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Home > Cats > Will a Mother Cat Abandon Her Kittens If Touched By Humans? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Will a Mother Cat Abandon Her Kittens If Touched By Humans? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

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Dr. Lauren Demos

Veterinarian, DVM

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A mother cat may be protective of her kittens, but does she abandon them if a human touches them? A common myth amongst many cat owners is that cats will abandon their kittens if a human touches them. While this myth is widely accepted, the truth is that it’s not as cut and dry as some might think.

A mother cat’s instinctual response to having her kittens touched by humans varies. Some cats may become anxious or defensive, while others may remain calm and unbothered. It’s important to remember that each cat has its own individual personality and habits, which can influence how they respond to being touched or handled by humans. In general, however, most mother cats are unlikely to completely abandon their young due to human interference.

Mother cats possess an innate mothering instinct, and they will do anything to protect their kittens. They are attentive, caring, and highly nurturing. But wait—don’t start grabbing at those helpless kittens just yet! We’ve got some caveats to discuss.


What Happens if I Touch My Cat’s Kittens?

We’ve seen that a mother cat will most likely not abandon her kittens just because humans touched them. In fact, some may like it. The scent of humans on the kittens can actually help to protect them from predators. A mother cat may even come to see humans as part of her extended family, especially if you are caring for them or helping them in some way. However, there are some things to keep in mind when handling kittens to avoid causing harm.

How Should I Handle Kittens?

bottlefeeding newborn kitten
Image Credit: Kayame, Shutterstock

While mother cats won’t necessarily abandon their kittens if humans touch them, it’s still crucial to handle them with care. Kittens are fragile. Their delicate bodies can be easily injured if they are not handled correctly. Always remember to support their head and neck, especially when picking them up or holding them. Furthermore, make sure to wash your hands before and after handling kittens to avoid passing on any germs or infections to them.

If you plan to care for the kittens long-term, make sure to have a vet check them out as soon as possible to ensure they are healthy.

How Should I Care For Abandoned Kittens?

Especially if the kitten is malnourished, dehydrated, or injured, you should get them to a veterinarian or rescue facility as soon as possible. Let the experts take over. Veterinary professionals have the training and resources to help the kitten recover.

If you can’t take the kitten to a veterinarian or rescue facility, consult with them about how to take care of the kitten yourself. In addition to regular feedings, cleaning, and socializing, kittens require a lot of attention and care. This is a time-consuming task. You need to have the right resources and knowledge to provide the best care for the kitten. It’s a lot of responsibility. By being vigilant and taking the necessary steps to help a kitten in need, you’re not only saving a life, but you’re also showing them the love and care they deserve.


What Are Some Reasons That Cats Abandon Their Kittens?

Black and white European Shorthair on fall leaves
Image Credit: New Mindflow, Shutterstock

One of the most common reasons mothers abandon their kittens is that they lack adequate food and shelter. Life is simply too hard for them. The mother cat may move away with her remaining energy reserves if she lacks sufficient nutrition and protection for herself and her babies. Fear and danger are additional motivations. The mother cat may also leave if the environment is too crowded or stressful rather than risk putting her kittens in danger.

Sometimes the mother cat may have been killed or injured. Still other cats may reject their litter if they are born with health problems or disabilities that make them less likely to survive harsh conditions.

What Should I Do if I Discover Abandoned Kittens?

Although this situation may make you feel afraid, we promise that most of the time, it’s okay. It is important not to assume the worst if you discover multiple abandoned kittens. Spending time without mom is a normal part of kittenhood—cat parents have a lot of chores to take care of! Sometimes, mother cats may leave their kittens for short periods, especially if they are moving them to a new location or hunting for food. They may even be gone for a few hours.

If you do find a nest of kittens, it’s best to observe them from a distance for a while before intervening. Don’t rush in. If you do need to get involved, make sure to handle them with care and seek advice from a vet or animal shelter.

What Should I Do if I Find an Abandoned Kitten on Their Own?

tabby kitten twins on a chair
Image By: Atlantios, Pixabay

This is a little more worrying. If you stumble upon a solo kitten that’s meowing loudly or appears disheveled and underweight, there’s a high likelihood that it was either abandoned by heartless humans or separated from its mother for good. This situation requires more concern. Take a minute to gauge the situation before jumping to conclusions, as the mother cat may return and retrieve the kitten. Give her some time. But if you notice that the kitten is still alone and in danger after a while, it is time to take action.

Retrieve the kitten carefully. It’s best to either rush the kitten to a vet or animal rescue center pronto or ask for advice on caring for it by yourself.



Mother cats won’t necessarily abandon their kittens just because humans touch them. It will take more than our scent to put them off parenthood. They have strong mothering instincts and are highly protective of their little ones. However, it’s still essential to handle kittens with care, especially if they are abandoned or in need of help. Be gentle, move slowly. Remember to wash your hands and seek advice from a vet or animal shelter if you’re unsure of how to handle them properly.

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