Do male cats eat kittens? The quick answer is that, as a rule, they do not, but that is not to say it never happens.
A lot of people ask this question because they know that in the wild male lions will, after seeing off a competing male lion with a pride that includes cubs, kill the cubs in the pride to bring the females into season with the aim of reproducing with the females and advancing their own offspring.
It is natural to assume, given the cat family is very similar in lots of ways, that this possibility might exist in domestic cats, both feral and non-feral.
Read on to learn how common this is and the circumstances that are likely to be involved for such an event to happen.
Do Male Cats Kill Or Eat Their Own Kittens?
Do male cats kill their own kittens? First off, let’s be clear that we are not talking about accidentally killing kittens via poor parenting skills like sitting on the kittens or moving them unnecessarily. Do male house cats actually, purposefully hunt down and kill their kittens? The answer is no. On the whole, a well-fed male house cat will not destroy his or any other cat’s offspring purposefully.
In what scenario might a male cat kill his own kittens? There is conjecture that a male cat living in the wild as a feral or semi-feral cat might, on occasion, kill his own kittens. We are talking barn cats or ferals living in colonies here.
Why might this happen? The theory – but no one really knows – is that it may be down to population control when resources are thin on the ground. Or it could occur when the male cat is not very well nourished and they encounter a kitten, if the kitten moves in a prey-like manner the hunting instinct may be so strong in the male, given his hunger, that he instinctively treats the kitten as prey and attacks without control – purely by hunting instinct.
Generally, ferals will live in matriarchal colonies if the territory is well resourced and the females in the colony will defend kittens against all males. Indeed, female cats are more likely to kill kittens due to population control and disease. So even in the cases outlined where a male may kill his own kittens in the wild the likelihood is very low.
Do Male Cats Eat Other Kittens?
So what about if the kittens are not his? Do male cats act like lions in the wild? Can a male cat be trusted with another male cat’s kittens?
Again, in a home setting, a well-fed male cat is unlikely to kill kittens. But, in a feral situation, there does seem to be evidence that male ferals will attempt to kill kittens to bring females within a colony back into season for the purposes of their own reproduction. In these instances they do not kill to eat or kill and then eat – they tend to deliver a death wound and leave their bodies.
Indeed, such is the risk of such activity that colonies are typically matriarchal, the males live independently, and the mother and various daughters will run creche on kittens with the remaining ladies actively on protection patrol to ward off such encounters with males.
Can Male Cats Be Around Kittens?
So, does this mean that male cats can be around newborn kittens raised in the home? The chances of a mishap are remote, but it pays not to flirt with the devil so most advice is that male cats, father or not, should be kept away from newborn kittens for the first few weeks.
This advice is not just because of the fear of an attack but because it is important not to stress the mother cat in any way. Even a non-violent interaction might concern or stress a mother cat and lead to her leaving her kittens and putting kittens at risk. Best not to invite possibility.
In many ways cats are like people, you get good parents and some not-so-effective parents. It is well within the realms of possibility that a male cat will react with attentive, gentle, and cooperative behavior toward kittens – this is even more likely if you have a neutered male cat in the home, it is generally unheard of for neutered male cats to pose any threat and they can often be instrumental in showing young kittens how to actually be cats as they develop.
What about out on the street? Well, it is clear that feral male cats may act like lions against kittens that are not their own but there are also stories of feral or stray males bringing kittens to the doorsteps of people who have demonstrated kindness to the feral male cat – almost as an introduction! Indeed, I have personally encountered a situation where a free-roaming uncut male house cat belonging to an acquaintance has had kittens with a feral or stray mother and then proudly brought his whole new family home for introduction (and a free feed!).
We know that mother cats will eat their own kittens from time to time if the kittens fade or are born with a major impediment to their survival, but male cats are not necessarily born infant killers. Male feral cats may kill kittens that don’t belong to them on the streets, but a male cat in the home is unlikely to behave in such a way toward his or other kittens.
It is best to give the mother cat some room initially and keep the male cats away for long enough for the novelty of the situation to wear off and then they should be ok to be introduced with supervision without risk of upsetting the mother cat.