So there is this one stray black cat that I have always been feeding. After a year, she started to stay most of the time around my house (still in my lot), up to the point that she decided to give birth to 4 kittens near my balcony. At first, she's like your regular mother cat who grooms and feeds her kittens, but after 6-9 months, she begun to visit me and left her kittens at my place. Now, every time she shows up, she always growls and hisses at them and hits them if they come closer. Is this because of stress? Or she's just the type of cat that will consider her kittens as territory rivals after they grew up?
This is natural behavior for cats. The kittens are now old enough to live on their own and the mother chases them away for several reasons:
- This is the territory of the mother. If she doesn't chase the kittens away, she has to search for a new territory. Female cats sometimes live together, but male cats are not social and if she doesn't chase her kittens away, one of her sons would soon take over the territory and chase her away.
- Her daughters will soon be sexually mature, if they aren't already. If she allows her daughters to stay, they would probably mate the same tomcat and would have litters at the same time. This reduces genetic variance, which increases the risk of genetic diseases and general weaknesses and forces several new mothers into a food competition. Cats won't move too far from their litter, so several mother cats must hunt in the same small area, where the food might not be enough for all.
- Her sons will also be sexually mature and want to mate. If a son mates with her or with her daughters, this is inbreeding and poses an even greater risk for genetic diseases and mutations.
So mother cats first care for their kittens as long as those need her support, and then chase them away when they become mature to avoid inbreeding and food competition.