There isn’t an easy yes or no answer to the question: My cat had kittens, can I move them? You’ll see that the answer varies depending on who you consult.
This is why Fluffy Kitty wanted to delve deep into the topic to find the best and most accurate information regarding whether you can (or should) move newborn kittens within the first few hours or days of your cat giving birth.
Otherwise, is moving kittens and momma cat really helping them? Let’s find out!
In this article:
- When to Intervene After Your Cat Has Kittens
- Should You Move Newborn Kittens?
- How to Observe Mom Cat’s Behavior
- Signs of Healthy Kittens + Moms
- Birthing Location Conditions for Pregnant Cats
- Final Thoughts
When to Intervene After Your Cat Has Kittens
Caring for kittens takes a lot of attentive patience. While sweet momma cat will give her best effort to take care of her newborn litter, sometimes human intervention is beneficial and otherwise necessary.
For example, if a weak or sick kitten is not properly getting its nourishment or warmth from the mom, it will be at risk of death.
According to The Cat Doctor, kittens cannot defecate on their own for the first 2-3 weeks (1). Instead, the mother needs to lick their stomach and genitals in order to help them go potty. This is an example to show how human intervention would be necessary (i.e. rubbing the kitten’s tummy downwards or taking the kitten to the vet immediately).
Should You Move Newborn Kittens? Why or Why Not?
To explain in two words: it depends*.
Before moving kittens, ask yourself these two very important questions…
- What is the behavior of the mom cat?
- Is the birthing location safe, quiet, clean and accessible?
*If the above birthing location conditions all check out and if the mother is calm and healthy – then the kittens do not need moving. You canbegin handling them with momma’s supervision after 2 weeks.
However, there are some situations in which your mommy cat and her newborn babies will need moving (read more below).
If you move the kittens prematurely, the mom could get anxious about her babies and will most likely try to move them back to the original location anyway or worse, abandon them.
Again, if the birthing location’s conditions are safe, quiet, clean, and the mom and babies look healthy, let nature do the rest. Meaning, trust in your sweet new mommy cat to do her job well (still check up on them frequently though just in case).
Let’s look at these two areas more in-depth.
How to Observe Momma Cat’s Behavior After Giving Birth
One of the first things you should do (other than analyzing the conditions of birthing location) is to observe the mother’s behavior.
Ideally, your momma cat will already be comfortable with you and should trust your ability to care for her. If this is the case, then it’s most likely that the mother will not be anxious or worrisome if you approach her and her babies.
Approach your new mommy cat slowly to observe her reaction before attempting to handle her kittens.
My family once took in a stray kitten that we named “Kitty”. She was very young (around 1 yr old?) when she got pregnant (I know, our fault for not taking her to get spayed sooner). Needless to say, we noticed her belly getting rounder and rounder. I put my ear up to her soft belly and I could hear her babies moving around.
The day came when she decided to give birth, but the way she acted right before was strange. She meowed at us ceaselessly. We got up and followed her to the bathroom where she would meow some more and stare at us. We would leave, but again she would have us follow her to the bathroom. Then it hit us! She was wanting us to stay in the room with her while she gave birth. We laid a towel down in the corner and sat around her; moments later she began to give birth.
It was so sweet how she wouldn’t have her kittens until we were there with her. Her behavior was very welcoming and calm. We did not handle her kittens right away, nor should we have in this situation as her location was secluded, comfortable, clean, with a fresh towel, we provided fresh water right next to her and even moved her litter box in there.
Once she was done giving birth, we caressed her some and closed the door half way and left the room. We let her and her kittens have some family time. We checked for any weak kittens needing attention; checking up on them every half hour or so.
What I want to convey from this personal experience is that, in our case, our momma cat’s location was safe, quiet, and clean so there was no need to move her and her kittens.
We provided fresh water, gave her food at normal times, and checked on them to see if the kittens were being properly fed and cared for.
Signs of Healthy Newborn Kittens
Kittens should be feeding on their momma at least once an hour. Over the next few days, the kittens should be gaining weight at a normal pace.
If the kittens are not gaining weight and are instead losing weight, we recommend calling a vet right away.
Possible signs of near death with young newborn kittens is if they are not moving much and are constantly crying as this could signal they are sick and/or are not receiving the care they need to survive.
Healthy kittens should have round bellies from being well-fed, they should sleep more than cry, and they should be kept warm.
For Kittens Aged 8+ Weeks
Got kittens with razor-sharp teeth on your hands? Find out whether or not you can give kittens adult cat food in our Q&A here.
