Understanding the Reasons Behind a Cat's Growling at Kittens (2023)

Cats are known for being aloof and independent creatures, but when it comes to their offspring, they can be fiercely protective. However, it’s not uncommon for a cat to growl at her own kittens, especially as they get older. This behavior can be confusing for the owner and may even seem cruel, but it’s important to understand why it happens. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind a mother cat’s growling at her kittens and what it means for their relationship.

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Understanding Cat Communication

Cats are known for their non-verbal communication skills. In fact, they possess a wide range of body language, vocalizations, and scents that they use to communicate with their fellow felines and humans. Whether it’s hissing, purring, meowing, or even growling, these behaviors often reflect their current emotions and can send a message to those around them.

One of the most common non-verbal communication techniques that cats often use to express themselves is growling. This low, rumbling sound that usually comes deep from their throat is often accompanied by other physical cues such as arched backs, raised fur, and even hissing. However, when it comes to kittens, many cat owners are often baffled by why their adult cats growl at the little ones, even when they’re not doing anything wrong.

One explanation to this could be the territorial nature of cats. Unlike dogs, who are known to be highly social animals, cats are territorial creatures who prefer to be alone most of the time. When a new kitten enters the picture, it’s only natural for the resident cat to feel threatened and territorial. They may growl and even hiss as a warning to the kitten to stay away. It’s their way of claiming their space and letting the newcomer know that they’re not welcome.

Another reason why cats growl at kittens is due to the lack of socialization. Socialization is an important aspect of a cat’s development during the first few weeks of life. If a young kitten is separated from its mother and littermates, they may miss out on the opportunity to learn how to interact with other cats. As a result, when they encounter adult cats, they may not know how to read or interpret their body language. The adult cat may see this as a sign of aggression and may growl or hiss as a warning to the kitten to back off.

It’s also worth noting that sometimes cats may growl at kittens as a form of play. While it may look aggressive and alarming to us, growling and play-fighting is a natural part of a cat’s development. This is how they learn to interact with their fellow felines and develop their social skills. If the kitten doesn’t seem too bothered by the growling, and if the adult cat isn’t showing any other physical signs of aggression such as clawing or biting, the growling is likely a part of their play.

When it comes to understanding cat communication, it’s important to remember that growling is just one aspect of their behavior. It’s essential to know how to read their body language to understand what they’re feeling and what they’re trying to communicate. As responsible pet owners, it’s our job to provide our feline companions with plenty of socialization opportunities and ensure that they’re being exposed to a range of different stimuli from a young age. By doing so, we can help our pets develop into confident, happy, and well-adjusted cats.

Causes of Cat Growling Towards Kittens

As adorable as kittens are, cats may not always welcome their presence. It is not uncommon to see cats growling or hissing at kittens. But what causes this behavior? Let’s explore some reasons why a cat may growl at kittens.

1. Protective Instincts

One of the most common reasons why cats growl at kittens is because they are acting on their protective instincts. As an adult, the cat may see it as their duty to protect their territory and their resources. By growling, the cat is trying to warn the kitten to stay away and preserve their space.

It is crucial to understand that this behavior is natural, and it is not an indication that the cat dislikes kittens. As kittens grow older, the adult cat may learn to tolerate their presence and even form a bond with them. It’s always best to monitor the interaction between cats and kittens to ensure that everyone remains safe.

2. Fear and Anxiety

Cats are crepuscular creatures, meaning they prefer to be active during the early morning and late evening hours. They are also territorial animals; they take time to adjust to changes in their environment. New things, unfamiliar sounds, and smells may cause them to feel anxious or scared.

When a kitten enters a cat’s space, the cat may perceive it as a threat. This perception triggers an innate response that may manifest in growling, hissing, or even swatting. The cat is simply expressing its fear and anxiety and is not necessarily hostile towards the kitten.

If your cats are experiencing fear and anxiety, it’s essential to provide them with a safe space where they can retreat. This space should contain their food, water, litter box, and some toys. Slowly introduce the kitten to the safe space, and allow the cats to adjust to each other’s presence slowly. This approach reduces the likelihood of growling, hissing, or fighting.

