Cats Killing Kittens

by Elisa Black-Taylor

Scrappy-Kitten killer

Scrappy-Kitten killer

Scrappy-Kitten killer Cassie-birth defect Furby-walks funny

Cats killing kittens is a more complicated topic than many of us have been led to believe. I'm sure if you're approaching middle age (as many of us are) then you've probably heard the warnings about keeping kittens out of reach of adult male cats.

According to research done in the field, as well as by breeders, one theory is a tomcat is selective in the kittens he kills. Think of the tomcat as a lion and the kittens his pride. The survival instinct will cause the tomcat to kill any kittens not of his lineage. He will use his heightened sense of smell to sniff out those he didn't father and in killing them he is promoting his gene pool for future generations.

Another theory on tomcats killing kittens is from a sexual viewpoint. Many times the tom will try to mate with the nursing female, and when rejected will try to mate with one of the female kittens. Many times the strength of the male during this mating will break a kitten's neck, thus killing it.

A male cat may also kill kittens because the mother cat will go back into heat much sooner if she has no kittens to nurse.

There are also male cats, usually neutered, who on the other hand will assist a female in raising the litter. That's just great, but I wouldn't guarantee the kittens are safe.

There is really no warning behavior for cat people to watch for. The male cat may be friendly to the kittens one day and kill them the next.

General information on the subject stresses that it's not a good idea to keep male cats and kittens in an area where a male can hurt the kittens.

On the topic of female cats killing kittens, I've unfortunately been on the bad end of this topic. A beautiful stray named Scrappy was brought inside to have her kittens. She seemed perfectly content with keeping them in the bedroom closet. At least that's what Scrappy led me to believe right up until the moment I checked on her and her babies and found her eating what was left of the kittens' heads. I felt the need to monitor her every move after this happened.

Research says a female cat may do this if she detects a physical disability in any of her litter. A mother cat doesn't want to waste time and energy on a kitten unlikely to survive.

My Scrappy was a VERY friendly cat. I didn't see anything amiss with the kitten she killed, but research leans toward the opinion that "mother knows best".

I'm convinced several of the feral kittens I've rescued were abandoned by the mother. Furby has a very strange gait. His front legs make circles as he walks. And Cassie has a deformed front paw. I asked the vet about it last week when she was spayed. His diagnosis was "it's just not right". It's a birth defect and it doesn't affect Cassie at all.

I'm just thankful the mother cats didn't kill them.

I'm writing this article as a warning to watch kittens around the mama cat as well as nearby tom?s.

What I'd like to ask the readers today is whether any of you have suffered the loss of kittens by the mother or a tomcat?

We need to educate each other on this topic. I've timed this article as kitten season here in the U.S. is nearly upon us. As if it isn't on us year round.

Trust me, it's no fun to reach in your closet and pull out a headless kitten.

Here's the link to an article I did called Tomcats and Genetics. Also much more on this topic can be found by entering "cats killing kittens" into your search engine.



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Cats Killing Kittens

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Apr 02, 2012
3 Kittens Killed NEW
by: Anonymous

I had 3 kittens that were killed last night by either a dog or a tom cat. One had its side ripped open. I couldn't look at the others that close. The had a little home on my front porch with sheets in it and the sheet was dragged into the yard make me believe it may have been a dog. I do however have 2 toms that to me never paid the kittens any attention but reading I find this to be normal.

Aug 09, 2011
Tom is back
by: Anonymous

My cat is due to have kittens any day now and the tom cat who got her pregnant has re-appeared...what can I do to keep him away? He has broken in to the cat flap before when it was locked.. (that's how my cat got pregnant) I'm worried he might kill the kittens or try to get her pregnant!

May 27, 2011
Separate mom and kitten
by: Elisa

You're probably going to have to syringe feed the kitten. If you get a syringe like is used for an injection a kitten can latch onto it like a nipple with a little practice. I used to make my own formula using evaporated milk, an egg yolk and a little Karo syrup. You'll have to take a warm rag and wipe the butt so the kitten will go to the bathroom.

You can also get kitten formula at the store but its very expensive. Hope this helps.

May 26, 2011
female cat
by: Anonymous

i brought in a stray female cat who was pregnant. she had her kittens last wensday may 25,2011. she had 6 all together. one of them died later that day. this morning i walked in and three more were dead. she has one left and i dont know what to do. i dont think this one is going to make it. kallie is a calico cat. i still dont understand why she kiled those kittens and neither does my fiances 11 year old daughter. she is very heartbroken by all of this.

Apr 15, 2011
by: Michael

Cats killing kittens or infanticide is a significant factor in the world of wildcats.

"Infanticide is a serious threat in many species of felids" (Wild Cats Of The World" page 414).

In a study five male caracals had the remains of caracal kittens in their stomachs, for example.

In domestic cats it is rare to observe infanticide. When it has happened it seems to involve the kittens of a solitary mother in contrast to a group of females cooperating in the care of kittens, which is thought to be a defense mechanism to prevent males killing the kittens.

When I think of cat infanticide I think of lions. When male lions takeover a pride the incoming males kill the small cubs and kick out the older young lions which induces the females to "come into etrus (heat)" and to mate. This way the incoming males can have offspring of their own. It is brutally logical and all about survival.

Killing kittens reduces the time it takes to produce new cubs.

