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I am aware that female cats will often try to keep the father away from his own kittens. However, I believe in some cases (especially Siamese) the father will indeed help sometimes with the kittens and certainly the mother cat does not try to keep them apart although I have seen a video where she might intervene if things get rough.

I also know that in the case of lions, while the father does not do much in the way of taking care of the cubs, he will play with them and in fact the cubs seem very interested in the males -- in house cats I have seen also that kittens seem to treat human sexes differently but I do not know if that is related.

My question is, when is it likely that a male will help with kittens? I suspect in a household with humans, all the rules are different and even a male who is not the father still knows he better be nice to the kittens, at least when humans are watching.

Could it be that when the male actually is actively helpful it is because he is a sibling of the mother cat? He may also be the father but perhaps the reason the mother trusts him is because of the relationship the male has with the mother, not because he is the father.

I know that there is a huge variation in behavior, it is not purely instinctual in cats nor in dogs -- I was struck by the amazing video of the mother cat who brought her two youngish (maybe a couple or three months) to meet her dog friend. There seemed to be a lot of communication going on between the mother and the dog and he (I think it was a he) apparently understood exactly what the mom meant. My point is, I am convinced that a male cat can both be trusted with kittens and even help take care of them -- I am trying to find out what circumstances make this more likely.

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    what if what you see simply is a cat accepting his expanded family group,not gender or parent related,you do not need to have any kittens involved to find cats that show some level of care for eachother. Feb 9, 2023 at 19:22
  • @trondhansen in my experience while cats accept new kittens eventually, there is a period where the older cat needs to be kept away from the kittens. if a male cat treats the kittens of its mate/friend/sibling differently -- there is no need for a separation period and the male immediately is friendly to the kittens, grooms them and the mom feels okay leaving the kittens alone with the male i would call that parental care.
    – releseabe
    Feb 9, 2023 at 19:45
  • I have a male cat (neutered) who loves kittens. We foster litters regularly, and he always looks after them to some degree. He's been struggling with stomatitis recently which has reduced his caring capability some though.
    – brhans
    Feb 10, 2023 at 2:02

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If this is an intact male, you should not let him anywhere near kittens. Particularly in roughly the first two months or so.

Male cats "in the wild" are nearly all nomadic. They hook up with a female, hang around for a few days or weeks, then wander away.

This means that when a male encounters a kitten under a certain age, it is very unlikely to be his kitten. So they have a huge chance of killing the kitten. This has two evolutionary advantages. It removes a rival's genes. And it means momma cat is likely to be receptive to his advances. This is part of why momma cat is so secretive about her kittens when they are first born up to about two months age.

Yes, it is tragic. Yes, it is distressing. But, yes, it is true. Intact male cats should be strictly kept away from young kittens.

By the way, it's true for nearly all cats. Tigers, lions, leopards, mountain lions, all of them have this.

Fixed males, provided the operation was done early enough, might be trustworthy. You need to watch him pretty carefully and not leave him unsupervised with kittens. At least until you have seen him have a long clean track record.

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  • But male lions, if they "think" (I have often wondered if they have the concept of being a father) cubs are theirs will definitely not only not kill them automatically but sometimes even play with them. That does not mean the cubs do not have to be careful and I think I saw a video where a cub tries to play to insistently with his dad and it is, iirc, one of his older sisters who tries to teach the youngster to leave the father alone.
    – releseabe
    Feb 10, 2023 at 15:06
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    Lions tend to hang with a pride much longer. Sometimes years. But when they get replaced, usually through some younger male or males coming in, the new guys try to kill existing cubs.
    – Boba Fit
    Feb 10, 2023 at 17:44
  • Yes, that new adult males try to kill cubs unrelated to them is well known But the question is about kittens of the actual father.
    – releseabe
    Feb 11, 2023 at 2:57

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