3. Medical Issues

Growling and hissing may not always stem from behavioral issues but may have an underlying medical cause. Cats are good at hiding pain, making it difficult to identify a medical issue. However, conditions such as dental disease, arthritis, and urinary tract infections may cause cats to be irritable.

When a kitten gets close to the cat’s body or may bump into them, the cat may react with a growl or hiss. This reaction is because they are in pain, and the contact with the kitten exacerbates their discomfort.

It’s important to observe your cat’s behavior closely and take note of any changes in their appetite or litter box habits. In case of any concerns, talk to your vet for further advice.

Cats may growl at kittens for a variety of reasons, either behavioral or medical. While this may be alarming, it is crucial to stay calm and understand the underlying cause. As pet parents, our role is to ensure that both cats and kittens feel safe and comfortable in their living space.

The Role of Mother Cats in Disciplining Kittens

When a new litter of kittens arrives, mother cats take on the responsibility of not only feeding their offspring but also teaching them how to behave. One crucial aspect of that training is discipline. Discipline is necessary to instill good behavior, whose absence can cause problems in the future. However, sometimes, the disciplining behavior of mother cats can seem harsh, especially when they growl at their kittens. In this article, we will discuss the reasons behind why cats growl at kittens and their role in disciplining their young ones.

Establishing Hierarchy

Cats are territorial creatures that follow a social hierarchy. When a new kitten enters their environment, particularly if it is not related to them, the mother cat’s instinct is to establish dominance over the new arrival. This process helps the mother cat to ensure that her own kittens are safe and that the newcomer knows its place in the hierarchy.

To establish hierarchy, mother cats use vocalization, body language, and sometimes, physical behavior. A growl is one of the vocalizations that mother cats use to establish dominance. It is essential to understand that though it may seem harsh to us as humans, it is a necessary part of the cat’s natural behavior and is not an act of cruelty.

Teaching Survival Skills

When mother cats growl at their kittens, it is not always about discipline. Sometimes, it is their way of teaching survival skills. For instance, in the wild, growls help teach kittens to avoid dangerous prey and to stay away from potentially dangerous situations. When a mother cat growls at her kittens, it is often a warning to steer clear of danger.

Similarly, when kittens play too roughly with each other, mother cats will growl at them. This growling behavior is a warning that they are playing too rough and that they need to stop before they hurt each other. By doing this, mother cats are teaching their kittens to gauge their strength when playing and avoid hurting each other, which is an essential survival skill.

Promoting Independence

Discipline is not merely about establishing dominance or teaching survival skills. It is also about promoting independence. As the kittens grow, the mother cat’s role in training them changes from dominance to guidance. A mother cat that continues to discipline her kittens harshly even as they grow up can cause them to become overly dependent and unable to explore on their own.

By growling, mother cats teach their kittens that there are consequences for their actions. In doing so, they help their kittens understand that they need to be cautious and make wise decisions when exploring their environment. This discipline allows the kittens to become more independent as they grow, which will help them later in life when they leave their mother’s care.

Mother cats play an essential role in disciplining their kittens, even if their actions may seem harsh at times. Their growling behavior, while it can be unsettling to us, is necessary to teach the kittens survival skills, establish hierarchy, and promote independence. It is critical to understand that while the mother cat might growl at her kittens, it is not a show of cruelty but rather an essential aspect of their natural behavior.

Why Do Cats Growl at Kittens?

Cats are known for their adorable fluffy appearance and their playful nature. However, sometimes, cats may growl at kittens, and this can be worrying for pet owners. Growling is one of the many ways cats communicate. It is natural for cats to growl at each other, especially when they feel confronted or threatened by another cat’s presence. In this article, we will discuss the reasons why cats growl at kittens and the importance of socialization for both kittens and adult cats.

The Importance of Socialization for Kittens and Adult Cats

Socialization is a critical aspect of a cat’s development, and it is essential to start socializing kittens from a young age. Socialization refers to the process of training and exposing kittens to different environments, people, and other animals to help them develop social skills that will enable them to interact with their environment positively. The earlier the socialization process starts, the better the kitten’s chance of developing into a confident and friendly adult cat.

Adult cats also need socialization to adapt to new changes in their home environment, such as moving houses or the addition of new pets. Cats that missed out on early socialization may have trouble adjusting to new environments, people, and other animals and may exhibit aggressive behavior like growling, hissing, and biting to fend off potential threats.

