Motherhood can be a challenge for any species. Give these cat moms compassion, consideration, and help if they need it, just as you would for any struggling mother.
Reasons A Mother Cat Might Abandon Or Reject Her Young
Leaving The Nest
First of all, many people come upon litters of kittens outdoors and assume they’ve been abandoned when, in fact, mom is nearby, probably hunting. Outdoor or stray moms sometimes scatter their kittens to avoid predation.
If the kittens seem well fed, are in a safe place, and fall asleep after crying for a short while, mom is probably around. It’s best to monitor a nest for a couple of hours to see if she comes back. If she doesn’t, she may be ill and unable to come back, or she may have been killed.
Kittens can also wander away and get lost or stuck in places where mom can’t get to them. This can happen indoors or outdoors. So if you see a mom prowling around nervously or find a kitten crying somewhere, they may be trying to find one another.
Illness Or Deformity
Sometimes a mom will reject a sick kitten to avoid spreading the illness to the others.
Some nursing moms develop mastitis, an infection of the mammary gland. This can happen spontaneously or from kittens scratching the tissue during nursing.
The nipple becomes swollen, hard, and hot to the touch. So it may look like mom is rejecting her babies when it’s actually just too painful to let them suckle.
Too large a litter can also lead to rejection. If there is not enough milk for all her kittens, mom may reject a few to save milk for the others.
A careful observer will probably notice this behavior within the first 24 hours of birth.
A very young mom who hasn’t developed maternal skills may act confused or disinterested. Some moms start out this way and then figure it out. Some don’t.