My Cat Had Kittens Can I Move Them?

Last updated: Nov 20, 2018 @ 5:55 pm

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!

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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
  • FAQ
  • Final Thoughts

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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.

My Cat Had Kittens Can I Move Them | Fluffy Kitty

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.

Personal Experience:

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.

My Cat Had Kittens Can I Move Them | Fluffy Kitty

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.

SAFE

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!}

My Cat Had Kittens Can I Move Them ? | Fluffy Kitty

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.

QUIET

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.

CLEAN

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.

ACCESSIBLE

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.

My Cat Had Kittens Can I Move Them | Fluffy Kitty

FAQ!

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!

58 Comments

  1. Yolanda said:

    Hi, My cat Luna just had a litter of 5 kittens this morning. I made a birthing box for her and I bought a cat playpen that’s very roomy but she decided to deliver in her cat carrier which seems small to me. I’m afraid shes gonna crush her babies and want to move her to the cat playpen which is roomier…wondering if this is a good idea or just leave them? Any input is helpful

    December 13, 2018
    Reply
    • Hi Yolanda, thanks for reaching out to us! I think you’re doing perfect! I think if you just put the carrier inside the playpen, she’ll be all right. If she wants to come out, she’ll be safe, if not – she’ll be cozy in the carrier. As long as she’s comfortable and the kittens are nursing well. Just keep an eye on them and all will be fine. 🙂

      December 15, 2018
      Reply
  2. Devon said:

    My cat gave birth 2 days ago. We thought she had a while left and were surprised when she ended up giving birth to just one little kitten….in my 4 month olds crib. I left momma and baby for 24 hours then moved them to a quiet closet in my bedroom. I put my son to bed and a couple hours later realized mom and baby were not where we left them. Low and be hold. She had moved it back to the crib where my son was sleeping. We tried to move them back but she kept picking up the baby and trying to bring it back to the nursery. She WILL NOT settle any where else but obviously she cant stay there. I closed the door but she just walks around with kitten in her mouth and the poor baby is getting all scratched up. What should i do?

    November 29, 2018
    Reply
    • Hi Devon, thanks for writing! What a funny and sweet story (but also a conundrum!). I imagine you’ve tried mostly everything, but have you considered placing some items from the crib in the closet to ‘recreate’ the crib? For example, if she gave birth on a blanket in there, could you find another clean blanket for your son and give her the one with her scent on it? Or perhaps, could you create a ultra comfy box and place it near the crib? Under it? She, like many other new momma cats, want to keep their kittens in the same spot as the birthplace. It can be comforting for her to be nearby it, with perhaps some of the same smells that are inside the crib. I hope that all makes sense? Right now it’s the only thing I can think of that might work! Let us know what end up works for you. And good luck!

      November 29, 2018
      Reply
  3. Jade said:

    About 2 weeks and a half ago I heard a cat meowing very loud and I assumed it was a cat giving birth but I looked outside and didn’t find it and I didn’t know where it was coming from. The next couple of days I went down to my basement and I found the cat peeking out of a box with six tiny kittens. It’s getting really hot outside and the basement is hot too and i don’t know if or how I should move the kittens and I need some advice 🙂 .

    May 4, 2018
    Reply
    • Hey Jade! How hot are we talking? A warm environment is usually great for kittens, somewhere around 80-90 degrees even for the first 1-3 weeks. Lower room temperatures are okay once they are a little older. Does the momma cat have water, food, and somewhere to use the litter box? Just wondering if they got in there from outside or if the kitty is yours! If you menitoned this was already 3 weeks ago, I bet the kitties are doing well. 🙂 Will you plan to adopt them/take them to the shelter? Thanks so much for your question, we hope you can find the solution that works for both you and the kitties!

      May 6, 2018
      Reply
      • Jade said:

        Thank you so much for replying! Yes it is about 80 degrees and she is a stray cat that came from outside. I would like to take them to the shelter and maybe keep one kitten in the future. I bought plenty of cat food for the mother and I give her water and milk and the kittens look very healthy. Though I am confused on how I would take these kittens to the shelter and if I should wait for them to get older.