Adopting 1 or 2 of the kittens from the newborn litter? Learn the 7 steps to take care of your new kitten here.
Lastly, kittens aged 8+ weeks are at a healthy age to get spayed/neutered. Make sure to take care of this responsibility sooner rather than later.
Signs of a Healthy Momma Cat
Taking care of the kittens may not be as important as taking care of the new mommy.
For example, trimming kittens nails will ensure that momma doesn’t get her mammary glands scratched, which could lead to infection and inflammation.
Checking the mother’s 8 mammary glands for pus, tenderness, size, etc. can help in determining if the mom is healthy enough to feed her babies. If her glands are bloody, oozing pus, or otherwise not normal-like, you should take her to the vet right away.
Mom cats should be diligent in giving care to their newborns. This is why it’s important to monitor how the mother cat is doing.
The best you can do is be there, provide fresh food and water, litter box, and keep them comfortable. If any sign of illness occurs, call a vet.
After the mom cat has healed from her birth, it’s important to get her spayed to prevent future unwanted litters. Learn about the importance of getting your cats spayed/neutered in our guide here.
Birthing Location’s Conditions
As mentioned above, the place where the mother cat gives birth to her kittens should be safe, quiet, clean, and accessible. The only reasons for which you can move the kittens is if they (mom included) are not safe, in a quiet or clean location, or not easily accessible.
It is very important to make sure that the location where the mommy cat gives birth is safe. So what does “safe conditions” entail?
A safe place is somewhere that is away from humans and other animals (even daddy cat), and hazardous areas (next to stairs, for example). Basically nowhere in which the mom or the newborn kittens can get hurt or disturbed.
Examples of safe locations include (but are not limited to):
- a clean and spacious closet or a bathroom (not heavily used),
- a large, clean box with a towel,
- a small secluded spare room,
- under a bed (this is debatable and depends entirely on the space and cleanliness under there).
Anywhere that I’m leaving off? Let us know below!}
Examples of non-safe locations included:
- a high foot-traffic area in your home,
- a garage/crowded room with lots of places kittens could get lost or stuck,
- areas where kittens can roam and fall (next to stairs, on a bed, etc.),
- and any other areas that you deem not safe or quiet, unclean, and inaccessible.
It’s also crucial for the new mommy and kittens to have a quiet place to have some family time. Especially for the mommy, who may get anxious or upset if it’s too loud and may try to move her babies somewhere less noisy or disturbing.
Make sure the area is clean and uncluttered. Kittens are very fragile for the first 3-5 weeks of life. Keeping the area clean and safe for mom and kittens will ensure less potential hazards. Provide them with fresh towels or blankets to keep them comfortable and warm.
If the mom gives birth to kittens in a place that you do not have access to (small spaces or such), then it may be best to try to move them. For example, if momma cat gives birth to her kittens under the bed where you cannot check up on them this way properly, it is best to try and move them to a more accessible location (like a closet).
Otherwise, if the location is easily accessible for you to check up on them several times then the kittens do not necessarily need moving, unless the conditions are of course not safe, unclean, or not very quiet.
We’ve had quite a few questions over the past years from this article. Here are our (non-vet) answers to some of the most FAQ.
My cat just had kittens. How long before I can touch them?
It’s better not to touch newborn kittens for up to 2 weeks. However, that is if their birth conditions are safe, clean, accessible, and quiet.
My cat just had kittens what do I do?
First, check on the health of the mom cat and the newborns. If all looks well, you don’t need to do anything except check-up on them and provide the mom cat with fresh water nearby (and possibly her litter box).
How to get a mother cat to move her kittens?
This is a tricky one. The mother cat will wish to stay in the same location that she gave birth at. However, if that location does not satisfy all the safety checks, then you’ll need to convince mom to let you move her litter to a safer location.
How to stop a cat from moving kittens?
On the contrary, if your mommy cat is moving her kittens unnecessarily, then try to block access to that room or area. For example, if the new location is in a spare bedroom, but the mother wants to take the kittens back to the bathroom, try blocking off access to the room. Set up the birthing location to replicate it in the new room so as to accommodate the mother and her kittens better.
What do I do if the mother cat is moving kittens to an unsafe place?
Similarly to the response above, you need to intervene to block the mother cat’s access to the unsafe place. Entice the mom cat with a safe, quiet location with food, water, litter, and maybe some treats.
My cat is moving kittens that are 3 weeks old
That’s totally normal! At 3 weeks, kittens are curious about their surroundings. Just make sure that the mom cat isn’t trying to take them to an unsafe location.
