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Do Mom Cats Miss Their Kittens After They’re Separated?

Do Mom Cats Miss Their Kittens After They’re Separated?

Mother cats are truly remarkable. They take care of their newborn kittens: They nurture them, groom them, and protect them from any potential threats.

Thanks to their mothers, newborn kittens become strong and independent. The role of their mothers is irreplaceable in the first weeks of their lives.

Another important thing mother cats teach their offspring is the proper way of socializing and playing with their feline counterparts.

Their bond is very strong at the beginning. But, what happens later on in the kittens’ lives? Do mom cats miss their kittens after they are taken away from them?

Let’s explore this issue.

Do Mother Cats Miss Their Kittens?

sad cat

We all know cats aren’t as aloof as they are sometimes perceived to be. This doesn’t mean they feel the things in the way we do.

For instance, kittens in general don’t remember their mothers, especially if they’re separated from them at a very young age. They tend to adapt quickly to their new homes, shifting their focus toward humans and other pets

If they encounter their mother later on in their lives, she’s likely to be just another cat from them.

Does the same apply to a mother cat’s relationship with her kittens? 

Mother cats, without a doubt, feel love and connection with their offspring. Otherwise, they wouldn’t care for them in such a good way as they do. But, this tends to fade over time.

This is why you could even see a mother cat attacking her older kittens. Once she feels her work with them is done, a mother cat could even start rejecting them. This is just how things work in the feline world.

So, when kittens are fully weaned and socialized, they’re ready to leave their mothers. 

There is a higher chance that a cat will miss her offspring if they are separated from her before they’re weaned. 

Also, a mother cat could miss her kitten in case it passes away while still under her care. But, this emotion isn’t likely to last – usually not longer than 72 hours.

Let’s look at the three explanations why felines usually don’t miss their offspring.

1. Her Kittens Are No Longer Dependent On Her

kitten in the grass

Motherhood is a job for felines. They are well aware of what they need to do, and they perform this task very successfully.

They offer food, protection, and shelter for their fragile offspring. They keep them safe from predators and show defensive behavior.

However, this only lasts for a couple of weeks. Once her kittens are no longer dependent on her, the mother cat feels like her work is done.

She isn’t supposed to take care of her offspring anymore, as she completed her task. This is just a normal part of feline nature. 

Mother cats are aware their kittens won’t stay with them once they are grown up and ready for the outside world. Therefore, they aren’t programmed to miss them.

2. She Wants Her Old Life Back

Mother cats are responsible for their kittens 24/7, a duty shared by mothers across all species.

These first couple of weeks of kittens’ lives are intense for their mothers. Once they begin to eat solid foods and drink water on their own, mother cats are starting to notice they will soon be ready to live separately from them. 

This is also the period when a mom cat starts to miss her old life. She used to love her independence and being able to just go hunting without being responsible for others.

Cats are solitary animals in their nature. They do enjoy living with their humans and can even get along with other pets. But, they still love to have some time on their own.

She just wants to go back to her old habits. Actually, the mother cat might even be excited about her kittens leaving and, therefore, isn’t likely to miss them.

3. Cats Are Likely To Give Birth To Many Kittens

three kittens laying

There isn’t a more powerful human connection than that seen between mothers and their children. But, human mothers typically have one, two, or three children, and focus all their attention on them.

The bond they share is meant to last a lifetime, a concept quite different from the feline world.

According to Spruce Pets, a cat’s gestation period is roughly two months, making it possible for her to have as many as five litters a year.

An average cat gives birth to four kittens in each litter, but this can vary from one to twelve kittens, as explained by International Cat Care.

Considering this potentially large number of kittens, it’s understandable that a mother cat isn’t likely to form deep bonds with each one of them.

So, this is the final reason why she isn’t likely to miss them.

When Are Kittens Supposed To Leave Their Mothers?

It’s desirable for kittens to stay with their mothers until they reach the age of 12-14 weeks.

In the first four weeks of their lives, kittens are completely dependent on their mother for food and body temperature regulation. 

In the period between four to eight weeks, mother cats teach their kittens how to eat, hunt, and defecate on their own. During this period, kittens learn a lot by imitating their mothers’ behaviors.

This is the time when they learn to be independent. Still, it would be better for them to stick around their mothers for an additional couple of weeks.

Sandra Martínez-Byer and her associates [1] explain how the early socialization of a kitten with its mother and littermates in the first couple of weeks in their lives is crucial for their future behavior. This is the stage when kittens should acquire vital skills for appropriate social play. 

Once again, it’s clear how important a mother’s role is at the beginning of the kitten’s life.

See Also: Do Cats Remember Their Siblings And Do They Miss Them?

Can Mother Cats Recognize Her Kittens When They Grow Up?

two grown up cats

Mother cats are likely to quickly move on after their kittens leave them. But, are they able to recognize their offspring when they grow up?

Cats recognize each other by smell. Most likely, a mother cat won’t recognize the smell of her adult offspring, since they will be separated for too long.

Not remembering her kitten seems harsh to us. But, once again, cats aren’t like humans.

They can be super sweet and cuddly with us, and even show they understand how much we love them. But, this doesn’t mean they sense emotions in the same way as we do.

A cat encountering her adult offspring will usually react to them as with any other stranger cat. This means she could even show territorial and defensive behavior towards them!


Do mom cats miss their kittens?

No, not really. There could be some exceptions here, however. If she loses her kitten, or if they are separated from her too early, a mother cat could miss her offspring.

In this situation, she could be going through her process of grieving. But, this isn’t likely to last too long. A cat should be her old self in a day or two. 

Does not missing their kittens mean a cat isn’t a good mother? No, not all. This is just how things are for them naturally.

Once she completes her task, a mother cat is ready to move on, to put it in simple words. It can be challenging to understand this, but this is the way felines function. And, we still love them, despite everything!

[1] Martínez-Byer, S. et. al. Effects of early social separation on the behaviour of kittens of the domestic cat, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 259, 2023, DOI, Retrieved September 29, 2023.

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