Thanks for bringing up the subject, Elisa.

Apr 13, 2011
I meant rats
by: Elisa


Apr 13, 2011
Hairless Rats
by: Elisa

I used to raise hairless rats. The male cares for the kittens. They sleep with him and the mother only steps in at feeding time. I never had a male rat kill any of the kittens

Hairless rats make good pets as they are very calm compared to regular rats. We used to take ours to the park on a leash so they could run around. Couldn't go on a hot sunny day as they would burn.

Yes I'm weird. LOL.

Apr 13, 2011
Cats Killing Kittens
by: Ruth (Monty's Mom)

The people who say they want their cat to have "just one litter" for their children to learn about the miracle of birth should consider this article. I'm so glad the cat my mother allowed to "have just one litter" for my sister and I was a very good mom, and none of her kittens died. But as a parent, would you really want your children finding dead or headless kittens?

My parents find dead kittens now and then from the feral cat population in the woods next to their house. They usually attribute it to male cats, but once they thought it could be that a hawk dropped the kitten.

I asked the worker at a cat shelter near me if a kitten would be in danger in a house with male cats, but she said so long as they are neutered it's not an issue. It really only happens when they are trying to kill off the kittens of other males or get the female into heat again. She said usually a young cat is a good match with the existing male, because they seem to be protective of the small cat instead of competing with it for territory.

I think my husband is afraid to get another cat because Monty might hurt it, or they could fight and Monty would get hurt. I've told him about Elisa and Furby and all those rescues living together, but he is still concerned. I've never had two cats at the same time, and I did see one of those dead kittens in my parent's yard, so it does kind of concern me too. I don't want to rescue a young cat, and come home to find it dead or hurt.

Apr 13, 2011
It does happen..
by: Brandy

In my youth I spent a lot of time at my grandparents farm. I would find kittens without heads periodically so i know it does happen. It's something you can never get use to and it is very upsetting every time.

On the other hand there was a tame mother that would let us move her kittens into this one room in the barn where she raised kittens every year. One tomcat was often found in there cuddling with the kittens, never without the mother present though i will add. There were never any missing kittens from her litters but she was a very careful mother.

I guess it comes down to instincts and the best thing you can do is keep male cats away from kittens as you don't know what primal urges are going to surface with kittens present. Also with mothers (new mothers, whether its just the first pregnancy you've see with that cat or a cats first litter) you really need to keep a close eye one them. We took in a pregnant cat from the alley and she must have been a new mom. she would sit on her newborn kittens and almost smother them. We are lucky we didn't end up with any dead kittens.


Cats Killing Kittens — 10 Comments

  1. I recently had two female kittens and i introduced them to my 8 year old neuterd female cat which she seemed to ignore them and then all of a sudden this big tabby tom cat came looking in through cat flap he looked friendly enough would just sit watching them play i went out only for a short period wen i arrived home to my dismay to find one of my kittens dead large chunk missing from its side and neck broke i was and still am heartbroken and the other kitten is now never out of my site but will never know who the culprit was my own female are the tom that kept calling round and still doing so feeling sad thinking if i could have done things differently if i only new i can’t even let the kitten near my female cat for fear that it could have been her what did this terrible thing 🙁

    • As I understand you, you are not sure if your female cat killed the kitten or the stray tom cat. Is that correct? I am very surprised to read your comment and sorry to hear about your loss.

      • Yes that’s right not sure which cat killed her so i wouldn’t let my female cat near her now but the tom cat keeps coming back come and thankyou

  2. This is basic feline behavior of any cat species. Their genetics determine that only the strongest survive. A male cat finding offspring that are not his own will kill them, to ensure that any offspring in the area are its own genetics. This is the risk that anyone takes who promotes the concept of “community cats”. If you want to find out why a cat is doing something it all boils down to: “If I do this, my genes will survive.” While it is not a conscious decision on any animal’s part, that’s just the way nature and the natural world works. Only the strongest genes survive, no matter how it is attained. There is no good nor evil in the natural world. That is a construct of the unnatural aspect of the human mind, from having removed themselves with direct contact with nature for so long. (In fact, this “good vs. evil” meme was invented in the middle-east as a very effective psychological war-ploy, to pit neighbor against neighbor, to divide and conquer.)

    Animals just do what they must to ensure that only their own offspring continue. Even if that means killing their own kind, just because they are not a representative of their very own genetics.

      • It was most assuredly the tom, but what probably helped to trigger this instinctive behavior even stronger was the presence of the adult female (visually or by scent). The tom saw offspring of a female that was not of his own genetic lineage. To prove his genetic value/worth to the female he would kill any kittens of hers that were not his. (Her disinterest in the kittens further showing him that those kittens weren’t very “genetically valuable” to her in the first place.) By killing the kittens he was then able to free-up her available resources to then carry on his own genetics through her — if she was reproductive. What you created was like “the perfect storm” for this base feline behavior.

        • Thank you. You are right 😉 Sorry your comment was moderated. That is not me but the program that decides whether comments should be moderated or not. No idea why it selected yours and you’ll have to believe me.

  3. We have just witnessed a male cat try to kill a kitten and it’s mother has done nothing to prevent it. She was nursing just one kitten as the other 2 kittens have dissapeared. I do not think the male was the father of the 3 kittens.

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