When to Remove Dead Kitten From Mother and Why?

Last Updated on: June 4, 2024

For cat owners, there is nothing more anticipated than the birth of a new litter. The excitement usually goes through the roof, particularly on the last days of the pregnancy. 

Remember, the death of kittens after being born isn’t uncommon, which begs the question, “When to remove dead kitten from mother?” 

After all, it is difficult for the mother, so how much time does a cat owner give the mother before removing the dead ones from the surviving kittens? Let’s find out how to handle the cat giving birth after the kitten dies.

When to Remove the Dead Body From the Litter

Generally, cats of all sizes are social creatures, and a dead kitten can traumatize the other living kittens. Therefore, you should remove them from the litter as soon as possible. Remember, in the wild, most mother cats may eat the dead kitten or relocate the new litter. To avoid this, you should remove the dead body as soon as possible.

With a stillborn kitten, you must leave the dead body in place until the mother realizes that it has passed away. 

Doing this will ensure that your cat doesn’t become distressed. After giving birth, the mother will lick and cuddle her kitten rigorously while trying to revive it.

After she realizes that the kitten is stillborn, you should give it about 15 minutes for it to come to its senses. Remember, even cats mourn, so removing the dead kitten too soon can leave your cat agitated, and it may bite you while you’re attempting to remove it.

But there are some occasions when you have to prevent your cat from contacting the dead kitten. Some are born with severely damaged or raptured bodies. 

Therefore, their bodies may be covered with some bacteria, which means you have to remove the dead kitten from the litter after giving birth.

Why Should the Dead Kitten be Removed From the Litter

As aforementioned, the cat may try to hide or bury the kitten. So if they can access your backyard, then they will bury the dead kitten. On the other hand, some kittens will push it aside or deep in the bedding, which is not a good idea. 

Therefore, you should watch your cat and let it finish the grieving process.

Removing a dead kitten from the litter is important for several reasons:

Mother Cats Eat Dead Kittens

Preventing the mother cat from consuming the dead kitten is essential to ensure her well-being and prevent any potential harm to her. Here are some steps you can take to prevent consumption:

  • Immediate Removal: As soon as you discover the dead kittens, remove them from the area where the mother and other kittens are present. Use gloves and a towel or cloth to handle it, as described in the previous response.
  • Isolate the Mother: If the mother cat is still showing a strong interest in the dead kittens, it’s advisable to temporarily isolate it from the rest of the litter. You can do this by placing her in a separate room or a carrier providing her with food, water, and a litter box. This will help prevent her from accessing the remaining kittens.
  • Check for Additional Kittens: Ensure that there are no other deceased kittens in the litter. If you find any, remove them as well.
  • Distraction and Comfort: Provide the mother cat with distractions and comfort during this distressing time. Offer her attention, petting, and her favorite toys to help take her mind off the loss. Sometimes, the mother cat’s interest in the dead kittens is a reaction to stress or grief.
  • Consult a Veterinarian: If the mother cat continues to exhibit concerning behavior or if you’re uncertain about how to manage the situation, consult your veterinarian. They can provide guidance and may recommend medications or interventions to help the mother cat through this difficult time.

Remember that not all mother cats will try to consume a dead kitten, but it’s essential to be prepared and take precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of both the mother and the remaining kittens. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice from a veterinarian.

Infection Prevention

A dead kitten can quickly become a source of infection that affects the live kittens. Bacteria can multiply rapidly, and the decomposing body may release toxins into the surrounding environment, posing a risk to the mother cats and any surviving kittens.

Removing the dead kitten helps maintain a cleaner and healthier environment for the live kittens.

Reducing Odor

The presence of a deceased kitten can lead to unpleasant odors. This can distress the mother and potentially discourage her from caring for the remaining kittens. Removing the stillborn kittens can help mitigate this issue.

Other Reasons for Removing Stillborn Kittens From the Litter

  • Emotional Well-being: For the mother and other surviving kittens, the presence of a deceased littermate can be emotionally distressing. The mother may continue to care for the deceased kitten, preventing her from focusing on the living ones. Removing the deceased kitten can help the mother cats concentrate on their remaining offspring.
  • Monitoring the Health of the Mother Cat: After a stillbirth, it’s important to monitor the mother for any signs of infection or health issues. Removing the deceased kitten allows you to keep a closer eye on the mother cat’s condition and intervene promptly if she shows signs of distress or illness.

