There isn’t an easy yes or no answer to the question: My cat had kittens, can I move them? You’ll see that the answer varies depending on who you consult.
This is why Fluffy Kitty wanted to delve deep into the topic to find the best and most accurate information regarding whether you can (or should) move newborn kittens within the first few hours or days of your cat giving birth.
Otherwise, is moving kittens and momma cat really helping them? Let’s find out!
When to Intervene After Your Cat Has Kittens
Caring for kittens takes a lot of attention and patience. While sweet momma cat will give her best effort to take care of her newborn litter, sometimes human intervention is beneficial and otherwise necessary.
For example, if a weak or sick kitten is not properly getting its nourishment or warmth from the mom, it will be at risk of death.
According to The Cat Doctor, kittens cannot defecate on their own for the first 2-3 weeks (1). Instead, the mother needs to lick their stomach and genitals in order to help them go potty. This is an example to show how human intervention would be necessary in case a kitten has poop blockage (i.e. rubbing the kitten’s tummy downwards to aid in defecating or taking the kitten to the vet immediately).
Should You Move Newborn Kittens? Why or Why Not?
To explain in two words: it depends*.
Before moving kittens, ask yourself these two very important questions…
- What is the behavior of the mom cat?
- Is the birthing location safe, quiet, clean, and accessible?
*If the above birthing location conditions all check out and if the mother is calm and healthy – then the kittens do not need moving.
You can begin handling them with momma’s supervision after 2 weeks.
However, there are some situations in which your mommy cat and her newborn babies will need moving (read more below).
Again, if the birthing location’s conditions are safe, quiet, clean, and the mom and babies look healthy, let nature do the rest. Meaning, trust in your sweet new mommy cat to do her job well (still check up on them frequently though just in case).
Let’s look at these two areas more in-depth.
How to Observe Momma Cat’s Behavior After Giving Birth
One of the first things you should do (other than analyzing the conditions of birthing location) is to observe the mother’s behavior.
Ideally, your momma cat will already be comfortable with you and should trust your ability to care for her. If this is the case, then it’s most likely that the mother will not be anxious or worrisome if you approach her and her babies.
Approach your new mommy cat slowly to observe her reaction before attempting to handle her kittens.
My family once took in a stray kitten that we named “Kitty”. She was very young (around 1 yr old?) when she got pregnant (I know, our fault for not taking her to get spayed sooner). Needless to say, we noticed her belly getting rounder and rounder. I put my ear up to her soft belly and I could hear her babies moving around.
What I want to convey from this personal experience is that, in our case, our momma cat’s location was safe, quiet, and clean so there was no need to move her and her kittens.
We provided fresh water, gave her food at normal times, and checked on them to see if the kittens were being properly fed and cared for.
Signs of Healthy Newborn Kittens
Kittens should be feeding on their momma at least once an hour. Over the next few days, the kittens should be gaining weight at a normal pace.
If the kittens are not gaining weight and are instead losing weight, we recommend calling a vet right away.
Possible signs of near-death with young newborn kittens are if they are not moving much and are constantly crying as this could signal they are sick and/or are not receiving the care they need to survive.
For Kittens Aged 8+ Weeks
Got kittens with razor-sharp teeth on your hands? Find out whether or not you can give kittens adult cat food in our Q&A here.
Adopting 1 or 2 of the kittens from the newborn litter? Learn the 7 steps to take care of your new kitten here.
Lastly, kittens aged 8+ weeks are at a healthy age to get spayed/neutered. Make sure to take care of this responsibility sooner rather than later!!
Signs of a Healthy Momma Cat
Taking care of the kittens may not be as important as taking care of the new mommy.
For example, trimming kittens nails will ensure that momma doesn’t get her mammary glands scratched, which could lead to infection and inflammation.
Checking the mother’s 8 mammary glands for pus, tenderness, size, etc. can help in determining if the mom is healthy enough to feed her babies. If her glands are bloody, oozing pus, or otherwise not normal-like, you should take her to the vet right away.
Mom cats should be diligent in giving care to their newborns. This is why it’s important to monitor how the mother cat is doing.
After the mom cat has healed from her birth, it’s important to get her spayed to prevent future unwanted litters. Learn about the importance of getting your cats spayed/neutered in our guide here.
Birthing Location’s Conditions
As mentioned above, the place where the mother cat gives birth to her kittens should be safe, quiet, clean, and accessible. The only reasons for which you can move the kittens is if they (mom included) are not safe, in a quiet or clean location, or not easily accessible.
It is very important to make sure that the location where the mommy cat gives birth is safe. So what does “safe conditions” entail?
A safe place is somewhere that is away from humans and other animals (even daddy cat), and hazardous areas (next to stairs, for example). Basically nowhere in which the mom or the newborn kittens can get hurt or disturbed.
Examples of safe locations include (but are not limited to):
- a clean and spacious closet or a bathroom (not heavily used),
- a large, clean box with a towel,
- a small secluded spare room,
- under a bed (this is debatable and depends entirely on the space and cleanliness under there).
Anywhere that I’m leaving off? Let us know below!}
Examples of non-safe locations included:
- a high foot-traffic area in your home,
- a garage/crowded room with lots of places kittens could get lost or stuck,
- areas where kittens can roam and fall (next to stairs, on a bed, etc.),
- and any other areas that you deem not safe or quiet, unclean, and inaccessible.
It’s also crucial for the new mommy and kittens to have a quiet place to have some family time. Especially for the mommy, who may get anxious or upset if it’s too loud and may try to move her babies somewhere less noisy or disturbing.
Make sure the area is clean and uncluttered. Kittens are very fragile for the first 3-5 weeks of life. Keeping the area clean and safe for mom and kittens will ensure fewer potential hazards. Provide them with fresh towels or blankets to keep them comfortable and warm.
If the mom gives birth to kittens in a place that you do not have access to (small spaces or such), then it may be best to try to move them. For example, if momma cat gives birth to her kittens under the bed where you cannot check up on them this way properly, it is best to try and move them to a more accessible location (like a closet).
Otherwise, if the location is easily accessible for you to check up on them several times then the kittens do not necessarily need moving, unless the conditions are of course not safe, unclean, or not very quiet.
FAQ About Newborn Kittens
We’ve had quite a few questions over the past years from this article. Here are our answers to some of the most FAQs.
Remember, It’s better not to touch newborn kittens for up to 2 weeks. However, that is if their birth conditions are safe, clean, accessible, and quiet.
My Cat Had Kittens Can I Move Them? Final Thoughts
We hope you enjoy this incredible experience of a mother caring for her newborn babies! We hope everything will go well and that they all stay safe and healthy. Please use this advice as need be, but be aware that this information should not replace the advice from your local vet!
If mom detects strange scents or is suspicious of someone handling her babies, she could react negatively and even abandon one of her newborns.
We are happy to help in each way we can. We take from our own experiences, research, and knowledge of cats. Thanks for following and reading Fluffy Kitty!