Two hormonal issues which help create a bond between mother cat and her young kittens

There are two hormonal issues which help to ensure that the bond between mother cat and her kittens is strong and that the kittens are trusting during their first few weeks after birth.

Newborn kittens

Newborn kittens. Photo: Pinterest.


Firstly, the nursing mother receives a wave of the hormone oxytocin which is produced in the hypothalamus and is secreted into the bloodstream by the posterior pituitary gland (located near the center and bottom of the brain). This drives her to prioritise her kittens. Oxytocin, as you have probably heard, is a hormone that plays a role in social bonding and reproduction, and also during the period after childbirth, in humans. It is called the ‘love drug’ as it is associated with empathy, trust, relationship-building and sexual activity. In humans, the level of oxytocin increases during a sexual orgasm and a hug.


From the kittens’ perspective, it is a lack of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, which helps to ensure a trusting relationship between them and their mother. Kittens have an early inability to produce stress hormones. Accidents can happen when they are feeding. For example, if a kitten suckles for too long and the mother decides to leave the nest, the kitten can be dragged out which would be a traumatic experience.

Indeed, it might be the most traumatic experience that a very young kitten suffers. There’s a potential for harm. Without the stress hormones kittens are unlikely to make an association between their mother’s scent and the shock of falling out of the nest to the ground. Incidents like this have no lasting impression on the young kitten’s brain.

If kittens had the stress hormone they might shy away from their mother when she returned as opposed to immediately reattaching themselves to her breast for feeding.


Early development of the kitten

Infographic on kitten development 0-7 weeks

Here is a bit more about early kitten development including to 10 weeks of age. Alley Cat Allies start their ...
Read More
Verdell has a powder coat. Image: Social media. I have changed the background.

What is fever coat?

Fever coat can affect cats, rabbits and dogs as I understand it. It is also called "stress coat". It should ...
Read More
Sphynx mum and kittens

Kitten development – comprehensive discussion

In this article on kitten development, I refer to the development of the domestic cat after birth. About 70% of ...
Read More

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *