Momma cats and human moms aren't all that different.
How a mother cat rears her cute and cuddly brood isn’t all that different from the way her human mother parents. As we celebrate moms on Mother’s Day, let’s also take a moment to honor the “queens” of the feline world and their admirable parenting skills.
Momma cats spend weeks nurturing their offspring and teaching them how to become self-sufficient. They manage to accomplish this monumental task within about eight to 10 weeks before finally detaching themselves and pushing their young out into the world. It’s not a sad time for either momma cat or kitten. Instead, it speaks to the momma cat’s effective parenting skills and her well-prepared offspring.
A mother cat uses this intensive learning phase to teach her kittens various life skills, much like a human mother who spends years bringing up a child to prepare them for life outside the nest.
Momma cats teach their young to:
Forage for food.
While the desire to hunt is innate in felines, a mother cat takes time to help her kittens hone their hunting skills. She might bring a mouse home to her brood, release it, and allow her babies to catch it. Momma doesn’t do the hunting for them, but she provides opportunities that force them to learn how to fend for themselves. Any good parent knows how to present opportunities that encourage self-sustenance without displaying codependent tendencies.
In the wild, there is a reason cats eliminate in certain locations away from the brood: to keep predators, who might follow the scent, far away from the nest. Indoors, a kitten observes her mom use a litter box and picks up the scent of what mom leaves behind, which helps establish good potty skills. Any good parent knows potty training takes patience and that staying the course brings lasting results.
Communicate well with others.
Kittens learn good communication skills by simply watching mom and how she interacts with other animals and humans. Momma cats and their kittens are quite adept atrecognizing each other’s language, similar to how children can distinguish their mom’s voice when she calls for them, and kittens learn very quickly that meowing and purring get mom’s attention much like a toddler’s whine.
Practice good hygiene.
Self-grooming is just as important in the feline world as it is in the lives of human beings, but for different reasons. Cats linkgrooming themselves to survival. Typically, cats groom after eating, a practice that keeps food particles from fermenting on their bodies and smelling. Staying clean keeps potential prey from prematurely detecting a cat on the prowl for its next meal and escaping before she’s had a chance to attack. Kittens learn to self-groom from watching their mothers as well as experiencing her grooming methods on them while they are unable to do it themselves.
Learn how to take “no” for an answer.
Some mothers need only a look or a firm word to convey “no” to a child. Momma cats use similar tactics. If a kitten is invading momma cat’s space or is being too rough with his siblings, the mother feline may make a snarling sound or hold the offender down to make a point or diffuse the situation. Rarely will a momma cat nip or bite her baby into submission.
Felines have this parenting thing down to a science. We humans can learn a lot from how they parent. Momma cats provide opportunities for success without “helicopter” parenting. They lead by positive example, encourage their offspring to take care of themselves, and they’re not afraid to say “no” when their little ones act up. These “queens” deserve a medal - or a treat - on Mother’s Day!
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