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Do Cats Miss Their Kittens? Surprising Explanation

Sarah Psaradelis

By Sarah Psaradelis

grey mother cat nursing kittens

If you have a cat that has recently had a litter of kittens, you might be wondering if they will miss the kittens when they are weaned from the mother cat. Some cat owners may feel bad having to find homes for fully weaned kittens because you might think your cat has an emotional connection with them that can cause them to miss their offspring.

However, you might be surprised by the answer to this question, which we will explain in the article below. The short answer is that mother cats typically do not miss their kittens once they are weaned.

Do Mother Cats Miss Their Kittens?

The simple answer is that most mother cats will not miss their kittens after they have been fully weaned, but the sudden loss of a kitten may cause your feline temporary distress.

After the kittens have been weaned at around 4 to 6 weeks, the mother cat will start to forget about her kittens. This is due to the smell changes kittens undergo as they are aging, so even the most affectionate and loving mother cat will start to forget her kittens when they start reaching 10 to 12 weeks of age and reach sexual maturity.

When kittens are young, they are very dependent on their mother for milk, warmth, and survival. However, as the kitten begins to mature, they become less dependent on their mother. During the first week of a kitten’s life, they cannot see or hear well which instinctively makes a mother cat care for them. After a month, the mother will wean the kittens by discouraging them from nursing and encouraging them to seek out solid foods instead.

Most mother cats may display a change in their behavior after their kittens have been weaned and rehomed. These behavioral changes can occur from the change in your cat’s routine of caring for kittens and then suddenly having to adjust to their absence.

Two cream Cymric kittens in a gray basket
Image Credit: Nynke van Holten, Shutterstock

Do Cats Form Emotional Connections With Their Kittens?

During the time a mother cat is nursing her kittens, they may form a protective bond from their maternal instincts to care for and nurse their offspring. However, it is not clear whether a mother cat forms a strong emotional bond with her kittens once they reach adulthood and no longer rely on their mother for survival.

At around 10 to 12 weeks, the kittens will be fully weaned and are old enough to be separated from their mother. It is around this time that the mother cat will begin to lose interest in caring for her kittens, but some might be a bit confused if their kittens are suddenly removed from their presence before their kittens have been fully weaned.

It is worth noting that the sudden death of a kitten after birth has a slight emotional effect on its mother, with many owners finding that the mother cat goes through a period of grieving and may even be protective of the deceased kitten by warming them with their bodies and licking them excessively even after they have passed away.

This shows that while cats will not necessarily be upset if their kittens are rehomed after they have been weaned, during the time that a mother cat is caring for her kittens, they will form some sort of emotional connection from their caring and protective instinct over their young. The weaning stage is an essential part of a kitten’s upbringing, as the mother cat will teach them how to fend for themselves. Most mother cats expect to go through this process with their kittens, which is why some cats will be confused if their kittens are taken away from them at an earlier stage.

Do Cats Recognize Their Adult Offspring?

Once a kitten has been separated from their mother, both the mother cat and kitten will soon forget the smell of each other. If a mother cat was to see her kitten after months of separation, they might approach each other as if they were strangers. Cats rely heavily on their scent to recognize one another rather than vision, which can make it difficult for cats who are related to recognize each other.

Some mother cats who have been reunited with their kittens may react as if they have just encountered an unfamiliar cat entering their territory by hissing and growling, which shows that while the mother cat will be protective and nurturing towards her kittens before they have been fully weaned, once this process is over and her hormones have calmed down, the two related cats will not recognize the scent changes.

two cats sitting in a ruin column
Image Credit: Pelikh Alexey, Shutterstock


Once the kittens have left the ‘nest’, they will take on an entirely different smell especially once they reach sexual maturity. The familiar bond between mother and kitten is usually lost quickly once they have been separated, so if you rehome the kittens after they have been fully weaned from their mother, you do not have to worry about upsetting the mother cat, as they enjoy solitude and will soon adjust to the separation without missing each other.

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Featured Image Credit: Rashid Valitov, Shutterstock

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