When you take on a kitten, they often come from a home environment where they’ve lived with their mom and the rest of their littermates. You might even have met the mother cat and other kittens when choosing your new family member. Once the kittens are weaned off their mother’s milk and old enough to leave her, they are rehomed.
But isn’t it a huge ordeal for a kitten to leave their family? Wouldn’t they miss their mother, father, and siblings? Or are they immediately forgotten?
Do kittens miss their parents after leaving the home?
It might seem unusual to us as humans, but it is rare for kittens to meet their fathers! There are occasions where a breeder may own both the mother and the father of a litter, but the majority of feline pregnancies are either unplanned, with unknown fathers, or planned, using a stud cat from another breeder. Therefore, as a rule, kittens do not meet or miss their fathers.
Kittens should not be weaned before six to eight weeks and should remain with their mother and littermates until eight weeks. If they are taken away from their mother before this age, they will certainly spend some time pining for her as well as looking for her as the source of their next meal.
Kittens learn a lot from their mothers until eight weeks and gain confidence and sociability, so removing them early can lead to behavior problems.
Once a kitten is successfully weaned and leaves their mother at the age of eight weeks or more, there will always be a period of adjustment. But this period is usually short-lived. The kitten will have already gained some life skills and independence and will be able to feed and toilet without the mom. Although they may seem sad for a few days, they will soon move on and begin to identify with their new owners as family.
Do kittens remember their siblings?
Kittens don’t have the same fundamental reliance on their brothers and sisters as they do on their mother in the first 8 weeks. However, their siblings will be a great source of fun and will help them learn about playing and social interactions.
Kittens that are separated from the litter after growing up do not remember or recognize their siblings.
There is likely to be a period of adjustment when a kitten leaves their brothers and sisters, especially if they are taken on as an ‘only kitten’. This can be alleviated to an extent if there is more than one kitten in the household or a playful older cat.
If the kitten truly is an ‘only child’ the best way to help them is by ensuring regular fun interactions, with lots of toys and games to keep them busy and replicate playtime with their siblings.
Do cats remember their parents?
What if a kitten came across their mother after a year or so? Would they recognize them? Well, strangely, no – if they have been separated from eight weeks old, it is very unlikely that a kitten would remember or miss their family.
Cats are very independent creatures and once their new owner has filled the void left by leaving their family, it doesn’t appear that they retain historic bonds. New bonds have been formed.
The exception to this is if kittens remain with their family or a family member. The family bond in this case will remain and will influence the hierarchy of their social interaction with each other and other cats.
So, do I need to be worried about my kitten missing their family?
As long as a kitten is not weaned before six weeks and remains with its mother until eight weeks, any feelings of sadness or detachment will be short-lived. Provided the kitten has playmates, either in the form of other felines or an enthusiastic human who can replicate the bond with their siblings and help their social, mental, and physical development.