Why Do Cats Move Their Kittens? Best Guide

Kittens are adorable little bundles of fluff with the power to melt even the coldest hearts. Cats, on average, give birth to 4 kittens in a litter, but in some cases can have as many as 10 to 12.

Mother cats are responsible for birthing the kittens, rupturing the amniotic sacs, biting the umbilical cords, eating the afterbirth, and cleaning their precious newborns. 

After they are born, mother cats may have a tendency to move their kittens around. But have you ever wondered why do cats move their kittens?

Mother cats generally do not move their kittens at all for the first 2 weeks of their life. Once they do start moving their kittens around, it is when they are able to open their eyes and can begin to hear.

Though it may seem like odd behavior for a mother cat, it is perfectly natural and instinctual. In this guide, we’ll explain the potential reasons a mother cat might move her kittens.

So, why do cats move their kittens? This is a multi-answer question with many variables that may come into play. Each section below will delve into these reasons more in-depth. 

Keep reading for more information on the subject.

Why do Cats Move their Kittens


The first reason a mother cat may move her kittens is protection. When she goes into labor, it may not be an ideal long-term location for keeping her and her kittens safe from threats. This is especially true in the wild.

Whether they are feral or housecats, mother kittens are fiercely protective of their young and do not want anyone or anything to touch their babies.

Constant human interference may trigger aggression in the mother cat who will hiss, growl, or lash out and try to bite or claw someone messing with her young newborns.

Kittens imprint at a very young age, as soon as they open their eyes. If they spend too long around humans, they will be less likely to imprint on their mother.

The smell of humans can alter their scent to their mother who may reject them if they do not smell right. 

If they are around people or small children who are always trying to pick up or take their kittens, mother cats will move them to another area where there is less likely to be perceived threats or disturbances.


If the kittens are outside, they are vulnerable to attack from wild animals, such as coyotes and mountain lions, who wouldn’t think twice before attacking helpless kittens and eating them. 

Inside, there are still threats to kittens that mama cat must be wary of. This may include other cats who resent the attention that the kittens receive.

Male cats, even the father of the kittens, may try to kill them out of jealousy and should be separated from kittens and their mother.

Other cats may not know how to properly interact with them and could accidentally harm or kill them through rough play. The mother cat is highly aware of predators and moves her kittens to protect them.


Kittens need constant warmth as they mature since they cannot regulate their own body temperature under 4 weeks. Kittens need a constant environmental temperature of about 80 degrees in order to thrive. If they get too cold, they could die.

Mother cats use their own body heat to warm the kittens. But if they also get too cold, they will be unable to provide adequate warmth for their babies.

Mother cats are dedicated to searching for sources of warmth for themselves and their kittens in cold climates or during the winter months. This can be dangerous however as she may stow her kittens in places such as under a car’s hood where the engine is warm or in an open dryer.

So it is crucial to watch where the mama takes her kittens or to check these areas often before starting any appliances or machinery to ensure no kittens are nesting there.

They Need a Break 

Sometimes the mother cat, like all moms of newborns, can get tired and overwhelmed by the situation. All these new lives crawling all over her and mewing and clawing around for a nipple is too much stress to handle.

A mother cat will move their offspring to another area for a time while she takes a brief respite from her brood to eat and nap and possibly hunt undisturbed. Upon returning, she will be ready to resume her motherly duties again.

She may also bring her kittens to you to supervise while she takes her well-deserved break. While this may be a great sign of trust, you should still make sure you do not touch or play with the kittens too much as the human scent factor may still be an issue.


A cat’s ears are very sensitive to sounds. For kittens, this can be even more severe as their senses are still developing. Sudden and loud noises can be disruptive to the kittens’ environment. 

Sounds such as car horns or emergency sirens on the streets outside can be jarring. Loud music or TV speakers, as well as construction machinery, power tools, and gardening equipment like leaf blowers and lawnmowers can also spook cats and kittens. 

The mother cat will seek out somewhere calmer and quieter. A closet or a towel cabinet is an ideal location because it is often dark, quiet, and out of the way of excessive noises. 

If a Kitten Is Sick or Injured

Unfortunately, one of the unpleasant topics of discussion is the mother’s tendency to weed out the kitten or kittens she deems as too sickly or weak to bother caring for from the rest of the kittens. This is just a part of animal nature. 

In every litter, there is at least one runt kitten that is smaller than all of the others. Because they require so much more care than all the other babies, a mother cat will try to discard this kitten.

Likewise, if the kitten in question has any kind of contagious illness that could spread to the other kittens, the mother will make a choice for the good of the rest of the litter to spare the healthier babies. It is Darwinism’s “only the strong survive” theory in full practice.

If you see a mother cat only removing one baby and placing it in an area away from the rest, this kitten will need immediate intervention, medical care, and a source of external warmth such as a heating pad. It will require several bottle feedings per day of Kitten Replacement Milk formula or an equivalent homemade form of it for no more than 24 hours until replacement milk can be found.


Cats are always cleaning themselves and mother cats are obsessed with preening and bathing their babies. If the area where the kittens are is too dusty or dirty, the mother cat will find a new locale that is cleaner to move her babies to.

If there are feces or urine smells in the nest from the kittens or from other cats attempting to mark their territory, the mother’s smell sense will tell her to move the kittens elsewhere.

Consequently, if the area is too clean or reeks of strong cleaning products, the cat will reject it and move her babies elsewhere. It is important to at least keep one blanket that isn’t too dirty around with the scent of the mother and kittens so that it is familiar and welcoming.


If there is proper warmth, protection, and safety from threats, a cat will feel comfortable keeping her kittens in one spot. But if any of these creature comforts are missing, the mother cat will remove her kittens in an attempt to find a more suitable environment. 

Because kittens are born defenseless and completely dependent on their mother, it is understandable that the mother cat wants to do everything possible to keep them safe and properly guarded. It’s a mother’s intuition. 

This may mean moving the kittens multiple times to several different locations until she finds the ideal place for nurturing her babies. There is nothing wrong with this behavior and you should not try to stop her or intervene unless the mother and babies are in harm’s way. 

Having a source of sufficient food and water nearby is key as the mother cat needs to be able to sustain herself so that she can properly produce enough milk to feed her young until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

It should be a quiet and preferably dark area that is sheltered from the elements of rain, cold, or extreme heat. And someplace that is not easily accessed by predators, territorial cats, or other animals that could pose a threat either directly or indirectly.

Why Do Cats Move Their Kittens?

Now that you know more about why do cats move their kittens, you can be better educated about what to do if the problem arises. Understanding animal behaviors allows us to learn how to best take care of them. 

AnimalFate.com provides informational blog posts on all facets of animal nature and wellbeing. AnimalFate.com also provides information on dogs, birds, pigs, and even worms. 

Check out our blog for more informative articles about cats and their behaviors today, such as “Why Do Cats Hiss?” or browse our other topics.

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