A litter of healthy newborn kittens can be a wonderful addition to your household, but don’t forget that Mama Cat is the one doing most of the work! Nursing cats need special attention while they’re caring for their babies. You can help her by providing a vitamin-rich diet.
Nursing Moms Need Nutrition!
Mother cats normally nurse their kittens for the first seven to nine weeks of their lives, but it is during the first four weeks that the babies receive their nutrition solely from mother’s milk. During that time, new moms need more than twice the daily calories as prior to pregnancy. No matter what you decide to feed your new mother kitty, be sure that you are providing the calories she needs.
The Importance of a Balanced Diet
Most commercial cat foods are fortified with enough vitamins for an otherwise healthy mother cat, as long as you are feeding the amounts she needs while her kittens are nursing. Canned foods formulated for kittens provide extra nutritional support, especially during the all-important first four weeks. Cats' systems cannot manufacture several important vitamins, such as vitamin A, so it is vital that you feed a fortified cat food so that Mom can consume these nutrients and pass them on to her kittens.
If you are feeding a commercial cat food that is nutritionally balanced, and your mother kitty is otherwise healthy, you should have no need to provide additional vitamin supplements. However, if you are certain that Mama Kitty needs some extra protein in addition to her meat-based cat food, high-quality grains such as polenta provide protein and calories, and are easily mixed with her regular meal. Many commercially available vitamin and mineral supplements are available, but check with your veterinarian before adding these to your cat’s diet, because excessive consumption of certain vitamins can be toxic.
When to Feed
Before she gave birth, your new mother kitty was probably used to eating on a set schedule, but while she’s nursing she should have free access to fresh food and water at all times. This not only allows her to consume all the vitamins she needs during this vital period, but also introduces her kittens to adult food as they gradually begin the weaning process.
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Nutritional Requirements and Related Diseases
- Dr. Pitcairn's New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats; Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Susan Hubble Pitcairn
- Your Cat's Nutritional Needs: A Science-Based Guide for Pet Owners [PDF]
- Nursing Mothers and Their Kittens [PDF]
- John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images