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Home > Cats > Why Is My Cat Biting Her Kittens? 5 Vet Reviewed Reasons

Why Is My Cat Biting Her Kittens? 5 Vet Reviewed Reasons

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Dr. Lauren Demos

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There’s nothing more precious than watching a mother cat nurse and care for her kittens. This natural occurrence is something to behold and magnificent to observe. However, if you’ve ever watched this magical moment, you may have witnessed the mother cat biting her kittens. Is this a cause for concern? Should you worry or intervene? As harsh as it may look, this is typical behavior and, in most cases, is no cause for concern.

Let’s dive deeper into this subject and discover the five reasons why mother cats bite her kittens and when it may be necessary to stop the behavior.


The 5 Reasons Why a Cat Bites Her Kittens

1. She’s Teaching Proper Behavior and Boundaries

Children need parental guidance in order to grow into disciplined adults, and kittens also need parental guidance to learn proper behavior as adults. A mother cat will bite her kittens to teach them boundaries. If the kittens are misbehaving or crossing boundaries with mom, she will bite to show them who’s the boss. This is no cause for concern and is a good sign that the mommy cat is doing her job.

ragdoll cat with its kittens
Image Credit: Tatyana Vyc, Shutterstock

2. Showing How to Defend Themselves

Kittens won’t always have mom by their side, and the mom cat is fully aware. Even though cats are domesticated and don’t have too many natural predators to be concerned with, they still have the instincts to defend themselves. The purpose of the bites is to teach the kittens defense mechanisms and to develop skills they can carry over in the wild for survival.

3. To Carry Her Kittens Around

A mother cat will bite or “scruff” her kittens’ necks so she can move them around. When mom grabs a kitten’s neck with her mouth, the kitten goes limp, making it easier to move them. After all, newborn kittens cannot move themselves around, and the mom has no hands, so her mouth is the only way. This act does not hurt the kittens, as they have an extra patch of skin on the back of their necks for this very reason.

close up of a mother cat carrying a baby walking on the road
Image Credit: Mr.Sutun photographer, Shutterstock

4. She’s Establishing Dominance

Kittens need to learn their place, and biting them is a way for mom to convey that she’s the dominant one. This behavior is simply establishing her authority and can be looked at as an act of tough love. Mother cat needs to establish her dominance early so no conflicts with her kittens arise in the future.

5. She’s Playing With Them

As her kittens grow, they discover a whole new world, and with that comes the desire to play and investigate their surroundings. It’s promising to see a mother cat playing with her kittens and forming bonds, and nipping them is a way of interacting during playtime.

However, playing can be mistaken for attacking, but knowing the mother cat’s body language will help you determine if she is, in fact, just playing. For example, an angry mom will pin her ears and hiss with her fur standing up and her claws extended. If she looks relaxed and her ears and standing up, then she’s playing and bonding with her kittens.

american shorthair cat kissing her kitten
Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock


Can a Mother Cat Bite Her Kittens Excessively?

Most times, a mother cat biting her kittens is as normal as rain and is all part of the developmental process for kittens. However, some mother cats have been known to bite their kittens excessively. In some rare cases, a mother may reject one of her kittens, and if she does, she may act aggressively toward that kitten. If this happens, it’s best to consult your veterinarian about the issue so it can be addressed.



While it may be hard to watch a mother cat bite her kittens, the act is normal and has valid reasons behind it. You don’t need to intervene unless the mother cat aggressively harms the kittens. In that case, consult your veterinarian immediately to ensure the mother is not suffering from a medical issue that could cause her to be grumpy and act out.

Featured Image Credit: Pukhov K, Shutterstock

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