Cats are still the second most popular pet in North America and Europe with around half of all households owning a cat. With the sheer popularity of keeping cats as pets, it is easy to see why there are so many people reaching out each month and asking various questions about keeping their pet cat, offering it the best possible care, and about their general behaviour.
Although a large number of people keep pet cats, far less of them actively breed them and many people who do end up with a pregnant cat were often not expecting their cat to give birth to kittens. This is why we often see such a high volume of questions from the cat owning community about the interactions between a mother cat and her kittens with many people specifically asking why does a mom cat bite her kittens?
This will commonly be interpreted as the mother cat attacking her kittens but more often than not, the biting is not due to aggression and is totally normal. Unfortunately though, we do often see a large number of people on social media blindly telling people asking why their mother cat is biting her kittens that she is attacking them when this is far from accurate. Due to this, we wanted to publish our own article going over why a mother cat may bite her kittens and the various meanings behind the bites.
Is It Normal For Mom Cats To Bite Their Kittens?
In many situations, it is totally normal for a mother cat to bite her kittens and there is no need to worry. These little bites can be ways for the mother cat to teach her kittens or to clean them by biting parasites or other items off the coat and skin of the kitten with the bites rarely causing pain.
Biting is not only common amongst cats but many other animals where the offspring will stay with their mother during nursing will also bite their babies for various reasons with it being totally normal and natural. We often see people misinteperate the sounds a kitten makes due to being hungry as a kitten being in pain with some people presuming that it is due to these bites from their mother.
Young kittens, especially those that are less than two weeks old will rely on various sounds to communicate with their mother with the mother cat instinctively knowing what each of these sounds means. They can range from wanting to nurse to simply wanting to hear the mother cat make a sound to re-assure the kitten that it is safe where as it can be very common for humans to misunderstand the sounds of kittens and totally get their meaning wrong.
Why Does Mom Cat Bite Her Kittens!
A mother cat can bite her kittens for everything from letting the kitten know that it is nursing too hard and hurting the mother to letting the kitten know that it is playing too rough with its siblings. A mother cat will often bite her kittens in the cleaning process when checking for parasites and other issues too with there being various other reasons a mother cat may bite her kittens too.
Although these bites may look like your cat is using a large amount of her bite force on her kittens, each bite is usually carefully calculated to get the intended message across to the kitten without actually harming it. If the mother cat is biting her kitten with all of her bite force then the sounds and behaviour of both the kitten and the mother cat will change quickly and it will often be obvious something is wrong.
Kittens are generally far more playful than adult or even juvenile cats and sometimes they play rough with their mother and once shes had enough she may let the kitten know with a gentle bite or swipe of her paw. The majority of kittens will get the message quickly and leave the mother cat to relax a little but if a kitten doesn’t get the message then the mother cat may start to use additional force.
Should I Try To Stop My Cat From Biting Her Kittens?
There is usually no need to stop the mother cat from biting her kittens as there is no real thread to the kittens and each little bite is usually a lesson to help socialise the kitten for in the future. It is natural for mother cats to bite their kittens gently for a number of reasons but some experienced cat moms may bite a little too hard and need you to intervene in very rare situations.
If you have an outdoor cat then the urge to teach kittens to hunt can be stronger than that of an indoor cat too and although this is usually not harmful, some mothers may bite or swipe at their kittens when teaching them how to hunt too. We have seen some people say that they try to interrupt these lessons to discourage their kittens from hunting in the future but this is usually a waste of time as hunting is engrained in the instinct of cats anyway.
Keep in mind that kittens will often play roughly with each other and have mom govern what is acceptable and what is too rough. We have noticed some people incorrectly presuming that a bite mark on a kitten was due to the mother cat when in actual fact, the length between the teeth puncture marks are far too small and the bite was the result of one of the other kittens and not the mother so also keep things like this in mind too.
That brings our article going over why a mother cat will sometimes bite her kittens to an end. For the most part, there is no need to stop the behaviour as it is normal and part of the bonding process between mother and kitten as well as an important social experience for many kittens too. Although the mother may accidentally hurt her kitten, it is very rare and most of the injuries people notice on their kittens are actually from other kittens rather than the mother cat.