Can a Spayed Mother Cat Still Mother Kittens?


AmericanshorthairKey, may she rest in peace, was my American shorthair who died about six years ago. She was very old and lived a full life. I love her bunches and still consider her one of the best friends I’ve ever had and probably ever will have. One of my favorite things about Key was her mothering instinct. She was drawn to kittens, and despite being spayed would lick and nurture every new kitten who crossed her path. It was adorable, but it got me wondering; do all spayed cats mother kittens? Is Key the rule or the exception to the rule?

She Had Kittens Before

Key was spayed when she was about four years old after successfully birthing two litters of kittens. It’s likely that her nurturing attitude was due to this previous parentage; although, there’s no scientific proof to say if this is true or not. In fact, all sources suggest that it’s incredibly rare find a cat willing to play mama to kittens.

Cats are Territorial Creatures

Unfortunately, Key is an exception to the general rule that cats don’t like other cats. She didn’t actually like other cats, but she certain did adore kittens. In general, cats are very territorial. They don’t play well with new friends, young or old.

Cats are solitary predators and more often than not, they go out of their way to avoid each other. “For example, one cat may occupy a spot in the morning, but leave it for another cat to occupy in the afternoon,” writes Cats International, a non-profit organization dedicated to feline education. When it comes to kitty comingling, there are more moments of independence than togetherness.

So, what was Key’s deal? And, why do other people share similar experiences? There’s really little to go on.

Maybe it’s the New Cat

The American Animal Humane Society offers this advice when selecting a second cat for your home:

  • Gender doesn’t matter, unless the animals aren’t spayed or neutered, in which case pregnancy is possible
  • Kittens are more easily integrated than adult cats, especially when your older cat is nurturing like Key was
  • Avoid choosing a temperamental cat as your second pet (unfortunately this can’t always be known)
  • If your second cat must be an adult, have patience because it’s going to take longer for both cats to grow comfortable around one another (they may never get along)

Although your adult female cat may not mother a new kitten like Key would, you will find that integrating a kitten into the household is far easier than adding a second adult cat. This is due to the territorial nature of adult cats. Your current cat will view a kitten as less of a threat and thus accept her more willingly.

Introducing Your Cat to a New Kitten

Do not rush integrating cats, even when you’re introducing your adult cat to a new kitten. Multiple introductions may be necessary before the cats can coexist comfortably. It’s likely you’ll run into a lot of hissing, growling, and negative behaviors. Or, you may just find that your cat is a lot like Key, in which case she’ll be willing to adopt the new kitten as her own.

Don’t immediately throw the kitten in with your resident cat. Instead, keep the two separated and only put them together during supervised moments. You can watch both cats and gage their reactions. If there’s purring and curiosity, those are great signs that you have a natural mother on your hands. If your cat is hissing, growling, and avoiding you or the new kitten, than it’s going to take a little work before these two can get along.

Final Tips

You may run into some problems after integration has taken place. For example, your cats fight or there seems to be some urination happening in areas other than the litter box. If these things are occurring, the easiest way to create harmony is through separation. Put them in different rooms.

Move the cat’s food dishes to opposite ends of a room, or different room’s altogether. Four Paws, an animal rescue group based in Washington, DC, recommends gradually moving the bowls closer together until time passes. They also recommend maintaining separate litter boxes, as this will cut down on territorial urinations. Finally, provide cats with their own spaces to relax and isolate themselves. This will give them a much needed sense of territory.

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