When Can You Separate a Kitten From Its Mom?

We are regularly asked why young kittens cannot yet be adopted. We understand that it is very cute, such a small kitten and that you would like to get it as soon as possible, but for the development of these animals, early separation from the mother has negative consequences.

In the wild, kittens are weaned when they are between 4 and 8 weeks old. Weaning means that the kittens no longer drink milk from the mother and start eating solid food, although the term is also often used for the separation of the kittens from the mother. The socialization period of cats is between 2 and 8 weeks; in this, they learn that contact with people and dogs, for example, is normal and not scary. However, the kittens usually stay with the mother until they are about 16 weeks old. In this period they further develop their behavior, in which both the mother cat and brothers and sisters play a role. Taking a kitten out of the litter too early can lead to behavioral issues such as aggression and stereotypes. Stereotypes are behaviors that are performed repetitively, with no apparent function, such as excessive washing or sucking on the coat or blankets (wool sucking). Cats develop such stereotypes when they are stressed for a long time; behavior is a way of coping with stress because it releases endorphins.

In a recent study, the behavior of nearly 6,000 cats was related to the age at which they were separated from the mother. The cats were divided into three groups based on the age at which they were removed from the litter: before 12 weeks of age (early), at 12 or 13 weeks of age (recommended age), or at 14 weeks of age (late). Cats took out of the litter more often were more aggressive towards strangers (non-family members) than cats separated from the mother at recommended or late age. Cats from the 14-15 week group were less likely to have stereotypes in the form of excessive washing than the 12-13 week group. Cats separated from the mother before 8 weeks were more likely to have a behavioral problem compared to separation at the recommended age. Cats that only reach adulthood (> 1 year) from the mother and cats that were never separated from the mother were less likely to show aggression towards family members, strangers, or others of their kind. They were also less likely to suffer from stereotypes in the form of excessive washing and wool sucking.

The reason why the cat’s behavior is affected by the age of separation maybe because it affects brain development. Aggression in cats often stems from fear, and aggressive cats are very likely to have chronic stress. This is bad for their health and well-being, and aggressive cats are more often given up or euthanized. Stereotypes, in addition to being a sign of stress, are also harmful; Excessive washing can lead to bald areas and wounds that can become infected, and wool-sucking can cause intestinal blockages if the material is swallowed.

All in all, there are plenty of reasons not to separate a kitten from its mother and littermates too early (before 12 weeks), and perhaps even wait up to 14 weeks. In any case, a kitten is always best adopted together with a littermate, or placed with another young cat in the house, so that it can further develop its behavior. Separating the kitten from its litter, later on, is an easy and effective way to avoid welfare issues, and we believe that responsible cat owners consider this important enough to wait a few more weeks before bringing a kitten home!

All in all, there are plenty of reasons not to separate a kitten from its mother and littermates too early (before 12 weeks), and perhaps even wait up to 14 weeks. In any case, a kitten is always best adopted together with a littermate, or placed with another young cat in the house, so that it can further develop its behavior. Separating the kitten from its litter, later on, is an easy and effective way to avoid welfare issues, and we believe that responsible cat owners consider this important enough to wait a few more weeks before bringing a kitten home!

When a kitten leaves his mother.

People often think when a kitten can independently stand eating and drinking on its own feet. That is not true where they still have to learn so much from their mother. When a kitten eats and drinks completely independently at the age of 6-7 weeks does not mean that he/she can get away from mothers, then certainly still has some weeks to socialize further. In these weeks they learn to push their limits from the mother. When kittens are placed too early, so younger than 10 weeks, they often give behavioral problems to the new owner. When no mother is present as is often the case with us, they learn from man and other peers what is and is not allowed.

The main reason for not placing a kitten too early is because of the mental and social development. During the socialization process, a kitten gains a number of skills. They learn to play, to play around, to pretend to fight, to become toilet trained, and to push their limits. If a kitten bites or scribbles too hard when frolicking or appearing to fight, it learns that this hurts and is corrected immediately by their mother or other species. This correction is not always going smoothly sometimes they get a lot of punishment, that doesn’t matter. Kittens placed in old age have so much experience and also learned to play with humans, cuddle, and are certainly very social.

If they are kittens of a WILD MOTHER, they are deliberately taken from their mother earlier to prevent them from adopting the behavior of their mother, and then they also become wild. It is also better to remove the kittens from mothers who are neglected or semi-wild. The socialization process that a kitten needs will then have to be done by people who have experience in this. But please leave the kittens with their mother for at least 6 weeks.

SIXTEEN WEEKS OF MOTHER CARE A SOLID BASIS FOR CAT WELFARE

The initiative proposed by the Cat Behavioral Consultancy to increase the legal separation age of kittens. Current legislation regarding the separation of kittens is based on limited criteria. The legislation is based on the termination of the nursing process and the kitten eating solid food. The nursing process is said to have ended at seven weeks of age. This claim is based on dated insights.

Recent research on the domestication of cats shows that it is very important to look at natural behavior. The cat is still close to its wild ancestors. When sufficient food is available, males in nature stay with the mother for at least a year and a half and cats live all their lives. Only when there is a lack of food can the mother and kittens separate from the age of sixteen weeks to switch to survival. A voluntary divorce before sixteen weeks never occurs in nature, because the kittens are not yet sufficiently developed.

Separating kittens prematurely means that cats are more likely to end up in shelters due to behavioral and health problems. The care of these cats costs the Netherlands almost 9 million euros annually. Relocating these cats is difficult and even cats are euthanized due to behavioral and health problems.

Regarding health, it is important to take into account the protection of the vaccine against feline and cat flu. The vaccination takes place at nine and twelve weeks. After vaccination, it takes two weeks for the body to build up sufficient immunity. This means that a kitten is only fully protected against these diseases at the age of fourteen weeks. On the basis of new insights, a third vaccination against cat’s disease is even recommended, to ensure that sufficient immunity is built up. This is due to the so-called immunity gap that exists between ten and twelve weeks of age, which means that insufficient immunity is built up after the first vaccination at nine weeks of age. If a kitten is separated earlier, the vaccination may fail,

Recent research has shown that cats are more likely to be overweight if separated from the mother before the age of thirteen weeks. This is due to a reduced content of Leptin. Leptin is a satiety hormone that is disrupted when kittens cannot drink from their mothers until the age of thirteen weeks. Due to the lack of breast milk before the age of thirteen weeks, the production of Leptin is permanently disrupted, causing cats to overeat and develop obesity later in life. Obesity causes many health problems and reduces well-being.