Kittens being killed...

TamaraM(z5 E OH)June 15, 2005

We always like to keep cats around the farm to keep the mice population down. We usually start out with several cats and when it is all said and done, we only have a couple left. We get kittens from local families and start the process all over again. We recently got 4 kittens. Less than 12 hours later, we found one of them dead. I'm not sure if she had just died or if she had been killed by something. My husband dealt with the cat. About 3 days ago, one of the kittens disappeared. My daughter went into the hay loft this evening to get hay for the horses and found the missing cat. It was dead, of course, and literally, her face had been ripped off. Nothing else on her had been touched. The third kitten had been beaten up several days prior but she hadn't been killed. Does anyone have any ideas as to what could be killing the kittens, mauling them, but not eating them?

We have a resident black snake that will get some of the kittens but he eats the entire cat. One of our adult cats is not fond of the kittens but has not showed any outright aggression and would be very unlikely to maul the kittens. If it is any help, we have horses and none of the horses have been injured/bothered in any way. Thanks for your help.

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motherduck(Z2b MB)

Many adult male cats will kill kittens.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 10:41PM
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kcfilley(z6 MO)


Do you see any signs of raccoons in the area? I just built a new barn and every evening I lock my cats inside because I'm leery of coyotes, and other wild animals. A young male raccoon did his darndest to get at the cats. I used a live trap and released him 20 miles away.

About a month ago my neighbor's rabbits were killed. The were in a cage and something tore a hole in the side. Got the rabbits out and mauled one, decapitated the other two but did not eat them. I was told by the local wildlife reserve that it was probably raccoons.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 10:58PM
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Sounds like the work of a tomcat to me.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 11:49PM
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TamaraM(z5 E OH)

We only have one adult male cat and he is neutered and too lazy to get off the porch let alone attack a kitten. The raccoon is very possible-weve had those before but we've never had this sort of problem. We kept the last cat on the porch overnight and all is well, at least for now.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 8:37AM
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basilmom(z5 IN)

My SIL caught a tomcat killing her batch of kittens. He literally just tore them up. :(

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 8:50AM
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TamaraM(z5 E OH)

(I'm Tammy's daughter now-she is at work and I'm home from college)

When I went to the barn this morning, the cat food bowls had all been overturned so I'm leaning more towards a raccoon or something of the sort. Cats wouldn't overturn the bowls(they are not tall by any means). Thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 9:23AM
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sterling3(z4 NY)

Just another note about tom cats.

I have one tom and one female in the barn.

The female had kittens by this tom this spring, and the tom actually would get in the box and lay down with the kittens. He seemed to be guarding them. Weird? He's a real sweetheart, so I guess its just not in his personality to be a killer.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 10:45AM
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Pink_Petunia(3a Cnd)

I'd guess it's the tom cat killing the kittens, I remember when I was young and dad went to check the kittens and all the heads were ripped off. Needless to say, he got rid of the mess before I went to visit them.

Regarding live trapping raccoons and my 2 cents worth - why would anyone trap them and release them? If they were your problem, why would you want to let them be someone else's problem also? Around here that makes farmers furious

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 12:01PM
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TamaraM(z5 E OH)

We don't have any tom cats around. All our female cats are spayed and our one male is neutered. Tom cats come around until they find out all our females don't really care about them and then they move on. We never allow unspayed/unneutered animals around our farm.

I'm leaning towards raccoons. I'm going to set up a trap within the next few days and see what happens.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 12:21PM
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Bet you catch a bad ol' feral tomcat.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 3:25PM
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erinluchsinger(z4 - Upstate NY)

Don't know what'd killing the poor kittens, but kudos on altering all the cats. We have the same policy. Leads to fat, happy and HEALTHY cats. And we're only down to 3 barn cats. I'm actually thinking of getting one or 2 more from a local shelter b/c 2 are VERY old and quite useless. Buffy (a male), is about like the one you have. Too fat to get out of his own way, and extremely lazy. He has to be at least 15 years old. And that's being nice.
But kudos. I wish more people had the same philosophy as you (and me) on altered barn cats.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 4:51PM
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Best way I have found to tell if it's a coon getting into cat food is to put a clean bowl with water in it near the food. In the morning, if the water is dirty, you've got a coon.

