Continuous flow bioreactors with cell retention have been increasingly used for the cultivation of mammalian cells. The potential advantages of such bioreactors are high cell concentrations and volumetric productivities. In many reported cases, these systems have shown fluctuations in cell concentrations of various frequency and magnitude. To analyze the dynamics of the fluctuations, a model‐based approach is followed. Simulations showed that large fluctuations in biomass resulted in response to fluctuations in the retention ratio when the system is operated at high dilution rate and high cell retention. The dependence of cell concentration fluctuations on variations in dilution rate and retention ratio was established by a cross‐correlation statistical analysis on available experimental data. The slower dynamics and the fluctuation propensity of retention systems suggest that continuous culture without retention is more convenient for kinetic studies. In all likelihood, continuous culture with retention can be stabilized by controlling both the retention ratio and the dilution rate.