“Do mother cats get sad when their kittens leave?” is the common concern of all cat owners. If you are moving the kittens of your pet for any legit reason—e.g., finding them a new, better home—after they have stayed with their mother for long enough, you are only assisting the natural process. But, after all, it is a matter of motherhood—concerns here are legit.

Do Cats Get Sad When You Take Their Kittens?

Yes, mother cats can get sad when their kittens leave and may wander around looking for their lost litter of kittens. But know that this has more to do with their nurturing instincts than their love for their offspring.

In fact, once kittens are weaned, mother cats stop thinking of their kittens as their offspring. They do recognize them as individual cats but forget their relationship with them.

A cute grey cat is sitting on the floor and looking away from the camera

How Long Do Mother Cats Remain Sad When Their Kittens Leave?

Generally, the less independent the outgoing kittens are, the more the mother cat will miss them, and vice versa.

The goal of mother cats is to make their kittens live on their own, which usually completes with the weaning of kittens. After that, the bond does not necessarily remain the same, and a decline in the mother-kitten relationship can be expected.

So, if the kittens are fully weaned, about 10 to 12 weeks old, the mother cat might remain sad only for a couple of days at max. But if the kittens were separated before weaning, the mother cat might stay sad and keep looking for her kittens for a bit longer.

Whatever the case is, mother cats do not remain sad indefinitely. As soon as the scent of the kittens vanishes, the mother cat completely forgets about her offspring.

How to Know If a Mother Cat Is Sad Due to Separation from Kittens?

If your cat begins showing signs of depression right after her kittens leave, there is a high probability that she is missing her children. Though some cats might be good at concealing, the following signs indicate that your cat is depressed:

Is It Cruel to Separate a Mother Cat From Her Kittens?

No. It is not cruel to separate a mother cat from her kittens if the latter kittens are mature enough to survive on their own, i.e., they have reached the age of at least 12 weeks. However, if the kittens are too young to survive on their own or if it is difficult for them to adapt to any other means of sustenance except for their mother’s milk, they will face a hard time which could be akin to cruelty.

Mother Cat lying sad on the floor after being separated from her kittens

How to Help a Mom Cat After Kittens Are Gone?

You can adopt a few comforting methods to bring the mother cat to ease, mainly:

Why Do Cats Forget Their Kittens?

While it may seem cold that mother cats forget their offspring so easily, it is natural. They are wired to forget their kittens—even if kittens remain with their mother, she will forget her relationship with them a little after they are weaned.

The ‘forgetting process’ kicks in as soon as the kittens are separated from their mother. Mother cats remember their litter through their scent—when the scent is gone for a longer period, they have a hard time identifying their young ones, leading to an almost complete erase of the memory.

Another factor that might contribute to this process is the fact that cats have short-term memory. Various research studies claim that adult cats do not remember any event past 16 hours. However, if the mother cat is somewhat young, she will have a longer-lasting memory.


Mother cats can get sad when their kittens leave. However, after mourning for a few days, they tend to forget about their young ones and move on with their lives. Cats express their feelings through different means, most commonly through body language and vocalizations.

Frequently Asked Questions

If You Touch a Kitten Will the Mother Reject It?

Mother cats have strong nurturing instincts and do not reject their kitten just because a human touched them. However, to ensure the protection of her kittens, the mother cat might move the kittens to a safe place.

Why Do Cats Abandon Their Kittens?

Mother cats have strong nurturing instincts and do not usually abandon their kittens, but if they do so, it usually happens within the first 24 hours after birth. Here are some reasons why they might do so:

  1. The kitten has an illness or a deformity. So, the mama cat might reject it to protect other kittens in the litter.
  2. Mama cat is confused and traumatized and does not know how to take care of kittens.
  3. Mama cat is sick and unable to take care of kittens.
  4. A large litter size may also make mama cats reject one or more kittens because there is not enough milk to feed them all.

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