It is essential to give your kitten plenty of attention and socialization opportunities during their early development. Socialization opportunities can include but are not limited to interactive playtime, grooming, and supervised interaction with other animals and humans. It is also crucial to provide a safe and positive environment for the kitten.

Why Do Cats Growl at Kittens?

Cats growl at kittens for various reasons, and the behavior is often a part of the socialization process. One of the most common reasons why cats growl at kittens is to establish dominance and hierarchy. In the wild, growling is a natural way for cats to set boundaries and protect their territories from potential threats. When a cat growls at a kitten, they are letting the kitten know their boundaries and that they are in charge.

Another reason why cats growl at kittens is to communicate their discomfort or displeasure towards the kitten’s behavior. Kittens can be overly excited and playful, which can sometimes make them pester adult cats that are not in the mood for playtime. When this happens, the adult cat may growl as a way to deter the kitten from pursuing them.

Growing at Kittens can also be due to the adult cat’s insecurities, such as fear or anxiety towards new animals in their environment. In such cases, the growling behavior is often a defense mechanism used by the adult cat to protect themselves from potential harm. Cats may growl at kittens to communicate that they need space and time to adjust to the new change in the environment.

Cats growl at kittens for various reasons, and it is important for pet owners to understand that this behavior is a natural way of communication in the cat world. Socialization is essential in helping kittens and adult cats adjust to their environment positively and minimize the chances of growling behavior in the future. As pet owners, it is our responsibility to provide a safe and positive environment for our pets to thrive and grow into confident and friendly cats.

Introducing Kittens to Resident Cats Successfully

Bringing a new kitten home can be an exciting experience for cat owners, but it can be difficult for resident cats who are suddenly introduced to a new member of the family. The introduction process must be done thoughtfully to help alleviate potential conflicts. One of the common behaviors that might occur is growling from resident cats towards the newcomer. Here are five reasons why cats growl at kittens and what you can do about it:

1. Protective Instincts

It’s natural for a resident cat’s protective instincts to kick in when a new kitten is introduced to the household. Cats are territorial creatures by nature, so adding a new member to that space can be a challenge. It’s important to give the resident cat time to adjust to the new scent and presence of the newcomer. Cats often express their discomfort through growling, and you should be patient with them. Allow them to express their feelings without interfering or punishing them. You can also try to reward them with treats and affection to positively reinforce good behaviors towards the kitten.

2. Fear and Anxiety

Resident cats might feel threatened or anxious when introduced to a kitten. They might feel like they are losing their place in the household or might be unsure of the newcomer’s intentions. These feelings can trigger growling and other aggressive behaviors towards the kitten. To deal with this issue, keep the kitten in a separate area for a few days to allow the resident cat to get used to the new smell. Gradually introduce them through scent swapping and supervised visits to help them learn to coexist peacefully. You can also engage them in interactive play sessions to help them cope with stress and anxiety.

3. Dominance Issues

Cats are territorial animals, and they often establish a hierarchy within their household. When a new kitten is introduced, they may view it as a challenge to their perceived status. The resident cat may use growling and other aggressive behavior to assert their dominance over the kitten. If this is the case, it’s essential to monitor their interactions closely. You can distract them from confrontations with toys or treats, provided that you don’t reinforce any aggressive or dominant behavior through such rewards.

4. Lack of Socialization

Cats that were not adequately socialized as kittens may struggle with the introduction of a new kitten. They may not know how to share space or interact with a newcomer, leading to misunderstandings and growling. If your resident cat is displaying these issues, it’s crucial to encourage positive socialization through play sessions and positive stimulation. You can also talk to your vet or behaviorist for recommendations on training techniques to improve your cat’s social skills and provide effective solutions to the growling problem.

5. Health Issues

Cat owners should be aware that growling might be a symptom of underlying health problems. If your resident cat is growling and displaying other behaviors such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or abnormal bowel movement, it’s essential to have them evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues. Some conditions such as urinary tract infections and constipation can cause stress and discomfort in cats that might manifest in growling and other negative behaviors.