My cat moved her kittens and now I can’t find them
Observe the mom cat and see where she goes. Think about the dark, quiet, often small spaces in your home and check there.
My cat had kittens outside, should I bring them in?
Yes, it’s better to.
Will a mother cat abandon her kittens if you touch them?
It’s not certain. Usually, no, if the mother cat is familiar with you and is part of your family. Strange cats who you don’t know on the other hand won’t trust you and might abandon kittens if you find them as strays outside. In either case, gaining trust is crucial.
Can you move newborn kittens?
Avoid touching newborn kittens unless necessary.
Can you touch newborn kittens with gloves?
There’s no need to touch newborn kittens unless they are unsafe or if the mom is not adequately taking care of them.
How long after kittens are born can you give them away?
After two months or approximately 8 weeks, the kittens can start to leave their mother. Do not separate a nursing kitten from its mother.
What happens if you touch a newborn kitten?
It explodes into fairy dust.
How old should kittens be before you give them away?
You can give kittens away or begin adopting them out after they are at least 8 weeks old.
Does my cat trust me with her kittens?
Signs that your cat trusts you with her kittens are purring, cuddling, encouraging you to stay with her, friendly chatting, etc. If your cat hisses, growls, or gets visibly irritated, do not get close to her kittens.
How to care for newborn kittens and mother cat?
Less is more, in this case. Make sure to first observe the health of the mother cat and the kittens. Secondly, check if the birthing location requirements are good (see above) and provide all basic comforts for the mother cat. Thirdly, monitor if all the kittens are eating well. Fourth, avoid touching unless intervention is necessary. Fifth, enjoy watching these little balls of fur grow up.
What do you feed a nursing mother cat?
You feed a nursing mother cat her regular wholesome, nutritious cat food.
The mother cat is leaving kittens alone, what do I do?
Your momma cat needs a break from the kids, too! As long as she comes back every hour (more or less) to feed them and care for them, there’s no need to worry.
What to do after cat gives birth?
The mom cat takes care of cleaning the babies, and herself. Provide fresh water and towels if she needs.
Mother cat with kittens behavior?
Every mom is different. Generally, mother cats will lick and clean their babies, nurse them, round them up, clean them some more, and so on.
Can I give my nursing cat milk?
No, along with this list of other things not to feed your cat.
Why is my cat separating her kittens?
Mother cats usually do not separate newborn kittens. If you notice the mother cat taking her babies individually to another location, it’s to move them all, not that she is separating them. She can only carry one at a time.
Why does the mother cat move only one kitten?
The mother cat can only move one kitten at a time. She will carry them by the crop of their neck.
How to move kittens and mom after birth?
If you need to move them at all, then do so gently with the help of towels and a box. It’s an easy way to keep them together (so mum doesn’t freak out) and to keep them safe.
Why does my cat keep moving one of her kittens?
In order to relocate them to what she thinks is a better location.
Where do cats hide their kittens outside?
Though there’s no secret cat mom rule about this, generally mother cats hide their kittens in quiet, secluded locations. Some locations might just surprise you, though!
Why is the mother cat bringing kittens to me?
To say “Here! Your turn.” 😉 Actually, mother cats might bring you their kittens because they love and trust you. It’s more like, “Here, look what I did!”
Why is the mother cat meowing a lot?
Make sure to give the mother cat everything she could meow for. Including fresh food, water, towels, litter box, treats, and toys. The mother cat might be meowing if she can’t see one of her babies. She could also be wanting your attention.
How to find a hidden litter of kittens?
Newborn kittens make very little to no noise the first few days. They might shriek out a few little cries, however, so listen closely. The first thing to do though is to watch where the mother cat goes and follow her without her noticing you. Basically, play detective!
My cat just had kittens can I move them?
I believe this article answers that one! 😉
My Cat Had Kittens Can I Move Them? Final Thoughts
Though newborns are adorable and we all crave to hold them, resisting to touch them for the first 1-2 weeks is more beneficial. If mom detects strange scents or is suspicious of someone handling her babies, she could react negatively and even abandon one of her newborns.
We hope you enjoy this incredible experience of a mother caring for her newborn babies! We hope everything will go well and that they all stay safe and healthy. Please use this advice as need be, but be aware that this information should not replace the advice from your local vet!
We are happy to help in each way we can. We take from our own experiences, research, and knowledge of cats. Thanks for following and reading Fluffy Kitty!