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Maternal Behavior Problems in Female Cats

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Mismothering in Female Cats


Maternal behavioral problems are classified as either the lack of maternal behavior when dealing with the mother's own young or excessive maternal behavior in the absence of newborn kittens. (Other types of maternal behavior problem also exist, but they are still poorly defined.)


Symptoms and Types


Inadequate Maternal Behavior 

  • Abandons her own newborn pups (most common after caesarean section)
  • Does not allow her offspring to nurse
  • Insufficient cleaning of the young
  • Inadequate retrieval of the young
  • Failure to stimulate elimination
  • Attacking and/or killing some or all of the newborn, especially if it has a different odor or appearance
  • If disturbed by people or other animals, may redirect her aggression to her young


Excessive Maternal Behavior 

  • Un-bred mother may attempt to nurse unfamiliar pups
  • Guarding of inanimate objects such as stuffed animals
  • An increase in the size of mammary glands




The lack of maternal behavior shown by mothers with newborn pups, especially after caesarean section, has been attributed to gradual decrease in oxytocin, which is important during the sensitive period of acceptance of dam’s own neonates. Conversely, when there is an absence of newborns, excessive maternal behavior is due to the increased progesterone levels resulting from estrus in un-bred queens, followed by an immediate and sharp decline in the progesterone levels.




You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to the veterinarian. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count -- though the results are usually normal unless a disease is present.




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