Mother cats have an acute ability to sense their kittens' health. If a kitten has a deformity or other health problem, the mother cat may reject the kitten to protect other kittens from possible disease and/or to save her energy and milk for healthy kittens more likely to survive. Rejected kittens should not be placed back with their mother, since this can cause the cat to neglect all of her kittens. Concerned pet parents may feed rejected kittens formula from an eyedropper and take them to a veterinarian to improve their chances for survival.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Examine the spot where the mother moved her kittens. Mother cats, especially first-time mothers, may move kittens to dark or warm spots in an effort to protect them or hide them from predators.
Observe the mother's behaviour toward any kittens you suspect were rejected. If she ignores their cries, attacks them or feeds other kittens while neglecting them, she is probably rejecting the kittens.
Compare the suspect kittens to other kittens in the litter. If the suspect kittens are significantly smaller, deformed, have significantly less hair or have eyes crusted closed, they are probably defective and were rejected for that reason.
Feel the kitten. If the kitten is cold, the mother may reject it, even in the absence of other health problems. Warm the kitten by massaging it and placing it on a warming bed pad intended for use with cats, but not a human heating pad. In this case, the kitten can be returned to the mother after it warms up.
Consider the age of the suspect kittens. After 4 to 8 weeks, the mother cat will socialise healthy kittens and teach them to be more independent. This is the normal time for kittens to stop nursing.
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