How to Make Sure a Mother Cat Can Live With Her Kittens

A mother cat can live with her kittens, but it depends on these factors as to how successful this living arrangement develops.

  • The familial relationship between mother and kitten.
  • Temperament and willingness to share food and the home with her kittens.
  • Mum has to tolerate sharing her humans with her youngsters.
  • Note that a mother’s maternal instincts tend to subside as the kitten’s age.

Most mother cats make excellent mothers. They are devoted and caring.

As the kittens grow they enter different stages of development and have different needs.

But once the kittens are approx. 10 -12 weeks old, the mother cat will feel that she has accomplished her work of teaching her kittens about life, and she will start to distance herself from them.

They can go on to live with their kittens, but it depends on the temperament of the mother.

Some just want them gone so they can get on with their life!

Other mothers are more tolerant and can live with their kittens.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean that life will be peaceful. There are bound to be some spats here and there.


The Importance of the Familial Relationship.

Even the most aloof cat will nurture and care for her kittens, up to a point.

Nature has ensured the species continues by implementing the following quirks.

  • Kittens are born defenseless and are therefore dependant on their mother.
  • By defenseless, I mean they are born without being unable to see or hear.
  • This motivates the mother cat to bond to her kittens and take care of all their needs for their first few weeks of life.
  • At this stage, the mother and kittens are a close-knit family unit.
  • The mother cat is protective and teaches them many cat skills such as hunting.
  • As the kittens become more active and strong, they will need less guidance from the mother.
  • And at about 6 -8 weeks the mother will start to return to her normal life before the kittens were born.
  • From here on, it becomes every cat or kitten for themselves.
  • Unless she is a very tolerant cat and doesn’t mind sharing her home or her food, she will want her kittens gone.

Cats are solitary animals. Yes, they can live in a group, but there are very strict social codes to adhere to; otherwise fighting becomes the norm.

Kittens are boisterous and full of energy. They are always on the go, which can irritate an older cat.

Even a patient mother cat can get fed up with their youngsters pouncing and biting them 24/7. She longs for things the way they were before the munchkins were born!

Mother Nature is quite sneaky, it prods the mother’s instinct to chase the kittens away so that she can have more kittens.

You can overcome this by getting your mother cat fixed to reduce the mating instinct, which will make her easier for the kittens to stay connected to her.


Tolerance – the Key to Living As a Family.

If you have a patient mother cat and a quiet, calm bunch of kittens (unusual, but it can happen), then a mother and the kittens can live together in harmony.

  • But patience is the keyword here!
  • Kittens are naturally boisterous and adventurous, whereas an older cat likes peace and harmony.
  • This division between noise and peace, as well as the difference between action or relaxation, is where all the trouble begins.
  • Kittens like to test everything, including the patience of their mother.
  • They bite anything that moves (including mum’s tail and ears), gobble up food quicker than a vacuum cleaner, and race around the place like a lunatic and pounce on whatever they want.
  • Mum being a more mature cat, prefers to relax in the sun and snooze.
  • She prefers to eat daintily and leisurely.
  • And she is happier if life is at a more relaxing pace and hates her peace being disturbed by a pouncing kitten.
  • As the kittens grow, they are turbocharged and love exploding through the house, which drives mum nuts as she just wants to relax.

If you have a VERY patient mum and an unusually quiet bunch (known as a clowder) of kittens, then you may be able to retain the harmony of your home.

If you have an impatient mum and a boisterous clowder of kittens, then you will have a war zone in your home while they all adjust to the new family dynamics.


Food Sharing Can Become a Battleground.

One thing that most animals share is the love of their food. When a mother cat raises her young, they are feeding off her so there is no rivalry.

But when you have a clowder of four or five active kittens, then the dynamics at mealtime within family life begin to change.

  • Like many youngsters, they seem to be hungry all the time. (If they are excessively hungry, they may have worms. Kittens need to be dewormed at 2 weeks of age and then every two weeks until they are at least 8 weeks old. So have a chat with your vet).  
  • Playing uses up a large number of calories, so the kittens burn are burning off all that they eat.

There are two stages of a kitten’s life. Full on and active, and settled and calm.

First stage: Where the kittens are full on and active.

  • When mealtime arrives, even if they all have individual bowls,  the race is on for the kittens to consume all their food then to steal off mum or their siblings without hesitation.
  • As the owner, you need to watch over meal times to ensure that all the kittens and the mother get their share.
  • To keep the peace, you may have to isolate members of the family in different rooms so that there is no stealing going on.
  • All members of your cat family deserve their share of the food. A quiet kitten can be bullied by more robust members and end up starving which is why you need to monitor the feeding carefully.
  • The mother cat can get tetchy if the kittens try to move in on her food. When her patience is tried to the limit, then she will punish them with teeth and claws! 

The second stage: When the kittens mature a little, life seems to become more peaceful:

  • The feline members will have formed a ranking system within the family, know their place, and act according to their rank.
  • They are not so active and therefore more content with full bellies to keep them happy.
  • Mum and the kittens will have established a protocol of behavior, (learned from the previous squabbles), and they learn not to encroach on mum’s special bed or attempt to eat her food.
  • It is at this later stage that the kittens and mother cat can live together in peaceful co-existence.


Mother Cat and Kittens Who Share a Human.

Before the kittens came along, the mother cat enjoyed being the sole feline to her human owners. You talked to her exclusively, cuddled her, pampered her, and doted on her every move.

When she became pregnant, you fussed over her to ensure her comfort, and she loved the attention.

Suddenly, there are kittens in the household. At first, she is protective of them. Then as they grow, she may feel she is pushed into the background as her demanding kittens fight for your attention.

Once again, whether there is peace or war will depend on how you handle this new development and of course, how tolerant the mother cat is.

Starting the right way will smooth the path to everyone’s satisfaction.

  1. When the kittens are born, don’t just focus on those amazing little furballs, make a fuss of mum and reassure her how valued she is.
  2. If the kittens try to push mum off your knee, gently put the kittens down on the floor and let mum rest in peace. The mother cat will appreciate you putting her first.
  3. Kittens are so cute, and they are hard to resist. But perhaps now and again put them in another room with some toys and enjoy some quiet time with the mother. Give her your attention and again reassure her that her position as the number one cat is assured.
  4. Don’t take things off the mother cat and give them to the kittens. Cats are very territorial, and they believe everything in your home belongs to them. The mother cat will be quite offended if you take away her favorite bed and give it to the kittens. Even if you do give her a new bed, it’s not the same. That was her bed! If you want peace in the house, watch what you do.
  5. As you live with the cats, you will get to understand the individual needs of each one. From the bossiest one down to the quiet, shy kitten, they all need to be treated differently and with respect.
  6. Don’t always jump in to sort out their problems. Sometimes a kitten needs a bite or biff on the ear to remind them of its manners.


The Last Bite – Literally.

Cats can live in harmony when they have developed a respect for each other and established their order of importance or protocol within the group.

A lot comes down to how you react to more cats in your life. The mother cat needs to be reassured with love and attention. Her youngsters can easily steal her limelight.

There is always at least one kitten who is a real heart stealer, or the little rogue of the bunch, or delightful snuggler of the brood.

It is hard not to be smitten by them and give them all your attention.

But I warn you, don’t give in to this emotion if you want peace in your home.

For all cats to live in peace and harmony, treat them equally and fairly.


Writer: Jean Brewer

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