A mother cat, known as a queen, has very specific nutritional requirements. She's eating for several, so it's important that she has a balanced diet that meets everyone's needs. She'll also need plenty of food to make sure she's able to produce enough milk to keep her brood well fed.
Why Her Needs Have Changed
Mom is the only source of food for her kittens, so she needs high-quality nutrition to provide them the healthiest milk. She'll pass on antibodies to help them stay healthy and nutrients to help them grow. Her food has a lot of work to do, including providing extra calories to produce milk, providing protein for kitten development and growth, giving her enough fat to meet her increased calorie needs and ensuring enough calcium and phosphorus for kitten bone growth.
Kitten Food for Everyone
Although cats lose weight after delivering kittens, their nutritional needs increase dramatically. Depending on how large her litter is, a mother cat's energy needs can be two to three times her normal caloric intake. Kitten food is a great option for the nursing queen. It is nutrient dense and will provide enough protein, calories, calcium and other minerals to meet everyone's nutritional needs.
It's a good idea to keep good-quality dry kitten food and fresh water available at all times for mom while she's nursing. Cat food ingredients should primarily be composed of protein from high-quality sources such as meat, vitamins and minerals, with few carbohydrates. If your nursing queen will eat canned kitten food, encourage her to eat small amounts throughout the day because canned food tends to be lower in carbohydrates than dry food.
Weaning the Kittens
Weaning happens gradually, and most kittens are interested in food beyond their mother's milk by five weeks of age. If you've kept dry food available for mom, they've probably started snacking on it already and have had their first taste of water. Gradually, the kittens will nurse less and eat more solid food on their own. Mom will start reducing her own food intake too. When the kittens are weaned, usually by eight weeks of age, the mother's energy requirements have returned to a normal level. At this point it's time to transition her back to her pre-pregnancy diet.