Kittens leaving the litter

6 Reasons Why a Cat Abandons Her Kittens

Have you ever wondered why some cats abandon their kittens? This behavior may seem heartless, but there are actually various factors that can lead a mother cat to leave her little ones behind. Understanding the reasons behind this action can help us better care for our feline companions and their offspring.

Why a Cat Abandons Her Kittens

1. One reason why a cat may abandon her kittens is stress. Cats are sensitive creatures, and any significant change in their environment can cause them anxiety. If a mother cat feels threatened or overwhelmed, she might leave her kittens in search of a safer place. Noisy surroundings, constant disturbances, or aggressive behavior from humans or other animals can contribute to her stress levels.

2. Inexperienced or young mother cats may also abandon their kittens. A first-time mother may not know how to properly care for her offspring or may not have the maternal instincts needed to nurture them. Sometimes, these mothers may simply be overwhelmed by the demands of caring for multiple kittens and choose to abandon them.

3. Another contributing factor is the health of the mother cat or her kittens. If a kitten is weak, sick, or has congenital abnormalities, the mother may instinctively abandon it to focus on the healthier ones. This may seem cruel, but it’s a survival mechanism that ensures the continuation of the strongest genes. Additionally, if the mother cat is in poor health, she may not have the strength to care for her kittens, resulting in abandonment.

4. Insufficient resources, such as food and shelter, can also influence a cat’s decision to abandon her kittens. A mother cat needs to provide for herself and her offspring, and if resources are scarce, she might prioritize her own survival and leave her kittens behind.

5. Domestic cats that have not been spayed may go back into heat shortly after giving birth. This hormonal change can reduce the mother cat’s interest in her kittens, and she may leave them in pursuit of a mate. Spaying your cat will not only prevent this behavior but also contribute to controlling the overall cat population.

6. Human intervention can also lead to cats abandoning their kittens. While it’s tempting to handle or move newborn kittens, doing so can interfere with the bond between the mother and her offspring. If the mother cat senses a foreign scent on her kittens, she may reject them. Always be cautious and give a mother cat and her kittens space and time to bond without disturbance.


If you come across abandoned kittens, it’s important to assess the situation carefully. The mother cat may only be temporarily gone to find food or a more suitable nesting site, so it’s best to observe from a distance before intervening. If the kittens appear to be in immediate danger, it’s advisable to contact a local animal rescue organization for guidance.

Understanding the reasons behind cats abandoning their kittens can help us take better care of our feline friends and their offspring. By providing a safe, stress-free environment, ensuring proper healthcare, and giving them the necessary space, we can contribute to a positive and nurturing experience for both the mother cat and her kittens.

Why Do Cats Reject Their Kittens? (Video)

"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett

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