The use of breeding dens and the early kitten development was studied in a free-ranging population of Iberian lynx Lynx pardinus. Radio-tracking of female lynx allowed intensive monitoring of three litters during 1997, and additional data to be obtained from nine other litters in the previous 4 years. Females gave birth a maximum of one litter per year in spring; nine of the 10 births were recorded between the last 2 weeks of March and the first days of April. Kittens were born semi-altricial and reared for nearly 20 days in secluded hollow trunks. Afterwards, they were moved between different bushes, which served as auxiliary dens, where they began to develop walking and senses. Kittens first consumed meat at the age of 4 weeks, although they were not fully weaned until they were at least 10 weeks old. At the age of 2 months, kittens began to leave the dens, accompanying their mothers on outings. It is suggested that the pattern of den use was related to the stage of kitten development, to fulfil the kittens' need for both protection and space as they grew. Data on kitten denning and development should be accounted for in in-situ and ex-situ conservation programmes for this endangered felid.