        May 7, 2018
      • Thanks for your reply, too! Water is the best you can give the mom, as milk can create some tummy problems (most adult cats are lactose intolerant). Secondly, that’s great you’ll be taking them to the shelter. You can take them once they are weaned off their mother, at about 8 weeks old. If you have a cat carrier you can use that, or if you’re really strapped for resources, you can get a box and put a blanket inside (a box with high sides to make sure the kittens can’t climb out). Feel free to follow up with us if you have additional questions!

        May 7, 2018
      • Jade said:

        I will be doing that then. Thanks for the advice!

        May 8, 2018
  4. Jackie Manson said:

    A feral cat had 2 kittens in our back yard last summer and we saw them when they were about 8 weeks old and started trying to tame them. They play with us and eat here but we can’t pet them. The female had 3 kittens in our bureau drawer 2 weeks ago. I put a crate in my spare room with my robe in it and she did move them into it so they have more room now. She doesn’t want us in her room now and we want to start handling her kittens so we can take them to the vet and find them homes. She hisses if we go in her room. What’s the next step and how long can we wait to handle them safely. I don’t want her moving them or abandoning them. She’s a wonderful mother so far and they look great.

    April 30, 2018
    Reply
    • Hi Jackie, thanks for your message! So this is a tricky one, because the mom can become aggressive and stressed if she doesn’t accept you around her babies. The best way is to gently show her that you guys are okay and won’t hurt her babies – with treats, providing food & water, just being around (though not too close), etc., so she gets used to your presence and accepts you. She might ease up in a couple weeks when they are bigger and are roaming around. Does she use the litter box in the room? At the 8 week mark, then you guys should consider taking them to the vet/Shelter to have them adopted out/fixed. It would also be a good idea to get the mom fixed, too, either through a TNR (trap-neuter-release) program or just paying it forward to get her fixed. Otherwise she can get pregnant again in a couple months. Happy to hear they are healthy little babes though! Thanks for taking care of them and best of luck. 🙂

      May 1, 2018
      Reply
  5. KAR said:

    When i was at the store my kids found 7 baby kitties in a box cart truck in our back yard .My kids- not knowing any better picked up all the kitties and brought them into our house. The kitties im guessing are about 4 weeks old maybe alittle younger. So my problem is the box cart truck is super un-safe for the kitties so i put them in a big box with dry food and water and I put them into our barn about 20 feet away from the box cart . Im super worried that the mother will abandon them or not be able to find them . The barn door has 2 door that are open so she can come in and out .Do you think she will find them ? Should I just bring them in and take care of them ?

    April 29, 2018
    Reply
    • Hi there! Have you seen the mom wandering around? She might hear her babies and come searching, if so, she’ll most likely find them in the barn (but so could something else at night?) How’s the situation today? If the mom is back, is she friendly when you come around? You could consider moving the box closer to home outside your door if you want to keep a closer eye on them (and still want to keep them outside). And we might be biased here cause we loves cats, but we would see how momma feels about us and then consider taking them in and caring for her and her kittens. Once they are of age (around 8-10 weeks), you could consider finding them homes, taking them to the shelter so they can be adopted out/fixed, etc.
      We hope this helps! Best of luck 🙂

      May 1, 2018
      Reply
  6. Nick said:

    Hello my sweet cat just had 7 baby’s (2 days ago) and I keep checking up on them also I bring her food and everything but I noticed that one of the kitties keeps how would be the best way to say this… Backpaddle away from everyone else I was really worried so I moved ( the kitten) back to the rest of them.The mommy cat did not seem to mind because she lets me get close and pet her and she purrs when i give her a nice neck scratch. Also she did lick the kitty with everyone else.So my main worry is what should I do.Ty for your help ahead of time

    April 21, 2018
    Reply
    • Hey Nick! No need to worry. Keep an eye on the little one, or the “runt of the litter.” It’s common to have one kitty that’s smaller and gets pushed out when it comes to feeding time. It seems like your momma cat is doing a great job! Just make sure s/he (the little one) doesn’t wander off and get cold or hungry so making sure momma cat is looking after him too is great! Good luck with your 7 babies, how exciting and we hope you can find them all really great homes! Thanks for your comment and best of luck.

