When your cat gives birth to a litter of kittens, there’s nothing you would rather do than snuggle with every single one of them. But, you’re supposed to allow her alone time with her kittens for the first couple of days before you start bonding with them. “Wait, why does the mother cat move only one kitten?”
While you’re keeping a close eye on them, you might start to notice that the mother’s feeding her kittens, keeping them warm, and licking them clean. More often than not, the mother doesn’t leave her kittens alone because she’s aware they’re completely dependent on her.
Truth be told, she even does some things you might never understand. She stimulates them with licking to make sure they know when they need to pee or poop.
She keeps the waste away from the nest (she sometimes even swallows the waste) to ensure the predators don’t find them. And, she moves the kittens from one nest to another when she thinks that’s necessary.
But, what makes the mother cat move only one kitten away from the others? Cats are strange, curious creatures and they often do things we don’t understand. But, they care for the offspring more than anything. They would never leave a kitten behind without a good reason.
Worry not, we’re here to help you discover what those reasons are and decide whether you need to do something to return the kitten to her mother. Whatever the case might be, throw a glance at what we’ve gathered before you contact your veterinarian and ask a million questions to ease your mind.
Why does the mother cat move only one kitten?
When you notice a novice cat mother moving one kitten away from other kittens, chances are you think something along the lines of “Oh no, she doesn’t like that one!”
While there’s a slight chance that’s the reason why she’s doing that, other circumstances are far more likely. For starters, maybe she’s planning on moving other kittens, too. Perhaps she doesn’t like the current location because she figured out her nest wasn’t as safe as she thought.
Or, she noticed predators (other cats) hanging around, waiting for her to leave the nest for food to attack her offspring. Whatever the case might be, the mother cat would never leave out one of her kittens without a reason.
To make sure you understand her reasons and react appropriately, we’re bringing you a couple of suggestions as to what might be behind her decisions. Throw a glance and decide for yourself!
1. She’s planning on moving other kittens, too
We know how upsetting seeing a mother moving one of her kittens can be. Numerous thoughts are running through your head. You’re trying to figure out whether you can do something about the situation. But, there’s always a chance she’s not moving only one kitten.
We can’t overlook the possibility that you noticed she was moving one of her kittens before she managed to move the others.
Sometimes, a cat’s instincts urge her to move the entire litter because they’re facing danger. Or because they’re uncomfortable. Or because they don’t like that you’re checking up on them all the time.
Kittens are adorable and you can’t help yourself but follow every move they make. Keeping an eye on them and making sure they’re safe and they don’t need anything shouldn’t be a problem.
But, bothering them every moment of the waking hour and bringing your friends (one by one) to see them might stress them out.
Whatever the mother’s reasons are, she was probably planning on moving the entire litter before you came around and caught her. Don’t react before you’re 100% sure that the mother cat’s moving only one kitten. Trust me, you don’t want to disturb the process.
2. She doesn’t like the current location of the litter
We’re putting an emphasis on the chance of her moving the entire litter because she doesn’t like the current location. Cats are very, very thorough when deciding on the location where they want to give birth and care for the kittens for the first couple of weeks (even months).
Mother cats don’t like to be bothered while they’re feeding their kittens, grooming them, teaching them how to pee and poop, and protecting them from other cats.
Outside cats often deal with predators that want to snatch the kittens while they’re young and unable to defend themselves. Some of those predators are male cats, dogs, coyotes, raccoons, and many, many others.
Therefore, after the mother cat gives birth to kittens, she might decide that the shelter doesn’t appear safe enough for her and her kittens.
And, when she discovers a better one, she might start moving her kittens there – one by one. Maybe you came along before she was done and noticed she moved one of her kittens. Don’t worry, keep an eye on her and check whether she’s going to move the rest of her litter, too.
3. She’s separating one kitten because there’s something wrong with that one
Mother cats adore every single kitten they give birth to, we can’t argue with that. But, cats are also hardwired to protect themselves and survive (whether they’re wild or not).
