Diet Considerations for Pregnant & Nursing Cats

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Feeding your cat properly is critical during pregnancy and nursing. Malnutrition can result in low birth weight of the kittens and put them at risk for several health conditions resulting in a reduced survival rate1. The goal is optimal nourishment for both the mother and her kittens. Here are the nutritional priorities:

  1. Increased energy for the growth of kittens and milk production for the mother
  2. Increased protein for growth and development of the kittens
  3. Increased fat to meet the high demand for calories of the mother
  4. Increased calcium and phosphorus for bone growth of kittens and milk production of their mother
  5. High digestibility to provide more calories in a smaller amount of food

Key questions and answers about pregnancy and nutritional priorities.

Why are increased energy and fat so important?

Increased energy and fat are important because pregnant and nursing cats have extremely high energy needs. Nursing is the most energy-demanding stage of a cat’s life. Nursing cats have 2 to 6 times the energy requirements of a healthy adult cat.

What is digestibility and why is it important?

Digestibility is how much eaten food is actually absorbed by the cat’s body. High digestibility is important because a pregnant cat’s energy needs are very high and there is less physical space in the abdomen.

What should I feed my pregnant or nursing cat?

It is extremely important to feed your pregnant or nursing cat food that provides the increased nutrition she needs. We recommend feeding Hill’s Science Plan Kitten food as soon as you discover your cat is pregnant. These formulas are rich in essential nutrients and support the development of the kittens. It’s always best to talk to your veterinarian about a food recommendation for your pregnant or nursing cat.

How should these foods be fed to pregnant or nursing cats?

  • Pregnant cats: Feed the suggested amount on the packaging. Continue to feed a kitten food to the mother until her kittens are weaned.
  • Nursing cats: Leave food available for the mother at all times after the kittens are born. This will ultimately help to wean the kittens to a regular food and provide the mother with high-energy food she will need during this time.

How long is a cat pregnant?

Typical gestation (pregnancy) averages 63-65 days2. We recommend that you see a veterinarian weekly during pregnancy and nursing to assess weight and food intake. Please speak with your veterinarian to determine how often your cat should be examined during pregnancy and after the birth of her kittens.

When do I wean my kittens?

Weaning is usually a gradual process. Most kittens begin eating solid food between 3-4 weeks of age. Weaning should be effectively completed between 6-10 weeks of age3.

Initial kitten care priorities.

It is recommended that you keep a record of your kitten’s weight, stools, development and activity every 1 or 2 days (especially in the first two weeks after birth)4 and schedule a check-up with your veterinarian.

1 Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. Reproducing Cats; Pregnancy p. 321
2 Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. Reproducing Cats; Assessment p. 321
3 Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. Reproducing Cats; Weaning; p. 328
4 Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. Growing Kittens; p.329