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7 Reasons Why Do Mother Cats Attack Their Older Kittens

7 Reasons Why Do Mother Cats Attack Their Older Kittens

Mother cat is the most important person for newborn kittens. She feeds them, grooms them, and makes them feel safe and protected.

This strong bond in kittens’ early lives doesn’t mean that this will continue into their adulthood. You could even get to see some hostile behavior of a mother cat to their older kittens.

Why does this occur? Why do mother cats attack their older kittens?

There are seven common explanations for this feline behavior. Let’s learn more about each of them.

1. She Doesn’t Feel The Urge To Take Care Of Them

cat angry at the kitten

A mother’s role is irreplaceable for kittens. The newborn kitten survival rate is significantly decreased without a mother on their side.

Mother cats have a natural tendency to feed and to care for their kittens. However, this instinct primarily applies to the first few weeks when kittens are entirely reliant on their mother’s care.

Once a mother cat feels like her kittens don’t need her to survive, she might start to reject them. 

She simply wants to let them know she doesn’t want them by her side anymore. This can be hard to understand for us humans, but this is how things work in the feline world.

Another possibility is that she had enough of having so many kittens close to her every second of the day for a couple of weeks. There is a chance she just wants her territory back and this is why she attacks her kittens.

2. Jealousy

Cats can seem aloof, but they are well aware of the love and attention they receive from their owners.

Maybe your cat is used to being the only pet in the house and to get all of your free time. However, now that she has given birth to a litter of newborn kittens, you’re understandably focused on them. Your day is now all about checking on their progress.

As PetMD explains, jealousy in cats can be present as aggression towards other cats that threaten their security, status, or territory.

Therefore, despite them being related, your resident cat could still attack her older kittens if she senses that you’re giving more attention to them than to her.

To avoid this, it’s essential you spend enough time with your cat, play with her, and pet her every time you have a chance.

3. Lack Of Space

Cats are territorial creatures – some display this behavior less, and some more, but they all have it in their nature.

With time, a mother cat might start to feel like her kittens are occupying her territory and making her lack space. She feels like her work with them is done, and now is time for them to look for their own space.

A mother cat attacking her older kittens is clearly letting them know that she’s marking her territory and wants them to get out of it.

If you observe this behavior, you need to intervene. No matter how many cats you have inside your household, each one of them should have her own space and items.

For example, cats shouldn’t share litter boxes or food and water bowls. This can make them highly territorial, despite them being blood-related.

4. A Way To Show Dominance

two cats fighting

Dominant behavior is another thing that’s natural for cats, and even mother cats could manifest this towards their older kittens.

Some of the ways cats show dominance are by marking or spraying urine, stealing and hoarding toys, claiming specific areas to sleep, pushing other cats away from the food bowl, and starting to physically intimidate other cats, according to the Spruce Pets.

It’s possible that a mother cat established her dominance from the outset, but her kittens may now be reaching an age where they challenge her authority.

This can make a mother cat feel like her dominance is threatened, and this is why she could attack her older kittens.

This can be scary to notice, but this is actually entirely natural among felines, and it’s their way of maintaining their social hierarchy.

5. A Form Of Discipline

Mother cats take care of their kittens in the way that they provide food, shelter, and baths for them. But, another important thing is that young kittens learn everything about socialization and behavior with other animals through their relationship with their mothers and their littermates.

When a kitten shows some behavior that a mother cat sees as the one that needs to be corrected, she could attack it to discipline it.

This is a normal part of feline behavior and also a way of healthy socialization. It’s also a way for a mother cat to help her kittens understand how to interact with other cats, and what is not permitted.

You see, discipline in humans isn’t complicated, since it usually involves parents verbally explaining what their children should avoid doing.

Cats don’t use words to show something to each other, but need to use specific behaviors to make a statement.

6. Stress 

There might be absolutely nothing wrong with the relationship between your mother cat and her kittens.

Instead, the mother cat could be under severe stress. This could cause her to act aggressively towards her offspring.

There are many things that can stress a cat out, such as moving, loud noises, any kind of change in her environment, and so on.

It’s crucial to make an effort to identify the specific stress trigger for your cat. By doing this, you can assist her in feeling better and ultimately prevent her from acting aggressively towards her older kittens.

7. Illness Or Injury

cat attacking other cat

Finally, your mother cat could be sick or injured. Cats that feel unwell could attack their kittens.

Vet Marlborough points out how sick cats can become aggressive as they are in pain or they simply want to be left alone since they’re feeling vulnerable.

The best thing to do in this situation is taking your cat to a veterinarian. 

You shouldn’t try to do this on your own, since you can make your furry friend feel more scared and anxious. Moreover, she could even become aggressive towards you to prevent you from touching her.

Final Words

From rejecting them because they feel they don’t need to take care of them anymore to even potential health problems in them – there are several reasons why do mother cats attack their older kittens.

You should do your best to determine which is the case with your cat, and then, if necessary, intervene.

Some situations might even require a veterinarian appointment.

Remember that there’s always an explanation for a cat’s aggressive behavior. Sometimes it might just be their natural instinct, their way of showing dominance, or disciplining their offspring.

Read Next: What To Feed A 5-Week-Old Kitten Without Mom?