Newborn kittens rely completely on their mother, just like human babies. While mama cat should be producing enough milk to feed her brood, sometimes her tired body can't keep up. Proper diet can help her milk production, but in some cases, you may need to feed her babies yourself.
Providing your precious purring feline with a good diet is essential for optimal milk production. Throughout her labor and up to one day after, she may not be interested in eating. However, you still should have food and fresh water available for her. While she's nursing, Fifi may eat as much as four times her normal amount of food, explains veterinarian Dr. Dawn Ruben. Since she needs more calories to feed her furry offspring, feed her a high-quality kitten diet or specialty food made specifically for nursing cats.
Kittens nurse every two to three hours. If your kitty has a large litter, her body might not be able to keep up with the demand and you may have to help her out. Constant crying is a sign that the pint-sized furry felines might be hungry and mama just isn't producing enough milk. Your local pet store carries the supplies you need to help Fifi feed her young. You'll need kitten milk replacement formula, known as KMR, as well as kitten bottles and 3 mm syringes. Some kittens feed better from a syringe versus a small bottle. Your veterinarian can show you how to feed the kittens if you are uncomfortable.
You can start weaning kittens as early as 3 weeks of age, explains the ASPCA. Pour the kitten milk replacement formula in a shallow bowl, allowing the tiny felines to learn to lap it up. Once they figure out how to drink from the bowl, make kitten gruel with their food. Mix the milk replacer with dry or wet kitten food until it has a soft, moist consistency. You'll need to feed your fuzzy family several times a day, but they'll slowly start to rely on solid food, versus mother's milk. By 6 to 7 weeks of age, kittens should be able to eat solid food, but if they seem to be struggling when they eat, you may want to moisten it for a while longer.
If your nursing kitty doesn't eat for more than 24 hours after delivery or if she doesn't seem to be producing milk, notify your vet immediately to rule out any problems. Blockages in the ducts of the nipple or other medical issues may inhibit her ability to nurse. To boost milk production if she doesn't have an appetite, you may be able to entice her to eat by making some of her own kitten gruel or mixing wet food into her usual dry food. Sometimes the strong smell of moist food encourages felines to eat. If you wind up having to bottle-feed your new lovable pals, never give them cow's milk, since it may aggravate their fragile digestive tracts and cause diarrhea.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.