Cats are the most adorable companions you can imagine, but, all of us are also aware that they still have some of their natural instincts. Our domesticated cats are also little predators.
You might have heard that male cats are likely to kill small, helpless kittens.
This sounds so cruel. Is this just a myth? Or, do male cats kill kittens? Should you be careful if you have a male cat and a litter of newborn kittens in your home?
It’s hard for any cat owner to imagine that cats are actually violent and bloodthirsty. I mean, most of us have our pets sleeping next to us, and sharing the same living space!
So, let’s see if this is just a rumor, or if male cats do indeed have instincts for killing kittens.
Are Male Cats Likely To Harm And Kill Kittens?
There is some truth in this. Some male cats might indeed kill kittens.
As a responsible pet owner, you should know the main reasons behind this behavior, and ways of preventing it. It doesn’t matter whether you have a litter of kittens inside your home, or you just want to take precautions.
Let’s take a look at the main reasons for this highly undesirable behavior.
1. Territorial Aggression
Male cats are more likely to harm kittens that aren’t theirs, and this has a lot to do with their wild origin.
Back in the wild, cats always tried to keep their territory safe from predators. This is why they looked at all other cats, and their kittens as well – as threats. So, it was perfectly normal for male cats back then to kill other cats and their offspring to defend their territory.
Yes, our pets nowadays are domesticated, but some of their wild instincts are still there. I’m sure many of you will notice the weird behaviors of your cats, and you might not even think this could be their instincts.
For example, some cats are likely to guard their owners while they pee. So weird, right? Well, this could be their way of protecting the bathroom, which is the area they obviously marked as their territory.
Of course, this is pretty harmless behavior, while killing kittens to protect their territory is a whole other story and something any cat owner will be shocked to see.
2. Seeing Them As A Prey
Small kittens are very vulnerable and incapable of defending themselves. This is why male cats see them as easy prey.
They will attack them knowing that kittens these small will not respond.
Every cat has a prey instinct – some show it often, while others involve in this behavior occasionally.
So, if a male cat sees the mother cat leaving her litter of newborn kittens all by themselves, this is a perfect opportunity to attack and kill them.
No cat is a fan of changes. According to Marta Amat and her associates , any change in environment, together with a poor human-cat relationship, and an inter-cat conflict are one of the most commonly seen stressors in felines.
If you have recently adopted a new kitten into your home, this can be very stressful for your male cat, especially if he is used to being the only cat in his surroundings.
In this situation, your cat sees the arrival of a new kitten as a big change and disruption of his routine.
It’s not so often to see a male cat killing kittens for this reason, but, unfortunately, it’s not impossible.
How To Stop Male Cats From Killing Kittens?
I would like to emphasize here how a male cat killing kittens isn’t a common behavior. But, still, it’s possible for cat owners to notice hostility by their male cat towards kittens. So, it’s also important to know how to stop male cats from killing kittens.
Another crucial piece of information is that you can expect this behavior to happen more often in intact males, rather than in those that have been neutered.
Intact males are likely to run away from home, but also to show dominance, and to perceive other cats (and kittens) as a threat.
Neutered males are far less likely to show territorial and aggressive behavior. If your male is sterilized, he’ll be much calmer and probably won’t show aggression towards kittens.
Now, let’s see what are some important steps in preventing a male cat from attacking kittens.
1. Separate Your Male Cat From Kittens
If you have newborn kittens at your home together with a male cat, you need to keep them separated as much as possible, especially in the first weeks.
The kittens should be placed in a separate room, where they will be protected, and where your male cat shouldn’t enter at all.
If there is no chance for you to keep them separate like this, then their interaction must always be supervised. So, you shouldn’t leave them alone without you or one of your family members keeping an eye on them.
It will take some time for your male to get used to the presence of new kittens in your home, so, this first period is crucial for him to adapt to the new situation.
When kittens are about 8 weeks of age, you can slowly start to introduce them to your cat, but be careful to always limit and observe their interaction.
The 1st Pet Vet Veterinary Center recommends giving cats an item with the other animal’s scent on it – something like a blanket, or toy to start with. You should place this item in an area where your cat feels the most comfortable.
2. Provide Your Male Cat With A Safe Environment
If your cat senses a severe change in his surroundings, and if he notices he doesn’t have all of your attention only for him – chances are high that he might show undesirable behavior.
To prevent this, you should make sure your cat still has his own space, and he doesn’t feel like he has to share his toys, or food and water bowls.
Also, you should pet him and play with him as usual, so that your communication would not change, and so that he would not consider the arrival of new kittens in the home as something tragic.
3. Make Sure Kittens Are Placed In A Safe Spot In Your Home
It would be best to fence off the area where the kittens are so that you can be sure that your male will not disturb them.
You can also use a pet door to keep your cat out of the area where the newborn kittens are.
Whichever protection approach you decide on, the only thing that matters is that you set up barriers that will prevent your cat from entering the kittens’ area.
Do male cats kill kittens?
It’s not so easy to give an exact answer to this question. This depends on the male cat, its surroundings, the opportunity, and even on you as a cat owner.
The truth is that male cats, especially intact ones, have a strong prey instinct, and an urge for territorial behavior. But, it isn’t true that all male cats will want to harm kittens. As a matter of fact – this happens quite rarely.
But, still, it’s good to be careful if you have a male cat and a litter of newborn kittens in your home.
Your cat might see them as a threat to his territory, or as vulnerable prey, and might try to harm and kill them.
Therefore, you should separate them from the start, and slowly introduce them when the first couple of critical weeks pass.
Your male is most likely not to hurt them, but, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
 Amat M, Camps T, Manteca X. Stress in owned cats: behavioural changes and welfare implications. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 2016;18(8):577-586. DOI, Retrieved July 02, 2023.