There’s nothing cuter than newborn kittens. In fact, the entire birth process for felines is incredible. Here at PetPlace, we take pride in providing you with all of the information you need to understand and care for your cat. Today, we’ll be exploring how mother cats provide for their kittens.
Immediately After Birth
Mother cats (often called queens) seek out cozy, quiet spaces to deliver their babies. If your female cat is expecting, you can help her create this area by providing her with a towel-lined box in a quiet, dark room. As soon as the kittens are born, mom licks the kittens to remove the amniotic sacs from around their faces and bodies. She’ll also take a few moments to chew through the umbilical cords and eat the placentas. This is completely normal behavior.
Felines prefer privacy when they’re giving birth. Your cat knows what to do. However, it’s important for you to understand how you can help in case mom is unable to care for her babies. If she neglects to remove the amniotic sac from any kittens, you can gently break it with a towel. Count the placentas to make sure that there is one for every kitten. If you don’t see all of the placentas, one of them may have been retained, and your cat might need medical help. However, she might have already eaten one of them. Twin cats may share one placenta.
The First Few Weeks
Kittens can’t see at all or hear very well when they’re born. They have to use their instincts to find their mother’s teats to nurse. Fortunately, they can smell the milk. They also have a reflex that causes them to suckle when they feel a nipple tickling their fur. If one of her offspring is having trouble finding the nipple, mama cat will usually pull the baby toward her. Newborns typically nurse within the first hour or two after birth, and they must eat within the first 24 hours. If there are more kittens than teats, you may have to swap some of the kittens yourself so that everyone gets a turn.
During the early days, the queen will seem to groom her kittens frequently. Licking their abdomens and anuses encourages the babies to eliminate waste. Mom might clean this up herself, but you should be vigilant about removing soiled towels from the nesting area and replacing them with fresh ones. Once the kittens can move around freely, they don’t need help passing urine and stool. If you’re raising the newborns without the queen, it’s your job to stimulate the animals’ digestion using a warm, wet washcloth, according to The Spruce.
Leaving the Nest
After about three weeks, kittens start to explore their environments. This is when the mother begins socializing the young cats. She will encourage them to walk and move around. You may hear her making a strange sound as she calls those that have strayed too far. By four weeks, the kittens should be fairly steady on their feet. They’ll begin playing, jumping, and climbing by six weeks.
During this time, the queen will show her young how to use a litter box. She’ll also begin the weaning process around four weeks, but it can last until the babies are 12 weeks old. If weaning is rushed, cats might grow up suckling on inanimate objects, like blankets. The offspring also benefit from watching their mother and littermates play with each other until they’re about 12 weeks old. Many experts recommend exposing the kittens to handling by humans between four and six weeks. Gently and quietly pet them and hold them so that they get used to your touch.
Caring for Mom
Felines are pretty good at taking care of themselves after they’ve given birth. The queen will groom herself frequently, and you shouldn’t see much discharge or blood coming from her vagina. She doesn’t usually start eating or drinking until about 24 hours after she has given birth, and she will be hesitant to leave her babies. Place food, water, and a litter box outside of the nursery area so that she feels safe and comfortable.
What if a nursing cat seems sick? Felines can develop mastitis, an infection of the mammary glands. They can also experience an infection in the uterus. Any time that the mother or kittens appear sick or lethargic, take them to the vet. If the queen neglects her kittens or refuses to eat, you may also have to step in.
Don’t be concerned if your sweet, snuggly kitty turns into a snarling tiger after delivering her babies. Maternal aggression in cats is normal. Hormones cause most mammals to develop a protective instinct toward their offspring. If you try to interact with your pet or her litter, you may be met with a nasty hiss. Cats that feel as though their kittens aren’t safe can even kill their young. Make sure that you keep the animals in a protected, low-traffic environment so that the queen can do her job without struggling with feelings of aggression.
When Is It Safe to Separate the Kittens From Their Mother?
The age at which you separate a kitten from its family depends on the situation. In some cases, the kittens have been abandoned, or the mother was hurt and unable to care for her young, and humans have to step in. It helps to understand how cats care for their kittens to get a better idea of the best time to separate a feline from its mother. Most experts recommend waiting until at least six weeks, while others say that it’s better to leave a kitten with its mother for 8 to 10 weeks. The Humane Society explains that cats that spend more time with their mothers are usually better socialized. Although it’s tempting to get your hands on a tiny kitten as soon as possible, you might end up with a better-behaved cat if you wait until it’s a little older.