A pregnant cat usually carries three to five kittens. The growing fetuses, along with the placentas, are all formed by the nutrients supplied by the mother cat's body. It's no wonder that pregnant cats develop a healthy appetite.
Once the kittens are born, the lactating mother cat needs to provide them with virtually all the nutrients required for those crucial first weeks of development. Considering that each kitten needs to double its own weight within a week or so, and quadruple that weight by the age of five weeks, the mother cat has quite a task on her hands.
There are several cat foods made especially for kittens and mother cats. They are often called "growth formula." These foods contain higher proportions of protein, which goes into building the body tissues of the new kittens, as well as a higher percentage of fat and calories. Use the best cat food you can find - better nutrition is not only the key to a healthier mother cat and her kittens, but can provide a good foundation for their future mental and physical well-being.
The Pregnant Queen
During pregnancy, provide your cat with wholesome quality nutrition. The pregnant queen requires roughly 25 percent more calories, protein, and other essential nutrients than she normally does.
Your cat may develop too much of an appetite so take care not to overfeed her. Overfeeding during pregnancy can lead to excessive weight gain. Obesity can create a serious problem, as the kittens are likely to be larger than normal and the birth process may become complicated. If you think that your pregnant cat may be overweight, don't start a weight control program without consulting your veterinarian (this is true for all cats, but especially crucial for pregnant females).
Feed quality cat food and do not supplement the diet with any vitamins or minerals unless your vet specifically prescribed them for the term of pregnancy. Unnecessary supplements may actually harm both mother and kittens.
During the last week or two of pregnancy, as the mother's belly becomes heavy with the kittens, she may need to have many small meals throughout the day. A day or two before the birth, the queen usually stops eating altogether - this is a good sign that delivery is approaching. If this aversion to food persists for more than a couple of days, consult your vet.
The Lactating Mother
After the kittens are born and begin to suckle, the mother cat's food intake is likely to increase by two to four times, depending on the number of kittens and their growth stages. Providing those tiny kittens with all the calories and other nutrients they need can be exhausting for the mother and she may lose weight even if provided with plenty of food.
It is best not to limit the lactating queen's food intake. Free feed premium quality cat food that is labeled "growth formula," but do not supplement the mother's food with any vitamins or minerals, unless your vet specifically tells you to.
Remember to have lots of fresh water available for the mother. The lactating cat loses a lot of fluids in the milk and needs constant replacement to avoid dehydration.
Images in this page - courtesy of The Cozy Kitten Cattery
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