Therefore, there are times when a cat senses there’s something wrong with one of her kittens and decides to focus on protecting the healthy ones.
Now, that sounds harsh. However, a mother cat might decide to focus on her healthy kittens because she knows that the needs of the litter come before the needs of one kitten.
An unhealthy kitten poses danger to the entire litter because of a couple of reasons. For example, a sick kitten can make other kittens sick. Or, a sick kitten might become a target to predators and lead them to attack the rest of the litter, too.
What can you do when you notice a mother cat moving only one kitten? First off, you can try gently putting the kitten back and checking whether the mother cat would accept the offer.
Granted that she keeps taking the kitten away, schedule an appointment with a vet to figure out the underlying condition.
4. She’s abandoning one or more kittens because she can’t care for the entire litter
Once more, these circumstances might sound harsh. But, mother cats are driven by the need to survive and protect the kittens that can take care of themselves.
And, we can’t forget about the fact that mother cats spend a lot of time trying to teach the kittens how to protect themselves and stop running to her for everything they need.
Circling back to what we have stated, mother cats often give birth to a large litter. We’re talking about seven, or eight kittens that they realistically can’t take care of, feed, and groom.
When that happens, mother cats often try to move the weaker kittens away to focus on the ones that have a higher chance of surviving. Needless to say, you can try to persuade her by putting the kitten (or the kittens) back.
You can help her feed them by giving them supplementary milk replacement powder. You can take care of them while she’s resting and trying to regain her strength. And, you can consult with your vet to check what other options you have to make sure every kitten’s taken care of.
5. She’s protecting her kittens by throwing off predators
Not everything’s dark and gloomy for the kitten, though! That might sound strange after what we’ve discussed beforehand, but mother cats sometimes move one of the kittens to throw off the predators that might want to harm them.
Now, that typically happens when one of the kitten’s weaker than the rest of the litter. The mother moves the kitten away because she knows the predators are going to target the weaker one.
Keep an eye on the kitten to make sure nothing bad happens while the mother’s away. Feed the kitten, keep the location clean, and groom the kitten as much as you can while the mother’s away. On the other side of the story, the mother might have planned to move the entire litter for the same reason.
Sometimes, mother cats even move the litter every week or two weeks to keep the predators away. Provide them with food, water, and blankets close to the current location to make sure the mother’s taken care of, too.
6. She’s confused after the birth
And, one of the biggest reasons a mother cat might move only one kitten happens to be the chance that’s confused after the birth.
Perhaps she started changing locations right after giving birth because she wasn’t planning on nesting there. Maybe, she wanted to move the entire litter but forgot what she was doing once she came back to the location of the nest.
Giving birth to a bunch of kittens doesn’t come without consequences. Cats often need some time to rest, take care of themselves, and regain their strength after birth. And, your cat might behave differently than before while she’s trying to figure out what’s going on.
Trust me, there’s nothing odd about a mother cat forgetting about one of her kittens. Cats sometimes lick one of the kittens twice and completely forget about the other.
Oh and, they sometimes feed one of the kittens twice and leave the others hungry for the same reason. Of course, you’re there to make sure everything goes smoothly for both the mother and her kittens.
What should you do when you notice a mother cat moving only one kitten?
There’s nothing worse than witnessing the mother cat moving only one kitten. There are numerous reasons why she might be doing that (as we have seen). But, none of them make up for the fact that the one kitten’s going to be away from the others.
What can you do to help the kitten? First and foremost, make sure that the location appears safe, secure, and warm. There’s always a chance she might be bringing the rest of the litter, too. However, even when she doesn’t, the kitten needs to be out of harm’s way.
After you have done that, don’t shy away from trying to give the kitten back. When you’re sure that the mother won’t come back with the rest of the litter, try returning the kitten and checking how she reacts. More often than not, the mother accepts the kitten back.
But, on the off chance that she doesn’t, take the kitten away and schedule an appointment with the vet. Check whether the kitten’s suffering from something that might have triggered the cat. Care for the kitten for as long as you need to and watch out for the single kitten syndrome. Good luck!