Won't tell you what's getting your kittens, but you'll be able to tell if you have a coon coming round.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 6:33PM
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basilmom(z5 IN)

daylily...I have a bunch of cats that are part coon then! I've see many of them put their paws in the water just like a coon. I have to change the water frequently and their little paws are wet half the time from "cupping" the water. Unless I have a strange clan of kitties, I'm not sure thats entirely reliable!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 10:37PM
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It could be either raccoons or a tom cat. Usually, a tom will just kill them and lave them on the spot. I suspect another kind of predator, such as the raccoon unless the kittens were roaming around and caught randomly by the tom.

Sterling, I have, too, experienced a tom caring for HIS own kittens although the babies are generally disregarded. The reason a tom cat kills kittens is the same reason a wild cat of any kind will do the same thing. If a tom mates with a female cat just back into cycle or at least courts her, he will destroy whatever babies she has. This is instinct in order to wipe out some other's offspring and bring on his own. This is why not all toms kill kittens.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 11:13PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Wouldnt a coon have eaten them? Could it be a teenager in a cult? Also, do you provide alternate food or do you just let the adult cats eat mice, you may find one cat eating just mice more effective than 4-5 eating food and mice.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 5:18AM
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Severina(Houston, TX)

Brendan. Please do not suggest that she not feed her cats. That is just wrong. I have a cat and he eats his cat food like a piglet and still manages to kill everything in sight. What you are suggesting is just abusive.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 7:10AM
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erinluchsinger(z4 - Upstate NY)

We've definately found that barn cats that are fed food, as well as all teh mice they can hunt, are much better micers than cats that aren't fed cat food. i think it gives them a bit of an energy boost!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 7:56AM
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Turtle_Haven_Farm(Z5 NY)

Yes, I have a male neutered house cat, eats like a pig, he lives to destroy rodents. - Ellen

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 8:22AM
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TamaraM(z5 E OH)

Thanks for all your replies. We will put the trap up and see what we catch.

As far as only having one cat and not feeding it, a well fed cat will hunt. However, a cat you don't feed and expect to hunt for sustenance, will go elsewhere. We have food in several places on our property for our cats. They hunt just fine.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 8:28AM
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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

we have several neighbors--in the country no less, that like to feed racoons on their deck, peanut butter, cookies, etc.can you imagine what a nuisance that causes? they even tear into my bluebird houses!! my 3 cats are nuetered, fat and lazy, and snoopy, the fattest one, still loves to "play" a mouse to death--sometimes she lets them get away,--perhaps to play another day?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 8:41AM
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RuthieG__TX(z8 TX)

Racoons are the bane of most people who have small pets or especially small fowl...My suggestion is to set live traps for your coons and then let him die of lead poisoning...

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 9:05AM
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Some years ago I was having problems with missing/dead kittens and young (teen) cats. Turned out it was owls. Owls (apparently) cant tell the difference between a cat and a rabbit, but that didnt stop them from killing kittens. A neighbor actually saw an owl hit at dusk and carry off a kitten, then found an adult cat badly cut (adult cats will fight back). Also, consider foxes, that was another cat predator we had around, never thought a fox would hunt cat, but mamma foxes will get whatever meat is available. Not fun have a cat come to eat with half the tail missing, then finding the same cat 2 days later half eaten in the shrubs. Lots of wild critters will take cats and kittens are too easy. Took a big dog to get rid of the fox (chase her off) and growing more trees to over the years has resolved the owl issue. On the other hand I have seen racoon and possums eating out of the same bowl of dry cat food as the cats. If you have large rats in the barn consider them as probable culprits, I have seen what rats can do; not pretty.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 2:03AM
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I've seen great horned owls kill smaller but adult cats. cats are as active by night as are the owls. No, they did not mistake it for a rabbit. They just see it as a prey animal and grab it. GHO's are also one of the very few natural enemies of the common skunk and owls seem to rather relish them!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 9:57AM
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My mother-in-law told me that the tomcats will kill another male kitten[wants no competition i guess] We get coons and 'possum in our barns but I don't think they kill the kittens.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2005 at 9:34PM
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Ann_Vole(Canada Prairie)

