Sometimes, female cats eat one or more of their offspring if they are sick or carry a genetic defect.
Eva made this comment recently and it got me thinking:
A cat gave birth near the woods of my house. I began talking with her and gave her food and told her she could bring her babies to my yard. The next morning she was seen carrying them over, one at a time. The last was larger and multicolored but seemed to have a defect. The mother dropped this one in a different area from the healthy litter and proceeded to kill and eat it. I was clearly upset.
We know that after the whole litter is born the female usually eats the placenta which cleans the nest of anything which might attract predators.
The killing of a sick kitten has the same objective, as I understand it. The sick kitten is liable to jeopardise the survival of the whole of the litter being more vulnerable to predators. It seems therefore that the mother can sense when one of her kittens is sick or if there is something wrong with one of her kittens and as a consequence, in thinking of the whole litter, removes the danger by killing and eating one of her own offspring. This seems shocking to us and it would have been shocking to Eva to have watched it.
One contributor to an Internet forum on the subject said that his female cat devoured her entire litter and he never forgot it even more than 20 years later. In this instance, the argument is that the mother had sensed that there was something wrong with all of her kittens perhaps because the father carried a genetic defect which had been passed to them. Some say that this is nature’s way in the raw world of survival of the fittest.
Male lions kill another lion’s cubs for a different reason, to allow them to sire new cubs of their own.