Animals That Eat Their Young (10 Examples With Pictures)

The animal kingdom is full of absolutely fascinating and exciting creatures. But the animal kingdom can also be ruthless. Some animals display shocking and unthinkable behaviors that can be difficult for us to wrap our heads around. One thing that tends to shock many animal lovers is that there are animals that eat their young!

10 Animals that eat their Young

Desperate times call for desperate measures and sometimes mothers will eat their offspring, an unfortunate event in the animal world. This type of cannibalism is called filial cannibalism. There’s actually quite a few animals that will eat their young on occasion, which we will cover in this article.

Here’s a list of 10 different animals that eat their young:

  1. Cats
  2. Chimpanzees
  3. Rats
  4. Lions
  5. Rabbits
  6. Hamsters
  7. Scorpions
  8. Blennies
  9. Rattlesnakes
  10. Chickens

1. Cats

image: Pixabay.com

It is hard to imagine that your fluffy friend could be capable of cannibalizing their own kittens, but don’t worry, this behavior is fortunately very rare in most cats. But both male and female cats have been known to eat young kittens. This behavior is typically only seen in feral cats or in households where there are many cats.

Cats that eat their babies are likely suffering from a lack of nutrition and may also be stressed. So, if you have cats that are due to have kittens, make sure to provide ample food and comfort for your feline friend to make sure they have everything they need as well as prevent an unpleasant scene.

Where cats are found: Cats can literally be found all over the world! (Except for Antarctica). There are feral or wild cats as well as the common house cat which are kept as pets.


2. Chimpanzees

Shockingly enough, a distant relative to humans and highly intelligent animals, Chimpanzees have been known to eat their young. Sadly, infant mortality is fairly common in Chimpanzee populations and in most cases, the mother will abandon their young that have passed away. However, researchers in Uganda and Ivory coast witnessed two mothers eating their deceased young.

Where Chimpanzees are found: Chimpanzees have broad distributions throughout central and western Africa. They can be found in tropical rainforests as well as grasslands.


3. Rats

Rats, along with other rodents are known to commit infanticide. They often have large litters of baby rats, or pups, which typically means that many of these young may be malnourished, sick or deformed. Mother rats may kill the weaker offspring in order to provide more resources to her healthier offspring.

Where Rats are found: Rats can be found nearly anywhere. They tend to thrive in urban environments where they scavenge on food left around buildings and houses. Rats can also be found in agricultural fields where they feast on crops.


4. Lions

Lionesses have been known to eat their own cubs in both captivity or in the wild. This behavior is more common in first time and less-experienced mothers. Mother lions may eat their cubs following birth if the cubs act strangely or do not start to bond with their mothers.

Scientists believe that for new mothers, a sense of bonding is needed for their maternal instincts to kick in. If lionesses fails to recognize their cubs as their own offspring, they may eat them.

Where Lions are found: Lions rule the grasslands of Sub-saharan Africa.


5. Rabbits

It’s hard to believe that an animal as cute as a Rabbit could be capable of committing such a heinous act, but the animal world is a cruel one. Rabbits may eat their stillborn babies in an attempt to prevent predators from smelling them and their other, healthy offspring.

In this case, eating their stillborn young may be a case of life or death for the mother and her other babies.

Where Rabbits are found: Species of Rabbits can be found nearly everywhere around the world, but do not live in Southern South America, Madagascar, and many islands in Southeast Asia.


6. Hamsters

Filial cannibalism is very common in hamsters. Many pet-owners may be horrified to see that their beloved pet hamster has given birth and then promptly began eating their babies.

Mother hamsters may eat their own babies for a number of reasons including stress, wanting to provide more nutrients for the rest of her litter, and scent confusion which occurs when the mothers babies may not smell like her own babies.

Where Hamsters are found: Hamsters are common household pets in many countries across the world. But wild Hamsters are found in Syria, Greece, Romania, Belgium, and parts of China.


7. Scorpions

image: Pixabay.com

Scorpions may have over 100 babies at a single time, meaning that the mother can afford to lose a few without too much of a loss. In cases where mother scorpions do not have enough to eat or can’t find food, they may resort to eating their own young.

Where Scorpions are found: There are many species of Scorpions that are found throughout the world. Scorpions occur on all continents except for Antarctica.


8. Blennies

Blennies are small marine fish that live all over the world. They also happen to eat their babies. But unlike many of the animals on this list, it is the fathers that eat their babies rather than the mother.

Father Blennies guard the eggs after the mother has laid them. He can sometimes have up to 1,000 eggs to look after! But sometimes father blennies will gobble up their babies in order to get rid of them so that he is able to go off and mate again.

Where Blennies are found: Blennies make up a large group of small fish that inhabit coastal waters all over the world.


9. Rattlesnakes

Photo by Duncan Sanchez on Unsplash

Many snakes eat other snakes, but at least one species of Rattlesnake, the Mexican lance-headed Rattlesnake has been recorded to eat their young. But don’t worry, these mothers only eat the babies that have either already passed away or are too weak to survive.

Where Rattlesnakes are found: Rattlesnakes are considered “new world” pit vipers and are venomous snakes that only occur in North and South America.


10. Chickens

Now this animal eating their own young is a little bit easier to picture, Chickens may actually eat their own eggs, which is a common breakfast food for us humans! Chickens are not the brightest animals, and their egg eating tendencies aren’t always intentional.

Sometimes Chickens will accidentally break their eggs and then eat the yolk that has spilled out. Other times, Chickens may eat their eggs because they are low in calcium, which egg shells are rich in.

Where Chickens are found: Chickens are commonly kept as livestock nearly all across the globe. The domestic Chickens kept as livestock are related to their more wild counterparts which originated in Southeast Asia.


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Hi, my name is Jesse and I'm the guy behind Wildlife Informer. Ever since I was a kid I've loved learning about wildlife. Now I share my knowledge here on this site with you!