      April 24, 2018
      Reply
  7. Madelyn Aleman said:

    Our cat sprinkles just had 5 kittens. They are her first litter and all of them seem to be healthy but since she’s an outdoor cat, she had them outside. It seemed to be a good spot, (in bushes next to house) but friends and the internet suggested to bring them inside. We don’t really want a cat running around inside so we put them in the laundry room bathroom with the door to the laundry room open. At first she was fine with it but now she seems really nervous and meows a lot in there… I want her to be comfortable but I want her kittens to be safe. Should I put them back where she had them or just see if she acclimates.

    April 20, 2018
    Reply
    • Wow, 5 kittens! We hope all is going well with them?? We understand why you’d want to bring them inside, personally we would too! How is she doing with the kittens being in the laundry room now? Momma cats can be a bit stubborn with where they decide to have their babies (in some really uncomfy places). Use your best judgement on this one – but we always think having them inside where momma cat can be monitored and clean, safe, etc., is the best idea.

      April 24, 2018
      Reply
  8. Ellen said:

    Our outdoor cat just had a litter of kittens in a box lined with blankets in the unheated garage. Temperature is supposed to be in the 20s (F) tonight. Should we bring them inside?

    April 16, 2018
    Reply
    • Hey Ellen, so sorry for our delay while we move. Whatever you chose to do, I’m sure it was fine! Usually kittens do need warm temperatures but their mom will do the job if it’s cold. How are they doing now? Thanks for dropping by!

      April 24, 2018
      Reply
  9. Rachel Barnhouse said:

    Hello, wonderful site! My girl just had her babies last night in my daughter’s drawers (my kids don’t know how to close anything lol), but it seems small for her. Are they more comfortable in a tighter spot? She means the world to me and I’m so proud of how well she’s caring for the babies…I just don’t know how much I should be involved. She seems just barely able to fit with them now, but as they get bigger it feels like it would be too small. I don’t want to stress her out by moving unless vital.

    Thank you so much!!

    April 9, 2018
    Reply
    • Hi Rachel!! Thanks so much for your comment and question. It seems like from what you say, the momma + kitties would be better with a little extra space! If she welcomes you warmly to come visit her and her babies, most likely you won’t stress her with your presence. Moving them to the floor just nearby the dresser could provide her with some more space while keeping the “nest” still close by (lol). But if the mom is fine with hopping in and out (unless its a high drawer) then it should be okay. It can be hard to tell without being there! We’re confident in your judgement on this matter 🙂 As long as she’s got a safe, clean place that’s she is comfortable in, it’s all good. Just monitor the situation/what she does (if she can easily go out to drink/eat and use the litter box, etc) for the next few days. Best of luck!!

      April 12, 2018
      Reply
  10. Krystal said:

    My cat just had a ver first litter. Were so estatic and overjoyed but I’m concerned. She picked a spot that she never goes too an its kinda tight spot between 2 center blocks about a foot space..she’s a big cat so its not much wiggle room. I’m scared she might push the kittens into the center block’s an hurt them. I’m considering moving them what so you think?

    April 8, 2018
    Reply
    • Hey Krystal, it’s a little difficult to imagine the situation but it does sound like momma could do with a bigger space! Maybe she will find comfort in a similar “enclosed” space like inside an open-topped box but that’s still roomy, clean, and where you can put in a blanket or clean towel. Is it outside? Inside? If you feel like the environment/setting does not satisfy all the things we mentioned in this article, then maybe moving them is a good idea (if it’s dangerous, noisy, unclean, not spacious or protected, etc). Thanks for your comment and best of luck to you!

      April 9, 2018
      Reply

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