The animal kingdom can be a harsh place, and it’s not uncommon for male animals to kill offspring in a behavior known as infanticide. They may do this if the offspring isn’t theirs, or they also may kill the offspring to cause the female to become receptive to mating again. Either way, this terrible behavior is common among many animals, including squirrels, mice, bears, lions, horses, bats, hippos, and many primates.
You may have even heard anecdotes of male domestic cats doing the same thing. After all, if their larger feline cousins participate in infanticide, wouldn’t male cats do the same? Although this isn’t common, it does happen from time to time. Keep reading to find out why.
Will Male Cats Kill Kittens?
Although not particularly common, male cats will kill kittens. Infanticide in male domestic cats is far more common when the kittens are not their offspring than it is with male cats killing their own kittens.
Keep in mind, though, that female cats can become impregnated by multiple males within one pregnancy, so all of the kittens from a litter don’t necessarily have the same father. If there is a chance that any of the kittens don’t belong to the male, then there is a chance that he may harm or kill them.
Not all male cats will kill kittens, though. This behavior is less common in neutered males since their sex hormones aren’t driving their behaviors to the extent they are prior to neutering. It’s also not as common in male cats that have been well-socialized to the presence of other cats.
Male cats living in high-risk environments or with minimal resources, like feral cats, also may be more likely to kill kittens than your average housecat will.
Why Do Male Cats Kill Kittens?
The most common reason for a male domestic cat to kill kittens is to kill off a competitor’s offspring and have the opportunity to mate with the female. On average, female cats go back into heat within 8 weeks of giving birth. That timeframe can be as short as 1 week or as long as 21 weeks, though. She can go back into heat, even if she is still nursing kittens.
A female cat is unlikely to be receptive to mating while she still has kittens. If a male cat kills the female’s kittens, then he is more likely to be able to mate with her. If he doesn’t kill the kittens, then that means he’ll have to wait for the female to wean the kittens or become receptive to mating again.
If you are a cat breeder, then it’s safest to keep your queen and her litter of kittens away from other cats, especially males, until the kittens are fully weaned and have left their mother.’
It’s not overly common in domestic cats, but male cats will sometimes kill kittens. It’s best to keep male cats away from kittens, especially if the kittens are still very young and with their mother.
If your male cat is neutered and socialized to other cats, he may be safe to be around small kittens, but it’s important for you to closely monitor the cats when they are together. Use your best judgment when it comes to allowing your male cat around kittens, especially kittens that are from another male.
Featured Image Credit: Kym Ellis, Unsplash