The question is specific in that it refers to ‘domestic cats’. This is quite a complicated question because there are a wide range of circumstances which may lead to a male cat killing a kitten. But the first point to make is that domestic cats living in a home with a decent human caretaker are not going to get the opportunity to kill kittens or it is highly unlikely even if they want to.
Firstly, I’d argue that there’s very little or no desire for a male neutered cat living in a good home to kill kittens. It might happen accidentally but I don’t think the question is about male adult cats accidentally killing kittens. The question is posed in such a way as to mean, do male domestic cats deliberately kill kittens as invading male lions practice infanticide?
If a domestic cat has become a stray cat and they join a colony the opportunity may arise for that male to practice infanticide i.e. kill the offspring of other males to allow him to create his own offspring. Male cats are interested in producing as many offspring of their own as they can.
However, in colonies to which the inherently solitary domestic cat has adapted, females have resolved the problem of possible infanticide by mating with several males each time that they come into season. This means that each male is uncertain as to which kittens are his. This banishes any thoughts of infanticide.
And in smaller colonies, females may select and bond with only one male who they have chosen to be the fittest and most likely to produce high quality offspring (as judged by the odour of the urine). The quality of the male that they have selected is able to drive away marauding rivals. That, too, tends to preclude the possibility of infanticide.
So, the above scenarios pretty well lockout infanticide. However, we are left with accidental deaths of kittens at the hands of male domestic cats which I will cover notwithstanding that I don’t think the question is about that kind of scenario.
There are five possibilities when a male cat might bite and kill kittens. Males sometimes involve themselves in raising kittens especially when an incompetent female cannot do the job. The kittens play with their father and I guess very rarely the father’s hunting mode is switched on and he kills a kitten.
Sometimes fathers bite the necks of kittens as a form of dominance behaviour. This may harm or indeed kill the kitten.
A third is when a female frustrates the advances of a male who wants to mate with her. He may mount a kitten instead and in doing so he bites the back of the neck in the classic hold which is intended to immobilise a female. In doing this with a vulnerable kitten he kills him or her.
Another possibility is the sound and activity of kittens may trigger instinctive hunting behaviour in a male cat. Domestic cats are particularly tuned into the sounds and movements made by prey animals and are driven to hunt. The male cat might hunt and kill a kitten. Apparently, some females can act in the same way with the kittens of other females.
The conclusion is that male domestic cats don’t normally or hardly ever kill kittens but it may occur rarely and perhaps more often accidentally than voluntarily.
I welcome comments from others. This is a tricky subject and input from others may help me to refine the answer to this question.
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