Monday 17 May 2021

Do male cats eat kittens?

I've read various attempts on the Internet to answer the question in the title and I am not convinced by any of them. Remember, the question refers to any cat of any species not just the domestic cat. It also refers to eating kittens not just attacking and killing them. 

F1 Savannah cat
F1 Savannah cat. Photo: Kathryn Stucki.

It seems to be a question which is reminiscent of the behaviour of incoming male lions taking over a pride at which time they tend to kill the cubs in order to force the lionesses into heat so that they can procreate themselves to ensure that their genes are passed on. But when this happens the lions do not eat the cubs that the kill. They are simply killing them for the purposes mentioned.

It is a well-known fact that females sometimes killed their offspring and I'm referring to the world of feral and domestic cats. There are five reasons for this on my research and I have written on this topic before which you can read by clicking on this link. But the reasons are specifically related to the mother-kitten relationship. It's about survival ultimately.

But does a male feral or domestic cat kill a kitten in order to survive? I don't see that happening. I really don't and over 14 years of reading about domestic cat behaviour it has not once been mentioned to the best of my knowledge. That does not mean, of course, that it does not happen but it does mean that it is unlikely to happen.

There may be exceptional circumstances when a male feral cat eats a deceased kitten in an act of survival when food is short. That makes sense and in fact it might not be that rare and occurrence. But this would not be an act of killing and eating but of scavenging and I think that is quite an important distinction. Under these circumstances the male cat is simply eating available food in a coldhearted way.

In an earlier post I suggested that male cats do not recognise the kittens that they have fathered which would certainly facilitate eating a deceased one. I think that we have to apply some common sense to the answer because you don't get good scientific answers on this sort of topic.

Finally, a series of accidental events may result in a male cat eating a kitten. a male cat might try to mate with a kitten and kill it accidentally. And then instinctively the cat might eat the kitten. It would be a series of instinctive events which led to this rare occurrence. This is suggested by Dr. Desmond Morris in his book Cat World.

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