How Do Newborn Kittens Find Their Mother's Teats?

"Mommy's milk helps make us strong."
"Mommy's milk helps make us strong." (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Observing the tender interaction between a mother cat -- or queen -- and her newborn litter of kittens can be a wondrous and fascinating experience. Nursing activities, which begin essentially right off the bat, seem automatic to most kittens. For most neonate kitties, tracking down their mothers' teats is no big deal.

Finding the Mother

Before newborn kittens can reach the point of actually getting to their mothers' teats, they first need to know where exactly mama is, period. Thankfully, the warmth that emanates from a mother cat's body makes finding her easy on the youngsters. In most cases, queens speed up this process by gently placing the kittens close to their sides.

Finding the Teats

Newborn kittens begin their lives in vulnerable and powerless states, without even the senses of hearing and vision. Although the little ones cannot see and hear, however, their smelling abilities are indeed already intact. They can find their mothers' nipples using their noses as trusty guides, instinctively, according to the Rutgers University Extension. Where nursing is concerned, mother cats and their youngsters do not waste any precious time. Feeding usually commences around 30 minutes post-birth.

Long-Haired Cats

If the mama cat has long hair, it may not always be as easy for her kittens to pinpoint the locale of her nipples. If you can, lend the hungry, nutrition-seeking little ones a hand by lightly clipping some of the longer hairs that surround the mom's breast area.

Other Useful Clues

Mother cats' bodies also offer another helpful hint as to the specific locations of their teats -- their areolas. Their areolas, which border their nipples, feel damp and warm to the touch -- both of which are clues that can encourage wee kittens to come closer and closer. The exact course in which a mother cat's hair is growing also can serve as a rudder. No matter how tiny newborn kittens end up finding the teats, the process is crucial. It's essential for kittens to take in colostrum within the first day of their lives. Colostrum, which is contained in the mama cat's milk, is beneficial and vital for defending kittens from possible illness, as it is rich in antibodies.

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