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How to Stop a Cat From Moving Her Kittens: 5 Vet-Approved Tips to Try

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 13, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Mother cat running with newborn kitten in her mouth

How to Stop a Cat From Moving Her Kittens: 5 Vet-Approved Tips to Try


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Knowing that your cat is having a litter of cute kittens can be exciting, but after they’re born, there’s so much to keep an eye on as a cat owner. Some mother cats can start moving their kittens away from the nest area, which can happen for various reasons. There are a few methods that you can use to stop your mother cat from moving her kittens, though, which we outline below, so you can ensure your mama cat and her kittens stay safe and well.

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How to Stop Your Cat From Moving Her Kittens

If your cat is moving her kittens and the location that she’s chosen is completely inappropriate, there are a few things that you can do to encourage her to keep the kittens and nest where it is right now. You may need to use one method or a combination.

1. Handle the Kittens as Little as Possible

mother cat feeding kittens
Image Credit: Christiane Höfer, Pixabay

While it can be incredibly exciting to have newborn kittens in the house, resist the urge to pick them up and cuddle them. Your queen should be doing a great job of looking after her kittens, and as long as she has a clean nest and access to food, water, and her litter tray, she needs minimal supervision.

If several people come to meet the kittens and even pick them up, the queen will feel threatened. For cats, scent is very important and if the kittens are constantly handled our scent might change theirs. In that case, she may decide to move the kittens to a place where she’s less likely to be disturbed.

Keep human contact to a minimum, you should mainly observe them from a distance to ensure they are all eating and handle them only weigh them if everything is okay. You should also avoid visitors until the kittens are at least 4 weeks old. As the kittens start moving around and exploring on their own, the mother cat will become more relaxed and accepting of people visiting her babies.

2. Keep the Nest Area as Quiet as Possible

Newborn red kittens suck milk
Image Credit: NataVilman, Shutterstock

As soon as you know your cat is expecting kittens, start thinking about locations for her nest. Most cats will choose a quiet place with low light and few people. While your cat will find somewhere for herself, it might not be a place that will be suitable. You can try to persuade your cat to set up her nest somewhere that meets her criteria and allows you to check on her and her kittens from a distance.

If your cat has decided to build her nest somewhere inappropriate but you decide to leave it where it is, keep the area as quiet and calm as possible. Make sure other pets are kept away from her nest. You can even build a frame or place her nest inside a large crate. Cover the area with blankets to add extra privacy and warmth.

3. Check the Health of the Queen and Kittens

Female vet holding a sick cat close-up
Image Credit: megaflopp Shutterstock

Sometimes a mother cat will move a single kitten if she thinks they may be ill. If you notice your mother cat taking one kitten out of the nest rather than trying to move the whole litter, she may have determined that something isn’t right with that particular kitten. At this point, it’s a good idea to call your vet and ask for their advice. They may do an initial consultation over the phone or ask to examine the mother cat and kittens in person.

Mother cats can suffer from various health problems, and any of them may cause her to move her kittens. Mastitis is a very painful infection of the mammary glands. Your cat may need antibiotics, and the kittens could need to be bottle-fed while she recovers.

Eclampsia could happen if nursing cats lose too much calcium during lactation. It can cause panting, muscle tremors, staggering, and seizures. Uterine metritis is an infection that leads to fever, lethargy, decreased milk production, and a bad-smelling discharge from your cat’s uterus. It is a life-threatening condition so she will need immediate veterinary care.

4. Make Sure the Nest Is Warm

Tortoiseshell mother cat with her kittens
Image Credit: Cat Hammond, Shutterstock

Newborn kittens can’t regulate their body temperature, so they need help keeping warm for the first few weeks of life. If there are drafts where your mother cat has made her nest, she may move it to a warmer place. Check that doors and windows are kept shut. You should even consider adding a thermometer to the room so you can keep an eye on the temperature.

5. Keep the Nest Clean

sleeping cat with kittens
Image Credit: Sofia Kostova, Pixabay

Cats will instinctively want to keep their kittens somewhere clean. That’s because strong scents can attract predators in the wild, which will put the lives of her kittens in danger. If the nest is becoming dirty, she might move her kittens to a cleaner spot.

As part of your daily check, remove any soiled blankets, clean the litter box thoroughly, and ensure spilled food is cleared away. If the nest and surrounding area are as clean as possible, the mother cat will be more likely to stay in the same spot.

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Why Do Mother Cats Move Their Kittens?

Mother cat carrying her newborn kitten outdoors
Image Credit: Valeriya_Chistyakova, Shutterstock

While our domestic cats might now be used to a life of comfort, they still retain ingrained habits from their time as wild animals. Mother cats move their kittens for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The nest area is too noisy.
  • The nest area is too bright.
  • One kitten is sick, and she removes them from the litter.
  • There are too many human visitors.
  • She feels threatened.
  • The nest area is dirty.

Final Thoughts: Sometimes Allowing a Cat to Move the Nest Is the Only Course of Action

If your cat is determined to move her nest, you may be unable to stop her! If she’s decided that something is threatening her kittens, she may become stressed if she can’t move them. If you’ve tried all these methods and she’s still convinced that moving her kittens is the way to go, you may just need to accept it.

As long as the new location isn’t dangerous, you might help her by providing new clean bedding, moving her food and water bowls, and even carrying some of her kittens to their new nest.

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Featured Image Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock

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