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Why Would a Mother Cat Abandon Her Kitten?

| Updated September 26, 2017

The plaintive cries of an abandoned kitten are heart-wrenching, and you might wonder why a mother cat would leave her helpless offspring to cry and possibly starve. Before you pick up the kitten or take it home, you might want to consider possible reasons that the kitten is alone.

The Kitten Is Sick

i kitten image by Natalia Kosyanenko from Fotolia.com

Like any babies, kittens are vulnerable to infection and have weak immune systems. If a mother cat senses that one of her kittens is afflicted by a viral or bacterial illness, she might abandon the kitten so that it will not infect its siblings. Some veterinarians will not treat newborn, abandoned kittens because chances are high that the kitten is already sick and has a low chance of survival.

The Kitten Is Lost

The kitten may have fallen into a walled garden or similar site and its mother couldn't figure out how to get in to retrieve it (in which case you might notice her prowling nearby), or perhaps a human moved the kitten while the mother was hunting and now she can't find it.

The Mother Isn't Maternal

Although most cats have a strong instinct to care for their kittens, some felines simply aren't interested, or don't know what to do. They might be confused and traumatized after the birth and fail to lie down to suckle their kittens or to create a warm nest for them.

The Mother Is Sick or Dead

Giving birth poses all sorts of risks for feral cats. The mother may have left to go hunting and is now too weak or sick to return. She may have been struck by a car and killed.

The Mother Has Gone to Find Food

i kittens image by Annika from Fotolia.com

If the kitten has been meowing for only a short while, or if you see that its nest is clean or that it sleeps peacefully, it's probably not abandoned. Its mother may be away from the nest for an extended hunting trip. It is also possible that after her kittens were born, she separated and hid them in different places to reduce the chances of prey killing the whole litter. In either case the mother will be back in time.