Just now my parrents have two skunks killing their kittens on the steps of the house. They seem to be un-afraid of humans and are killing one then leaving with it and coming back right away for another! This is surprising to me that skunks would hunt live animals bigger then mice and that two skunks would hunt together (they should be solitary). My parrents have lots of big nutered male cats that will bring down jackrabbits but they must know about skunks and left.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 4:02AM
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We have something that seems to decapitate kittens, could be a raccoon or cat or some other wild animal. Is there a creature that is known to do this? Other than simply kill? Thanks.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2006 at 9:52PM
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I wonder if maybe a neighbor's dog is killing your kittens?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2006 at 1:08PM
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I would bet 99% of the time it is raccoons. Especially if they're hungry, they'll kill anything and eat it.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 2:40PM
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Sounds like you're letting the kittens out before they can take care of themselves. While maybe extreme for barn cats, I kept mine in for nearly 6 months, long enough to get some weight on her and she's done very well, also spayed.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 9:30PM
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Get a dog raise him with the cats, problem solved. the dog becomes very protective of "his family" and will chase away everything else. Most farms have dogs for security.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 9:32AM
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I'm willing to bet 99% its a dog. I have the exact same problem. I have had to pick up so many dead cats and kittens in the morming and vomit while doing so. I see the tracts in the bare dirt. Its a dog! We saw our lovley neighbors dogs many times over at my place attacking my animals.After a $11,000 fence just in the front to keep them out .. we still have dead kittens.. they come in the back way.I love animals , but dogs killing my animals will be shot!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 9:24PM
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Could also be a big rat, I had a big rat kill a bunch of my guinea's, it ripped a large hole in the mesh and ate one, ripped the heads off of some other ones. I got there in time to see it take off and go under the chicken coop, it was NOT a raccoon.

PS: It's good to neuter/spay your cats, although i don't think cats should run around outside because many of them kill songbirds. People shouldn't let their dogs roam around free either.
We have TONS of feral cats thanks to irresponsible neighbors. It's not fair to the cats or the wildlife. The cat population around here is getting WAY out of hand.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 10:06PM
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I agree about feral cats,and after living in the country you find two barn cats..get them fixed and feed them,then people drop off cats, they find their way to your place..your feeding more cats.they have kittens. You tame fix those. $60 per cat .. You have it under control..Enter the dogs that kill $60 cats. Who is the dumb person? ME!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 10:51PM
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I would say the biggest killer of feral cats are coyotes. Cats are coyote food ---- everybody has to eat. We had a litter of kittens born in one of the chicken houses. Don't know what happened to the mom, but we raised them, took them to have them neutered/spayed and started with 5 and now have two.

Sort of wish the coyote had gotten them before we paid the money to have them fixed but the two we have left (2 years later) are just plain wonderful additions to our farm. I think they are pretty 'street smart' now and won't let those coyotes get them!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 6:19PM
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Generally coyotes will consume most of what they kill. Tom cats will kill kittens born to a mother they have mated with before so she will go back into heat sooner without delaying it by nursing kittens. Racoons are not necessarily seen as a predator by cats as they are slow moving and non-threatening unless confronted a curious kitten would be a sitting duck.

Carmen is correct, cats are a staple for coyotes. I feed and care for quite a few ferals and fortunately we live in a very wooded area-all my cats are great climbers!!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 6:48PM
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msbeekeeper(Zone 3)

Out where I live in Alberta I have had owls take some of my cats. Saw one swooping down at one as it was sitting on the front step with the dog who chased it away by jumping at it.These are Great Horned Owls .

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 11:42PM
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My understanding is that tom-cats somehow know if kittens are theirs or not. If their own, they will treat the kittens sweetly. If not their own, they kill them so that the mother will come into heat sooner.

