Why Would a Mother Cat Abandon Only One Kitten

Cats are known for their motherly instincts and strong bonds with their kittens. However, it’s not uncommon for a mother cat to abandon one or more of her kittens, leaving the helpless little ones to fend for themselves. This can be a devastating situation for both the abandoned kitten and the owner, who may wonder why this is happening. In this article, we will explore some of the reasons why a mother cat might abandon only one kitten and what you can do to help the abandoned kitten.

Reasons Why a Mother Cat Might Abandon Only One Kitten

Here are 7 common reasons which might cause a Mother Cat to abandon one or many of her kittens.

Birth Defects or Health Issues

One reason a mother cat may abandon a kitten is if it has health issues that may hinder its survival. This commonly happens when a kitten is born with a birth defect.

These kittens are usually the runts of the litter, and the mother cat may feel that her time and resources are better spent on her healthier kittens. In such cases, the mother cat may leave the weaker kitten alone and focus on the healthier ones. This is done to give the healthier kittens a better chance of survival.

Insufficient Milk Production

If a mother cat is not producing enough milk to feed all of her kittens, she may abandon one or more of them. This usually happens when the litter is too large for the mother cat to adequately care for, or if the mother cat is malnourished or stressed. In such cases, the mother cat may abandon the weaker kittens that she believes have a lower chance of survival.

Environmental Stress

Environmental stress, such as loud noises, sudden changes in the environment, or the presence of other animals, can cause a mother cat to become agitated and abandon one of her kittens. This is because the mother cat feels that her kittens are in danger and she needs to protect the rest of the litter.

Human Interaction

Sometimes, human interaction can cause a mother cat to abandon one of her kittens. If a kitten is handled too much or taken away from its mother too soon, the mother cat may abandon it. This is because the mother cat may not recognize the kitten as her own or may feel that the kitten is no longer safe in her care. In such cases, it is important to handle the kitten with care and allow the mother cat to bond with her offspring before handling them.

One example is when kittens are born through C-section. The newborn kitten is handled quite a bit by humans before the mother has a chance to see it. This can cause the human scent to get all over it, causing the mother to reject the kitten as foreign.

Maternal Instincts

In some cases, lack of maternal instincts may cause a mother cat to abandon one of her kittens. If a mother cat is a first-time mother, she may not have developed strong maternal instincts yet. This may cause her to abandon one of her kittens unintentionally. The personality of a cat also plays a role here, in how strong their maternal instincts are.

Illness or Injury

If a kitten is sick or injured, the mother cat may abandon it to protect the rest of the litter. In such cases, the mother cat may feel that the kitten is too weak to fend for itself, or that its illness or injury may spread to the other kittens. If you notice that one of the kittens is sick or injured, it is important to seek medical attention for the kitten and keep it separate from the rest of the litter until it recovers.

Newborn kittens have weakened immune systems, and diseases can easily spread due to close contact. The mother cat actually has the right idea in separating them, so don’t try and put them back together. Until the kitten is cured of course.

Aging or Sick Mother Cat

One reason a mother cat may abandon her kitten is if she is aging or sick. As cats age, they may become less able to care for their kittens properly, and this can lead to abandonment. Similarly, if a mother cat is sick or suffering from a health condition, she may not have the energy or ability to care for her kittens. It is important to ensure that the mother cat is healthy and well-cared for during her pregnancy.

Why would a Mother Cat abandon only one Kitten

What You Can Do for the Abandoned Kitten

Newborn kittens are extremely vulnerable, and will need your care and attention if the Mother has abandoned them. Here are some things that you can do to help the kitten.

Keep the Kitten Warm

If you find an abandoned kitten, it’s important to keep it warm. Kittens cannot regulate their body temperature, and they can easily become hypothermic. You can keep the kitten warm by placing it in a small box with a soft blanket or towel and a heating pad set to low. This will also simulate the feel of a mother cat’s body, so it will be extra soothing for the kitten.

Feed the Kitten

If the mother cat is not around to feed the abandoned kitten, you will need to feed it yourself. You can use a commercial kitten formula which can be found at most pet stores. Alternatively, you can make your own formula using goat milk or cow’s milk diluted with water.

Provide Regular Care

The abandoned kitten will need regular care, including feeding every few hours, stimulation to help it eliminate waste, and regular check-ups with a veterinarian. It’s important to monitor the kitten’s weight gain and overall health to ensure that it is thriving.

Consider Fostering or Adoption

If you are unable to provide long-term care for the abandoned kitten, consider fostering or adopting it out to a loving home. Many animal shelters and rescue organizations are equipped to care for abandoned kittens and can help find them a permanent home.

Reintroduce the Kitten to the Mother Cat

In some cases, it may be possible to reintroduce the abandoned kitten to the mother cat. This can be done by placing the kitten in a small box with a blanket or towel that has the mother’s scent on it. Keep the box near the mother cat’s nesting area, but not too close as to make her uncomfortable. Keep a close eye on the interaction between the mother and the kitten, as the mother may still reject the kitten.

If the mother shows no interest in the kitten after a day or two, it’s best to separate them again. It’s important to note that not all mother cats will accept their abandoned kittens. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that a reintroduction will be successful. But there’s no harm in trying, so why not?


Mother cats abandoning their kittens can be a heart-wrenching experience for cat owners, but it’s important to remember that it’s natural behavior. It’s crucial to identify the reason for the abandonment and take appropriate action to ensure the kitten’s survival.

If you find an abandoned kitten, it’s important to act quickly to provide the necessary care and attention. Feeding and keeping the kitten warm should be the top priority. If you’re unable to care for the kitten yourself, reach out to a local animal rescue organization or a veterinarian.

Remember, even if the mother cat has abandoned one kitten, there’s still hope for the kitten’s survival. With proper care and attention, the kitten can thrive and grow into a healthy cat.

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