Does a Cat Forget Her Kittens or Does She Remember?

In January, we gave away one of the kittens from the rescue cat that we took in. I felt so bad taking a child away from it’s mother. When it happened, my husband tried to comfort me and said “Don’t worry, she won’t remember she gave birth”.

“What?” I retorted incredulously, “A mother never just forgets that she gave birth.” It was a ridiculous statement to me.

How could a mother just not remember these cuties?

How could a mother just not remember these cuties?

Much like the first 3-5 years of a child’s life are their important, formative years, I now understand that the cat’s formative time is counted in months, not years. She doesn’t remember that kitten at all. Even more so, she doesn’t remember that the two kittens that she sees every day, are hers.

Some background in case you never caught my other posts. We rescued a beautiful kitten who was only 9 months old herself when she had her own kittens. A neighbour in the area put her out at about 4 months old and just moved away. She survived on her own outside until she came to us the day she had her kittens and another neighbour of mine found them and let us take them in.

When the kittens were born, she was so loving, protective and giving towards them. She cared for them and worried about them for 5 months during the winter. She was with them almost every minute of the day. Then spring came. the snow melted and it was time to set them loose to enjoy the yard and neighbourhood (fixed, chipped, tattooed and licensed of course).

Tess, the orange and white Tabby took her kittens outside for the first time ever. They were born just before the snow flew and we had about 7 months of snow this winter.

Tess, the orange and white Tabby took her kittens outside for the first time ever. They were born just before the snow flew and we had about 7 months of snow this winter.

It was gradual at first. There was some low growling when the kittens came too close to her. I thought she was trying to show that she was the dominant one, but what has happened is that she has remembered being on her own last summer and can’t quite place where these two cats that she is living with fit in to her life.

As for the kittens, they have each other and they are the closest of siblings. That’s all they know and I am thankful that they have each other. I see their confusion at times because I know they remember that they like Tess, they just don’t understand her attitude towards them. Our mom cat is still very loving with us and she does tolerate her kittens, she just gets caught off guard some times.

This is Oz at 8 months old (short for Ozzy 'Osbourne', named before we knew they were all girls).

This is Oz at 8 months old (short for Ozzy ‘Osbourne’, named before we knew they were all girls).

And since it is Friday, here is a cute video of our kitten Oz when she first discovered she had a shadow stalking her.

Found in Pets
15 comments… add one
  • Anne Jul 5, 2017, 2:16 pm

    That’s really horrible in my opinion. My cat gave birth to 3 kittens. When they were 2 months old, they disappeared. Today I found 2 of em and I tried to bring the cat family back together, but the cat mom was really cold towards them. They’re still little and it’s really frustrating to see that the cat doesn’t recognize her own 3 months old kitten. I’m really upset.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Nov 29, 2017, 9:10 am

      It is tough when that happens. Hugs. Hopefully they can tolerate each other and grow their relationship into something else.

  • Dawn May 19, 2016, 10:24 am

    I have 2 homes, 1 in NH which is my primary and 1 in NJ where I go one wkend a month. 2 yes ago, a stray cat had 4 kittens on my porch in NJ. My neighbor was able to trap them and put them in my house there. When I came back to NJ. I was able to take 2 to NH. So now for 2 yrs I have my 2 in NH that I tend to and my 3 (which includes the Momma) in NJ where I have a permanent cat sitter who comes every other day to take card if them. All 5, regardless of where they live NH or NJ, are indoor cats only and all female. My question, should I leave it as is or should I try to reunite them all under 1 roof?? With the exception of 1, they are all people shy to varying degrees. Please let me know what you think??

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Jun 3, 2016, 1:19 pm

      Hi Dawn, I’m not a pet expert by any means and am just sharing my experience here. I suggest asking an expert’s opinion (vet, pet trainer, etc).

  • izzie Sep 9, 2015, 12:56 pm

    Thank you for this article. Its been very helpful. I myself took in a pregnant stray who had 7 kittens (6 survived) and have just had to rehome 5 of them.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Sep 15, 2015, 9:51 pm

      I’m glad it helped. It was very kind of you to take in those kittens.

  • Fredcat's enabler Nov 30, 2013, 7:51 am

    The name of the icy ones who put the cat out and moved away needs to be stated clearly.
    Cat’s may forget some things butt, WE NEVER FORGET.

    Oh, I’m a single “dude” who is sort of a jock and etc so, mess with Fred and you mess with me.

    Mother nature has PMS. It means Pile More Snow.

  • Soozle Nov 29, 2013, 8:04 pm

    Huh! I would never have thought that cats (and other animals I suppose) don’t remember their family.. I’ve read stories of animals meeting up with humans, other animals, etc that they had a close bond with in the past and they seem to remember them in some regard, so I think SOMETHING remains :)

  • tennille Jun 14, 2013, 11:18 pm

    My poor geriatric cat can’t even remember that she ate….only 5 minutes before.

  • Julia Jun 13, 2013, 4:16 pm

    What an interesting thing. I never knew that.

  • Doris Calvert May 24, 2013, 10:36 pm

    My mom had the same thing happen and what we were told is once a cat has taught their babies what they need to know they seperate themselves they did their job and your on your own, dogs do not know their own litter once they are seperated, strange!

  • Tenille May 24, 2013, 3:35 pm

    I had heard the same thing about dogs, from a friend who is a breeder. I wondered if it was cruel to take the pups away and that’s the way she explained it as well!

    Kudos to you on chipping/licensing/tattooing all the kittens that came into your home! Some pet owners can’t be bothered to do that for one pet, let alone multiples AND cats (stray cats drive me crazy, or cats that have a home but roam the neighborhood and have no tags!)

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry May 24, 2013, 8:45 pm

      Thanks Tenille. Stray cats frustrate me too. People just don’t realize the depth of responsibility that comes with owning a pet. They all love the outdoors but usually stay in the yard now. Guess we are just more fun to watch…

  • Heidi C. May 24, 2013, 12:11 pm

    Thanks for the interesting post! I didn’t realize that cats don’t remember their kittens – so fascinating!

Leave a Comment