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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Greetings from Peru! I have a sweet and playful 2-year-old cat named Eva. Everything was fine with her until I got two new 10-week-old kittens. She’s acting like their mommy, playing with them and they get along really well, which is great, but I have some serious questions. First, how can I get them not to suck Eva’s nipples? They’re harming her and she is letting them. My sister and I try to separate them every time we see this happening, but Eva looks at us with a really sad face every time we do this. Second, why has she stopped playing with us? My sister and I give her lots of love, but since the kittens arrived, all that has stopped. She used to play with us all the time — running around, hunting us, and even playing fetch! Now she won’t do that, even if we put all our efforts into it. I try to play with her in my room, which is her main territory, but she only plays a couple of minutes and then loses interest. She’s healthy, I took her to the vet. Its breaking my heart, and I don’t know what to do.  Please help!

~ Brenda

Siouxsie: Brenda, we’re glad you took Eva to the vet to make sure she’s not sick or injured, because that’s the first thing we recommend with sudden behavior changes.

Thomas: This behavior is actually pretty normal with mother cats. Their instincts guide them to give all their attention to their kittens.

Bella: Even though Eva didn’t give birth to these babies, it’s clear that she’s taken them on as her kittens, and she’s just doing what comes naturally.

Siouxsie: Lots of mom cats will start taking care of kittens if they feel those kittens are too young to be on their own or their birth mom can’t take care of them.

Thomas: Something like this happened to a cat being fostered by Mama’s friend Robin, who runs a small cat rescue group. Read all about it in this post on her blog, Covered in Cat Hair.

Bella: We don’t want to spoil the surprise, so go there and read the post to find out what happened!

Siouxsie: So, there are a couple of things that could be happening here. First of all, you didn’t way whether or not Eva is spayed or if she’s ever been pregnant before.

Thomas: If she’s not spayed, or if she’s ever had a litter of her own, her body may be releasing all the hormones that would be release if she’d given birth to those kittens naturally, so of course she’s going to act like a mother cat.

Bella: But also, think about it this way: If you see a baby crying, you probably want to do something to make that baby feel better. You may pick her up and hold her, feed her from a bottle, change her diaper, or do whatever else you need to do. Even if you never want to be a mother yourself, you still know what to do and you may even be happy to do it.

Siouxsie: How can you stop the kittens from sucking on Eva’s teats? She’ll stop them herself eventually, probably with growls, hisses and swats. Most experts say that kittens aren’t entirely weaned until they’re three months old, so it’s not surprising that the kittens are still engaging in nursing behavior, even if nothing’s coming out of Eva to reward them.

Thomas: As for how you can get Eva to play with you again — don’t worry; once her instincts tell her that the kittens are old enough to take care of themselves, she’ll start snuggling and playing with you again.

Bella: If Eva’s not spayed, we recommend you get that taken care of. Likewise, please make sure to have the kittens spayed or neutered as soon as you can, and by six months of age at the latest (as long as your vet says they’re big and healthy enough to have surgery).

Siouxsie: So, Brenda, what’s going on with Eva and the kittens is normal, and we’re sure she’ll be back to her old self soon.

Thomas: Please write back and let us know how things are going.

Bella: How about you other readers: have you been in a situation like Brenda’s? What did you do, and did your cat resume her people-loving ways after the kittens were old enough? Please share your thoughts in the comments.