We all know cats do weird things sometimes. It’s part of their charm!
But seeing a mother cat hissing at her kittens can be alarming.
Why Do Mother Cats Hiss At Their Kittens?
A mother cat will usually hiss at her kittens because of hormonal changes in her body that occur during the pregnancy, birth, and nursing of the kittens. Hissing creates space between her and the kittens, so she may be tired and want a break, or she may be trying to wean the kittens.
It’s a mother cat’s natural way of letting her baby kittens know that they are known on the next journey in their life, and it is time for them to find food and live life.
Another common but sad reason a mother cat will hiss at her kittens can be if she is feeling threatened in any way.
Stress and threats to her safety and, of course, their safety and life can cause her to hiss at them and push them away.
In some cases, a mother cat will become violent to her kittens even though she may not mean to.
The common theme is that the momma cat is stressed out in all scenarios. Whether she is overworked, her body is overstressed, or her home life or situation is stressful somehow, it all affects how she will behave to her kittens.
When it comes to weaning, this is a natural process, and she is helping her babies grow up and live their own lives as they are not small anymore.
Other reasons why a mother cat hisses at her kittens include when she is trying to discipline them for unacceptable behaviors.
Cats don’t talk; they communicate through primitive sounds and body language, and her hissing warns them to stop whatever they are doing wrong.
Finally, another reason for a mother cat to hiss at her kittens is if, for some reason, there was a separation that was long enough for the mother cat not to recognize them.
What can I do if my mother cat hisses at her kittens?
If your mother cat hisses at her kittens, you should play a wait and see. Hissing can be short-lived; it can happen once and not again or continue.
There is no need to do anything if it stops, as the mother cat might be disciplining her kitten.
If the hissing continues or gets worse, it is best to contact her veterinarian.
They will have you bring her and her kittens in for an evaluation and discuss any problems causing this issue.
It depends on the stressors and how far along in the nursing she is with her kittens. It will also depend on whether she displays other difficult behaviors like growling or attacking her kittens.
If the mother cat is hissing and the kittens are older than five weeks, the veterinarian might suggest behavior management.
Their suggestions might include having you as the parent keep a watchful eye on the interactions between the litter of kittens and their mother and other things until they are fully weaned, and you can separate them.
If, however, the mother cat is hissing and growling at the kittens that are only two or three weeks old, and she is suffering from more stress than normal, they might suggest medication and behavior management.
Each method will be different because the mother cat and kittens are different.
If a method is tried for a few days and the situation seems not to work or escalate, the veterinarian should be called right away.
During this time, it is helpful to reduce unnecessary stress for the cat and her kittens and keep a close eye on them together.
If you or someone in the family can’t be on hand to make sure everything is going smoothly, you might want to consider hiring someone to come in while you’re away at work during this short-lived but tough time.
During bonding sessions where you show love and attention and teach the kittens about human touch, you will want to ensure that your mother cat is getting more than enough attention.
She needs to know that she is loved, and you don’t want her to feel jealous of her babies, especially if she is stressed already.
It is helpful to ensure that the mother cat is being fed adequately and that her diet is healthy and nutrient-dense to keep her body going through this physically difficult phase of life.
Birthing kittens, nursing, and caring for them is challenging work, and she needs all the help she can get.
If you find that your mother cat becomes violent to her kittens, the veterinarian will suggest separating them, and this will require that they be hand nursed if the kittens are still avidly nursing.
Can I touch the kittens, or will my mother cat not care for them?
This answer depends on the relationship you have with your mother cat.
If you are close with her and have had a long-standing relationship over a few years, she might not mind you touching them after the first two weeks of life.
In some rare instances, a mother cat will do severe physical harm or kill the kittens if they are touched because she doesn’t consider them her kittens anymore, so it is usually best to wait if possible.
By the time they are about seven weeks old, they are weaning, and your touch is vital for their happiness as they need to learn to accept human touch.
If you are very strongly bonded with your mother cat, the best way to hold a kitten after the first two weeks of life is to show your mother cat some attention and affection.
Show her love and make sure that she smells your scent before you pick one up; this way, when you return the cat to the nest, she will know it was you who touched it by your scent on her kitten.
Do this each time you pick up a kitten, regardless of how many times you do this in a day.
Hissing is a mother cat’s way of expressing displeasure or unhappiness, and where it comes from and why it is happening are less important.
While a mother cat hissing at her kittens may seem surprising, it can be normal; however, if it seems to escalate or happen non-stop, her veterinarian should be consulted.
When in doubt, separate the kittens from the mother if they are not too young so that everyone is safe if she seems extra stressed. We all need a break from the kiddos sometimes!