It’s essential to handle the deceased kitten with care, using gloves to minimize contact and dispose of it properly. Contact your veterinarian for guidance on how to handle the situation and for any specific recommendations, as the best course of action may vary depending on the circumstances.

How to Handle a Dead Kitten

Handling a deceased kitten should be done with care and respect. Here are the steps to handle a dead kitten:

  • Wear Gloves: Put on disposable gloves to protect yourself from any potential pathogens and to maintain hygiene. Remember, its body may be covered by some harmful bacteria. So, to protect yourself and the other kittens, you should wear gloves and dispose of them afterward.
  • Use a Towel or Cloth: If the kitten is very small or fragile, you can wrap it in a clean cloth or towel to handle it gently and avoid direct contact.
  • Place It in a Plastic Bag: Use a plastic bag that can be securely sealed. This helps contain any odor and prevents the spread of pathogens. If you have access to a biohazard bag or one specifically designed for animal disposal, that is even better.
  • Dispose of It Properly: Contact your local veterinary clinic or animal control for guidance on the appropriate way to dispose of the deceased kitten. In many places, there are specific regulations for the disposal of deceased animals. They can advise you on how to proceed. Do not simply throw it in the regular trash.
  • Clean and Disinfect: After handling the deceased kitten, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, even if you were wearing gloves. Disinfect any surfaces or items that came into contact with the kitten to prevent the spread of potential pathogens.

It’s a difficult and emotional process, so take your time and be gentle in your actions. If you have any concerns or if you’re unsure about how to handle the situation, you can consult your veterinarian or local animal control for guidance on the specific regulations and procedures in your area.

Causes of Stillborn in Cats

Stillbirth in kittens can be caused by various factors, and determining the exact cause often requires a veterinary examination and, in some cases, a postmortem examination. Some common causes of stillbirth in kittens include:

  • Maternal Health Issues: Health problems in the mother cat can significantly impact the development and survival of kittens. These issues may include infections, nutritional deficiencies, diabetes, or hormonal imbalances.
  • Infections: Infections during pregnancy, such as feline panleukopenia (feline distemper), feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), or feline herpesvirus, can lead to stillbirths.
  • Genetic Abnormalities: Genetic factors can play a role in stillbirths. Some kittens may have congenital defects that make them unable to survive.
  • Environmental Stressors: Stressors in the cat’s environment, such as extreme temperature, toxins, or inadequate nesting materials, can negatively impact the development of the kittens.
  • Toxoplasmosis: Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that can affect pregnant cats, potentially leading to stillbirths.
  • Trauma: Physical trauma to the mother cat during pregnancy can cause injuries to the kittens, leading to stillbirth.
  • Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal imbalances, including problems with the production of hormones necessary for pregnancy, can be a contributing factor.
  • Inadequate Prenatal Care: Proper prenatal care, including nutrition and veterinary check-ups, is essential to ensure the health of the mother cat and her kittens. Inadequate care can lead to complications.
  • Placental Issues: Problems with the placenta, such as placental insufficiency, can prevent the unborn kittens from receiving adequate oxygen and nutrients, leading to stillbirth.
  • Incompatibility of Blood Types: Incompatibility of blood types between the mother cat and her kittens can lead to neonatal isoerythrolysis, a condition that can result in stillbirths.


Just like human beings, cats do mourn their dead ones; therefore, you shouldn’t remove the stillborn kittens immediately after birth. Instead, you should let the mother undergo the mourning process, which includes trying to revive her kitten. 

But if the stillborn has a damaged body, then you should remove it from the litter to prevent it from infecting the others.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a cat eat its stillborn kittens?

Yes, some mothers, particularly the inexperienced ones, will eat their dead kittens. It’s quite uncommon, but you have to be cautious and examine your cat after giving birth.

Can the stillborn kitten get stuck inside the mother?

Yes, and this can prevent the others from being born, so it may have to be removed surgically while delivering the others.

Does a cat mourn its dead ones?

Yes, they do get anxious and depressed after losing their kittens. They tend to sleep more, move slowly, have decreased appetite, and play less.

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