In conclusion, introducing kittens to resident cats should be a slow and gradual process, letting the cats get used to each other’s scent and spaces. Cat parents should be calm and patient throughout the introduction period and not try to force the issue. With proper attention and guidance, most resident cats can adapt and learn to coexist peacefully with a new addition to the family.


Why does my cat growl at kittens? ›

They're territorial

As a result, your resident, older cat likely feels that an uninvited cat is invading their home. In most cases, the older cat thinks that they own your home and that a new kitten is a threat to that. Therefore, they can act out to assert dominance and stake claims on their territory.

How do I get my cat to stop growling at my new kitten? ›

Some cats may instinctively hiss or act assertively when you introduce a new kitten, so you'll need to offer lots of reassurance and extra attention. If your cat is frequently hissing at your kitten, keep meetings short and brief, using a FELIWAY Optimum Diffuser to help them remain comfortable and calm.

Is it OK for my cat to growl at my kitten? ›

Your older cat may have a period of time when it tries to establish boundaries with the new kitten. Your older cat may hiss and swat at the kitten when the newcomer does something unfavorable. This is completely normal and as long as it is just hissing and swatting, do your best to not interfere.

What does it mean when a cat low growls at another cat? ›

Growling is another sound cats make when they are angry or want to scare off a potential threat. Kittens, as well as older cats, may growl when cornered. They'll hunch their body and puff out their tail and the rest of their fur. A low-pitched growl is usually a warning, telling the threat it needs to back off.

Why is my cat being aggressive to her kittens? ›

Stress can also be a cause of issues. If a mother cat is threatened by other cats, people, excessive noise or other stressful situations she may abandon her kittens or develop aggressive tendencies towards them. First-time mothers may also be more prone to behavior problems.

What is the difference between a hiss and a growl? ›

Growling and hissing are natural behaviors, and both help your cat to communicate. A hiss occurs with the mouth wide open and teeth showing. It is a forceful breath out, with a hard stop. A growl often starts with an “mmmm” sound and then becomes low and long, with the sound originating in the throat.

How long does it take for a cat to adjust to a new kitten? ›

The introduction must be gradual. Following the initial introduction, it can take a very long time for a relationship to grow. It takes most cats eight to 12 months to develop a friendship with a new cat. Although some cats certainly become close friends, others never do.

How do you get an older cat to accept a kitten? ›

Introduce the Cats Slowly

Anticipate keeping the kitten separated for at least a couple days. After the first day or two, give each of your cats an item with the other animal's scent on it, like a blanket, cushion, or fabric toy. Place this item in an area where your cat feels comfortable.

How do you tell if your cat will accept a kitten? ›

If your cat doesn't like other cats coming into their space and they become anxious or aggressive when this happens, this could be a sign that they wouldn't accept sharing their home with another cat. Some breeds are best suited to being only-cats, such as Bengals.

Will my 2 year old cat accept a kitten? ›

Adult cats will usually accept a new kitten much more easily than they will accept a new adult cat. Cats are territorial, and your cat may resent an adult feline intruder. If you're able to choose from a group of kittens, avoid a kitten that's hissing, growling or engaged in serious battle with his mates.

Do older cats like kittens? ›

Ultimately, you'll want to think twice before introducing a new kitten to the family. Your senior cat might take it well, but there's a chance they won't. The adjustment period for kittens and senior cats lasts weeks and requires copious amounts of patience. Don't expect them to become friends right away.

What different cat growls mean? ›

Growling, hissing or spitting indicates a cat who is annoyed, frightened, angry or aggressive. Leave this cat alone. A yowl or howl (they sound like loud, drawn-out meows) tells you your cat is in some kind of distress—stuck in a closet, looking for you or in pain. Find your cat if they're making this noise.

Should I separate my cats if they growl? ›

If the cats remain relaxed, they may be ready to be together again. But if they react with any signs of aggressive behavior—such as growling, spitting, hissing, swatting, etc.—separate them again and follow the gradual reintroduction instructions below.

How long will it take for my cat to accept a new kitten? ›

That said, the rescue group Paws.org says it can take 8-12 months for an adult cat to make friends with a new kitten. Then again, some are aggressive towards other cats and always will be. It's a good idea to keep the food bowls separate yet, feed them simultaneously.

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