Does My Cat Miss Her Kittens?

If you have a cat who's had a litter of kittens, either recently or far in the past, you may sometimes wonder if she misses them. Humans, of course, miss their offspring. But cats, as it turns out, are a different story.

Adorable kitten resting with his mother
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The first weeks of life.

When kittens are first born, they can't see or hear very well, and are thus extremely dependent on their mother. However, their dependence fades relatively quickly (especially compared to humans). After roughly three weeks, the kittens will begin to explore their environment.

Around four weeks old, the mother will begin to wean her kittens by teaching them how to hunt, discouraging them from nursing, and perhaps moving them closer to where solid food is kept.

Large gray cat licks a small kitten
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Around 10-12 weeks old, kittens are fully weaned, and they are old enough to be separated from their mother. Mother cats have a different reaction to their increasingly independent offspring than their human counter parts do. Feline moms may be a little upset or confused at first. They might look for the kittens around the house, or meow for them, expecting them to respond. This behavior may seem a little sad, but it will only last a few days, and after that, she'll go back to her normal routine.

It may seem callous for a cat to let go of her kittens so easily, but this behavior is completely natural. Cats don't experience the longing that most human parents would experience when separated from their offspring.

Do cats recognize their adult offspring?

Here's another interesting fact to note: If you reunited your cat together with her adult children after a long period of separation, she wouldn't recognize them. When a mother and her kittens are nesting together, they have a unique scent, which all of them recognize. Once the kitten leaves the nest, that scent quickly vanishes. If you brought your cat's grown child home, it would only cause her stress, as the cat would smell like a stranger to her.

This all may seem a little sad to us sentimental humans, but in the end, it's good news. If you've ever worried that your cat misses her kittens, you can rest easy: She doesn't, and she's perfectly content with her life with you.