’t Nurse them. What do I do

  6. pipercat says:

    Hi I need to clean one of the feral cats kittens eyes do I do it in front of her

  7. Maureen says:

    A mama cat and 4 kittens showed up at my house a few days ago. Kittens are (guessing) about 6 weeks old. They stayed in my bushes and came up on the porch to eat and play. I first found them Friday afternoon, fed them Friday night and Saturday a.m. Saturday they were around all day / night. I fed them canned food 2x (a.m. and p.m.) and left dry food out for them all day. They were fine, happy, and fed as of 10:30 +- Saturday p.m. I put dry food out Sunday a.m. and mom ate, hung on the porch for a bit, then went into the bushes. No babies in sight. I put wet food out later, and about 2 hours later it was gone. Saw mom, but again, no babies. Few hours later the dry food was gone. No sign of mom or babies. I left my garage door open a little bit. If mom moved them because something threatened them overnight, I’m hoping if she figures out the garage is an option she will bring them back. Can’t imagine all 4 kittens disappeared all by themselves all at once. Could they?

    1. Janette says:

      Same thing happened to me. Tame mama came first and then brought four babies and I fed and watered them twice a day for about 3 weeks. Five days ago they just left. No idea where they went.

  8. Magdalena says:

    my cat has 2 kittens, there were three but it died because my cat sat on it. I moved them just hours after they were born to a cardboard. It was big enough but I guess my cat was uncomfortable in it, then I made another place which was bigger and they can move freely. But after one day, my cat moved them to veranda on a second floor, ithe place was a little bit dusty and not secluded enough and I don’t know why she moved them there.

  9. Karen Baldwin says:

    My cat has 4 kittens about a week and a half ago, we left them on the front porch under the swing. Now they are gone, can’t find them anywhere we did find another litter that were a little older but they are gone too now. Where could they have went, I’m scared cause they were only a week old. The mama cats are still around but no babies, will they bring them back eventually?

    1. nicole says:

      look for dark hiding places tucked away my cat had her kids in a hole under a boat we moved them a week later into a kennel in the grage she moved them a few days latter into a more hidden tucked away place in the grage i had to go get them out there i put them in a bigger dog kennel in my house in the kitctchen …..i hope u find them and listen for quiet meows if u do go a serch for them …. tom cats and foxes will eat baby kittens if left unattended … hope this helps some and hope u find them

  10. Missy says:

    The neighborhood cat had 5 kittens in my flower pot on the porch about 2 weeks ago. I just bought a carriage so that she and her kittens can go in there. It’s much warmer and I also put some food in there as well. Is there anything else that I can do?

  11. Rachel Mccague says:

    My cat had a litter of three 2 1/2 wks ago. I started letting company see them yesterday. Mama kitty got upset and moved them to the dead space under my bathtub. How can I het her to bring them out. There are holes under the tub which got to the basement and im afraid they may fall. What do I do?

  12. Tim Wilson says:

    My cat had a litter of five almost a week ago, and now she is trying to move them. There really isn’t a more appropriate place than they already are, but she is very stubborn. Is there anything I can do to get her to quit moving them?

  13. Lisa says:

    Thanks so much for the info. This is the first time any of my cats have had a litter and the momma is quite young. She had a litter of 3 yesterday. I was worried at first that she took a kitten and hid with it under my bed and left the other two. I put the birthing box under the bed with her. It seems she wants some privacy. I’m more at ease now that I know this is natural.

  14. Hello everyone! My cat Dazy is pregnant and I want to make the environment as comfortable as I can for her. I am sure that she is going to hide her little ones but I hope to see them soon. 🙂

  15. Carla Lorens says:

    Last month I moved in a new apartment while my cat was pregnant. When she had her babies she hid them all underneath my bed. I think that she was afraid of the new place and she wanted to protect them. Two weeks after the birth she showed me her little ones and they are amazing. Thank you for the informative article!

  16. carlos elise sara pablo estaban greyson elias samantha catrina alex walter sophia hannah magnolia britney charles says:

    My friends are b all here and I told them that my cat gave birth 4 fandango and we’ve been following her, and she doesn’t mind cuz I feed her and I’ve had her since she was a baby, this is her second litter and only 1 cat out of the first litter survived :/ she hid them in a river a nd only got to move 1 before the others drowned.now this is litter #2 and it looks like she hid them in the river bank under a lot of sharp black berry vines so even if she did have them there, we couldn’t get to them. I live on a ranch and it takes forever to find kittens!!! So I was hoping that she would move them soon since we keep following her…

  17. Alyssa says:

    I think my 1year old cat has just had her babies.
    We have no idea where they are since she had them outside.

  18. Julie Pinkney says:

    There was a stray cat once that had kittens. I think it might have been her first litter but I don’t think she knew what she was doing because when she brought her kittens into the house they were all dead. They all had what appeared to be teeth marks on them.I could tell that the kittens were only a few hours old. I don’t even think she realized they were dead. The whole incident was disturbing but at the same time I felt bad for poor kitty.

  19. Edith Adams says:

    I had a cat that I took in as a stray kitten. She had 2 litters. One after another. The second litter she left with me after a week after having them. I had to take them all to an adoption place so they could be fed. I kept 3 kittens from the first litter. And have the other 2 for adoption. I haven’t seen her again. But before she left, she taught her first litter to fight, and to catch mice. Then she pushed away from the first litter by snapping at them. They were confused. But they are doing fine and are very loving. I’m getting ready to leave work and will go home and feed them, give them fresh water, clean their boo boo box, and play ball with them. They’ll get their snacks and we will all lay down and watch tv. Then go to bed. I love them so much. They’ll be a year old April 8, 2015. I don’t understand why she distanced herself from her first litter. I thought she may have felt they would be safe and cared for. And maybe couldn’t handle the second litter so soon after the first.

  20. anne says:

    There is a stray cat that came on my porch today and was rubbing my legs I feed her and she stayed awhile she left and 3 hours later she brought her baby to me and dropped her at my feet Wat do I do

  21. Tito says:

    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?

  22. Haley Travis says:

    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

  23. Anonymous says:

    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.

  24. Anonymous says:

    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 🙂

  25. Anonymous says:

    My cat had 5 kittens a week ago when I’m in bed she brings them under the covers to my bed.

  26. Lez-Lee says:

    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.

  27. Anonymous says:

    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

  28. my cat is obsessed with putting them in my bed under the quilt, what do I do……..

  29. Anonymous says:

    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

  30. Anonymous says:

    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 ?

  31. Anonymous says:

    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.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much! This information was more than I asked for and so helpful! Wonderful!

  33. Anonymous says:

    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

  34. Anonymous says:

    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?

  35. Anonymous says:

    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

  36. Anonymous says:

    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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    1. mala says:

      Mt cat had 5 kittens a couple days ago when I woke up they weren’t there any more I was terrified