by Elisa Black-Taylor
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.