As soon as you’re aware you have a pregnant cat, you can start making sure the newborns have the best possible start by managing her nutrition and feeding carefully.
What happens during your cat’s pregnancy
A cat’s pregnancy lasts around 65 days on average, although it can be anything from 61 to 72 days long. During the first two-thirds of her pregnancy, her body is focused on gaining fat to prepare for the kittens. In the last third, any weight she gains will directly come from the growth of her litter.
The best way for your queen (another term for a female cat) to get the nutrients and weight increase she needs to support the birth and nursing of her kittens is through a fat-rich diet, but this should be monitored carefully to avoid unnecessary weight gain.
Weight management of your pregnant cat
Although your queen is increasing in size during the first two-thirds of gestation, she shouldn’t gain more than 40% of her ideal weight. Obesity can lead to complications in the delivery of the kittens, as well as health problems for your cat later on. Therefore, choosing the right food and feeding your pregnant cat in the right way is essential to protect her health and the health of the newborns.
What and how to feed your pregnant cat
At the beginning of her pregnancy, you should feed your queen a fat-rich diet, specifically designed to support gestation and, later, the production of milk to food her kittens. Switch her onto this food progressively by mixing it with her existing food, starting with 25% new food and 75% existing food. Across five to seven days, you can increase the percentage of new food until it’s at 100%. This helps reduce any digestive upsets a sudden change in diet can cause.
As your cat progresses through her pregnancy, her energy requirements will increase by around 10% every week. By the final stages of gestation, she’ll be consuming 70% more energy than normal. An energy-dense food can help with this without adding unnecessary bulk to her food, which could be difficult to digest.
Regularly weigh your cat and adjust her food portions; this will help her avoid gaining too much weight during the pregnancy. You should also continue to feed her using the same routine that you’ve already established: at specific times of the day and in a specific place. Make sure there is plenty of water available for her too.
Feeding your cat after she has given birth
Once the kittens have been delivered, your cat will immediately begin to nurse them and be producing up to a quarter of a litre of milk each day. This has a dramatic effect on her nutritional requirements, which may increase by two or three times.
During nursing, you should feed her ‘ad lib’ – that is, with no restrictions – as she’ll need to eat significantly more than usual. Choose a high quality, high energy food which contains the right nutrients and fatty acids her body requires for milk production, and make sure to switch back to her regular food near the end of the nursing period.
It's important to maintain contact with your vet and take your cat for regular check-ups to ensure that she and her kittens are healthy. If you're not certain on the best way to feed your pregnant cat, be sure to talk to your vet who will be happy and able to help.