As much as people whose cat has had a litter enjoy the kittens, there is a time when the mother and her babies must part company. A mother cat plays a vital role in teaching her kitten life skills that will benefit them as they grow. There is a crucial question.
When do mother cats leave their kittens?
Kittens should be ready to be independent of their mothers at 12 weeks. By staying with their mother until they reach this milestone, they will learn crucial skills necessary to adapt to life with a new family.
This video, demonstrating cats’ protective instincts, shows how mother cats teach their kittens to spot danger and how to defend themselves. Kittens kept with their mothers later have these skills.
Why Should You Avoid Separating Mothers and Kittens Too Soon?
Noami Millburn emphasizes the significant social development that kittens receive from staying with their mothers, at least through weaning.
Most kittens will start the weaning process around four weeks. During this time, kittens should be introduced to wet kitten food. As milk teeth begin to emerge, kittens will do well-eating kitten chow mixed with wet food.
Kittens can continue to go through the weaning stage until eight to ten weeks. Although kittens can live independently of their mothers once weaned, there is some further socialization that they will receive from staying with their mothers longer.
How Are Kittens Better-Socialized When They Stay with Their Mothers Longer?
When kept with their mothers and littermates for longer, kittens learn essential social skills. One of these is learning how to control biting and scratching during play. Separation from a mother cat too soon can lead to unwanted behavior.
Another skill that kittens learn from their mothers is how to groom themselves adequately. Kittens will also groom their littermates. One of the outcomes of kittens learning proper grooming is making meaningful connections with other cats.
The second through eighth weeks is a crucial time for kittens to start exploring the world around them. Mother cats play a leading role in showing kittens how to interact with other animals, including cats, as well as with humans.
Kittens who have the opportunity to learn socialization skills earlier are better-adjusted when they go to new homes. These kittens will also be friendlier, making them better pets than their shy counterparts.
Well-socialized kittens are less likely to be excessively shy or have aggression issues. Kittens that are free from these types of behavioral problems are less likely to end up in animal shelters, which may have low adoption rates.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that as many as 70% of cats in shelters get euthanized. Preventing behavioral issues helps reduce this number.
What Role Does Nursing Play in Separating Mothers and Kittens?
Kirsten Heggartty emphasizes the importance that mothers’ milk plays in kittens’ overall health. In short, nursing as late as 12 weeks has immune system benefits.
In the first few days after birth, kittens benefit from an immune system boost that comes with colostrum. This substance contains immunoglobulin, which helps give the kittens more robust immune defenses that help provide protection from disease.
The milk that kittens continue to receive as long as they are nursing, lactation milk, provides continued immune protection. Some of the other benefits that this milk provides include enzymes and hormones that help promote healthy growth.
Although kittens are weaned by eight to ten weeks, their mothers may allow them to continue nursing until 12 weeks. There is no harm in continued nursing, and kittens will have even more vital nutrients.
What Are the Health Effects on Kittens Who Leave Mom Too Soon?
According to Petsoholic, kittens removed from their mothers too early may survive but will not have the healthy growth and development that they require.
Organ development, bone health, and eye health are all at risk when kittens stop receiving their mothers’ milk too soon. Poor immunity can lead to a kitten who frequently falls prey to bacterial and viral infections.
The health effects of poor disease resistance may also become a problem in the future. Some of the potential issues that cats may face under these circumstances include cancer, diseases that affect the organs, and eye disease.
How Well Will Kittens Removed from Their Mothers Too Soon Adjust?
Mother cats produce hormones known as pheromones, which have a calming effect on kittens. When kittens are with their mothers for a longer time, they will face more new experiences with a calm mindset.
When kittens misbehave too much, their mothers can administer corrections that will hopefully discourage them from continuing nuisance behaviors. Without their mothers’ discipline, the kittens are unlikely to learn appropriate boundaries.
One problem kittens removed from their mothers too soon may have is poor litterbox skills. Not using a litterbox properly can prove a significant problem in a new home. Many cats relinquished to shelters are given up because of litterbox issues.
When kittens are separated from their mothers too early, their social skills with other cats are lacking. Poor socialization can lead to conflict with other cats currently in the home, causing stress for the pets and their owners.
Kittens who were removed from their mothers too early may also have issues with dogs in the household. A mother cat can show kittens how to interact with other animals. Without this guidance, kittens may not know when they have crossed a line.
According to Dr. Tony Buffington, cats involved in conflicts with other animals may develop health problems.
Although these issues are usually relatively minor, such as vomiting, they can take a toll on a cat in the long run. Better-socialized kittens will be less likely to be the cause of or get involved in these stressful situations.
Can Mother Cats Get Upset If Separated From Their Kittens?
Mother cats instinctively know that their kittens are safe if separated from them at the typical time. When kittens are taken from the mother too early, there are adverse effects. Anxiety and depression are common in such circumstances.
When a mother cat does not know where her kittens are, she will start searching the house to find them. The cat may meow a lot and lose interest in eating. Situations, where the kittens leave early, should be avoided as much as possible.
If a situation comes up where the kittens need to leave before twelve weeks, experts recommend washing bedding and other surfaces that the kittens have been on. The sooner the smell is gone, the sooner the mother will accept that the kittens are gone.
Can an Early Separation From Kittens Make a Mom Cat Sick?
There is a health risk to the mother that can come from removing the kittens too early. Milk accumulation can lead to an often painful infection known as mastitis. The breasts can become inflamed, requiring antibiotics and milk expression.
Getting kittens used to solid foods, starting from four weeks, will gradually reduce the mother cat’s milk demand. As the demand for milk wanes, the amount of milk produced will decrease.
The kittens should be encouraged to eat more solid foods daily. Many kittens will start gradually reducing the milk they consume as they become more used to solid food. Any extra time spent nursing will help keep the kittens healthier.
Mother Cats and Kittens Can Separate at 12 Weeks
Kittens will be ready to leave their mothers by the age of 12 weeks. Keeping the mother and kittens together until then will help ensure that the kittens are well-nourished and socialized, and ready for new homes.