Mother Cat Behavior After Kittens Are Gone

Maternal instincts are one of the strongest emotional triggers that define how a mother cat behaves and their reactions to the litter that they bear and raise. Sometimes, mother cats are known to behave in some strange ways after her kittens are all grown up and go on to start their own lives. As humans, this is not an uncommon feeling at all – most of us have probably seen the crying faces of our moms as we look in the rearview mirror, pulling away from the driveway of the family home to spend the next couple of years in college.

However, in mother cats, there are a number of different ways that they can behave after their offspring have spread their wings and gone out to explore the world. Here are a few of them.

How mother cats raise kittens

Before we start looking at their behaviors after their kittens leave home, let’s look at what happens beforehand. In most cases, mother cats suckle their kittens from birth until they are about 4 weeks old. After this time, she’ll start weaning them, teaching them to hunt for their own food and slowly moving their diet away from mother’s milk to more solid foods. If any of the kittens try to suckle her, they may be at the receiving end of a hiss or growl – this is a form of encouragement from mother cat to her kittens to get them to look for their own food elsewhere.

During this transition period, she will move her nest a little bit closer to a preferred hunting spot, or near a food source (in domestic situations, it is the food dish where you serve cat meals), in order to make it easier for her babies to have access to food. After about 10 to 12 weeks, these kittens become fully weaned and are officially old enough to move out of their family home to start living their own life journeys.

Mother cats behavior after kittens are gone

After the last of the kittens have left the nest, mama cats may exhibit a few strange behaviors. One of those behaviors is crying, or calling out. It may seem like your mother cat is frantically searching for her kittens which she dearly raised from birth, but there is no cause for unnecessary worry. Although she does miss her kittens, she doesn’t miss them enough to come to a point where she starts crying. A very plausible explanation for this behavior is basically – the fact that your mama cat has come back into heat. Cats are animals after all, and unless they’re neutered, heat periods are an incredibly important cycle in their lives that ensures that the entire species lives on for generations to come. Cats that are in heat tend to do a lot of calling – which is easily mistaken for “crying” as it may look and sound similar to how a human would cry out in sadness.

To really know if the mama cat in your life is truly missing her little babies, look out for how she behaves towards other younger pets, or even stuffed animals or pillows. In most cases, these remind her of the little kittens she reared before they left home, and it is the pet parent’s responsibility to intervene if necessary. Help your cat get her mind off the situation by introducing some new routines, a new treat or even a nice, exciting new toy that she loves playing with. This mental stimulation keeps her spirits high and will help to keep your relationship with each other strong.


Can mother cats forget their kittens?

Unlike humans, it doesn’t take too much for a mama cat to break her bonds with her kittens. Cat brains are wired very differently from us – in a sense that it is a perfectly natural thing to expect kittens and mothers to part ways completely after they are fully weaned (which happens at around 10 to 12 weeks).

This is because cats are naturally designed to be independent, and to be independent, teenage cats must step out from their mother’s wing and find their way in the world on their own. This is mutually understood by both mother and child, which means that mama cat will already have expected to weaken her bonds with her offspring as the day of separation comes closer.

It is not uncommon to see mother cats showing uncomfortable and sometimes even aggressive behavior towards kittens that stay close to her for too long – hissing and growling may occur at this point.


Should I spay my mother cat?

If your feline companion is a mother cat that has seen a litter or two come and go in her lifetime, consider having her spayed at the earliest convenience. This makes sure that her quality of life is kept high, and both of you can spend more time together. In addition, this solves any separation anxiety issues your mama cat might face in some rare cases when her litter grows up and leaves the nest.


Final thoughts

It is always worth remembering that mother cats don’t necessarily have the emotional ability to “grieve” like humans do. They’re just not programmed to remember their litter as a part of their “family” from birth to adulthood. In fact, it has been shown that once kittens grow up to be adult cats in other households with other pet owners, their mother cats will not recognize them at all, and will regard them as strangers in her territory, acting aggressively in the worst case scenario.

This is due to the fact that for mother cats and the litter in her nest, scent is one of the strongest identifying features that can help her tell her babies apart. Once her babies grow older, they take on different scents and thus, eventually become unrecognizable. So if you feel like your mama cat has been acting a little strange lately after her kittens are gone, hopefully this article has helped you understand a little bit more about how she really feels.

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