Good nutrition is vital in keeping a cat healthy throughout its lifetime, never more so than during pregnancy. Like kittens, pregnant or nursing cats need an extra boost of protein and energy to help them through a period of physical stress.
A commercially produced kitten formula is a good source of the extra nutrients required both during gestation and for some weeks after the birth. The additional calories and higher levels of other key nutrients are just what the mother needs. Kitten foods also have an added advantage during weaning: the litter will already have tried some of their growing-up food by copying Mum. If your cat suffers from mild food sensitivities and is fed a ‘delicate’ formula food, there are a variety of sensitive and delicate formula kitten foods available. However, if your cat is on a specific diet for health reasons, consult your vet before making any changes.
During her pregnancy
Gestation in cats takes approximately 9 weeks. From mating, your pregnant cat's food intake will gradually rise - reaching about 50% above normal by the end of the pregnancy (although it's not unusual for levels to reach twice her regular intake). Fortunately, pregnant cats are sensible eaters. As long as you provide enough food, most cats should regulate their daily intake to suit their needs. However, adequate nutrition during pregnancy is vital for the health of the cat and her kittens so consult your vet immediately if her appetite drops, she loses weight, or you feel she isn’t eating enough.
To achieve the necessary energy boost, and due to the pressure of the unborn kittens on her stomach, it is best to give her lots of smaller meals throughout the day, and to ensure that food is generally available on a continuous basis, day and night. Don’t forget she also needs a plenty of fresh water, particularly if she is eating dry food.
There should be a steady increase in body weight concurrent with increased food intake. Some of this weight is the fat she’s laying down to help feed her kittens during nursing. This weight gain is completely normal and you can expect to see an overall gain of 40-50% during pregnancy when compared to her pre-mating weight. She will lose the excess during her 3-4 week nursing period.
A certain loss of appetite can occur pre-delivery, although food and water should still be available. However, if she appears at all unwell or distressed, or if you have any other worries at this time, consult your vet.
Feeding during lactation
Nursing newborn kittens is one of the most nutritionally demanding tasks in a mother’s life. During milk production, feeding requirements typically double, and may even quadruple, compared to pre-mating needs. Nursing cats require the highest quality nutrition to provide energy to help them through this period of physical stress, and ensure the quality of their milk. As during pregnancy, it is advisable to continue feeding kitten food throughout nursing; the additional calories and higher levels of other key nutrients are just what she needs.
Ideally, give her the extra food she needs by increasing the number of meals served each day while maintaining the quantity of food offered at each meal, with fresh water always available. Dry food may be offered moistened during lactation to encourage the kittens to take an interest in their mother’s solid food. The mother’s water intake may be encouraged by offering wet food, with a little water added.
From six to eight weeks post-birth, a gradual weaning transition should see the mother reducing, then stopping, her milk production. Her food intake can be reduced gradually over the same period, back to pre-pregnancy levels, depending on her body condition.
Once the mother has stopped milk production, typically 8-9 weeks after birth, she should be returned to the appropriate diet, food quantity and frequency for her lifestyle. You may need to manage this transition gradually, over 7-10 days, to avoid stomach upsets. If you are concerned that your cat has lost too much weight following nursing (Body Condition Scores 1-4), seek veterinary advice; your vet may recommend you continue to feed a kitten food for a few more weeks until her weight and body condition are restored to ideal (Body Condition Score 5).
Purina brands for pregnant and nursing cats
Several leading Purina brands offer high-energy kitten diets appropriate for feeding during pregnancy and nursing, each the result of the very latest scientific advances in quality, taste and nutrition.
Find out more about PURINA® cat foods.