The "dog tracks" you see might be coyote tracks. VERY few people can tell the difference.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 12:18AM
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Fisher, a distant relative to the wolverine with a similar attitude. You won't see them just that they are around. First you see no more squirrels and rabbits then its your cats and anything else small in the area. They happily come into your yard have no real fear of man and roam large areas like a wolf. They are abundant all over the last 15 years or so even though most people don't even know they exist. They will come right onto your porch to kill a cat and have even come into houses. They were the subject of a big article in the old farmers almanac a couple years ago. Its title was "your cats worst nightmare". Anyways they are about the size of a big cat and look just like a big ferret. Females are brown and big cat size males black and larger. They live in hollow trees and under stumps and roam large areas. We had one kill all 5 of our cats before I even knew what was doing it. I finally nailed her with a kill trap next spring with great celebration using a 220 kill trap on a pole set. They will kill small dogs as well. A guy I know had his poodle gnawed up by one so bad they had to put it down. Nearly tore the dogs leg off. They are referred to as the fastest animal in the trees in North America. They easily run down squirrels and kill porcupines easily by getting above them and grabbing them by the face. Friendly neighbors eh? As I said easy to catch though. Set a pole on a 45 degree slant up into a tree. Take a havahart trap if its near other pets and nail it to the pole with the bait way up inside. For gods sake if you catch one don't give it a ride, kill the damned thing. Out in the boonies away from cats and such nail a nasty chicken chunk the smellier the better up above it. Nail it very lightly so it will snap out and so the fisher has to walk through the x to get to the meat. They are not smart and will walk right into it. Just be careful where you put those traps so the live trap is better. That article in Farmers alminac tells all the gruesome habits I mentioned here and more, its a good read. If I remember right it was the cover article and had a cats face on the front of the almanac.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 10:23PM
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So sad! My kitten just had 4 kittens of her own, which one died within the first day i guess because either it was the runt or she accidentally smothered it. Now the other 3 have just disappeared and she's frantically roaming around looking for them. So after reading everything up above I suspect it was a racoon because those damned things are always up on my deck getting into the cat food anyway. Now how to explain it to my little 5 year old that was so excited about it all!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 11:16AM
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I also have a problem with kittens being killed and partially eaten. I've been occasionally feeding a colony of feral cats that have taken up residency in an abandoned building. The building only has a small opening that a cat or simullar sized animal could get through. The first sign was an adult cat with its tail half missing, a cardboard box the cat was sleeping in had a v shaped bite mark taken out of it at the same time the cats tail got maimed up. Then when I tried to cut back on the cat food I was putting out, what ever was eating with them would simply (when the food was gone) kill a kitten and eat all but the fur and head of the kitten. I've seen opossums and raccoons leaving the building. I've never seen such behavior out of raccoons but I've seen very viscous behavior out of one of the opossums and the kitten killing and cat attacks seem to happen only on rainy nights. This would imply opossums but I don't know how to trap only the opossums to remove them without traumatizing the cats. Anyone know how this might be done.
Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

ps So sorry for your loss Lucy.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 7:36AM
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Went out to my barn this morning and found three kittens dead with their back legs snapped off. No sign of their legs anywhere. Also noticed that their front paws had been maimed. Barn was closed up with only one entry just large enough for the kitten's mama to get in. Not sure what could have done this. We have had a raccoon in the garage (other barn cats hang out in there as well) but it has never bothered the other cats or kitten in there. Didn't appear to be a huge struggle in the barn but did notice that the cat food dish was empty. Any suggestions???

Guess I will be sleeping in the barn with my gun tonight.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 7:04PM
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imjusthappytobehere - use a non-meat bait in your trap and you'll get raccoons or opossums. 'Coons really like marshmallows. 'Possums will eat anything so they might be harder to pinpoint.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 3:48PM
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Hi! I live on a farm and just like you we always like to have a few cats around to keep the mouse population down. We make sure they are spayed or neutered, have a heat lamp in the winter, some cheap dry cat food, (And I am a little off topic here but I have to add that places that don't give the cats food thinking it will make them kill more mice, and wAnT to kill more mice is silly. All that happens is that you get sick cats that aren't capable of doing anything. As well we spay and neuter to avoid ending up with 20 cats that get diseased and are inbreeding.), and a heated water bowl.
The same thing started happening to us! And for us to keep replacing cats gets expensive quickly!!! Since they were kittens they were on our deck which is fairly enclosed. We put up a tall board at the entrance, got a kitty litter box and waited to see if that helped. We also had a couple of wild Toms in the area that came to eat on the deck.
Well, we waited, and watched, and waited, and wAiTeD! Sure enough a huge skunk came waddling up the steps with two younger ones in tow. She saw the board and scratched and clawed at it but it wouldn't move. She soon gave up and left. Not too many people know that skunks can't jump. Usually the best thing to do is put the food dish up higher, and they soon leave. I've also noticed that most cats seem to be fascinated with skunks and will follow them around. It's double trouble for the cat if the skunk is pregnant or has babies. Skunks will turn over food bowls as well as raccoons.
I hope this helped in some small way! Also I'm sorry if I went on about the way we treat our cats. I just hate to see any animal treated badly. This comment is not directed to the lovely lady asking the question. :)
It's rare but we have had a fox on the farm. Wherever a cat can go a fox can too.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 5:11PM
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Did you ever find out what was killing your kitties?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 12:31PM
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