Pregnancy and nursing are not only responsible for many changes in a cat's body, but for changes in her lifestyle as well. Therefore, special attention should be paid to her changing nutritional needs throughout the entire reproduction process.
Before Your Cat’s Pregnancy: Planning Is Important
If you are planning to breed your female cat, it is important to assess her body condition well in advance of breeding. Because of the physical demands of pregnancy and nursing, starting off with less-than-ideal health can cause problems.
An underweight cat often has difficulty consuming enough food to support her and her fetus' nutritional needs. Overweight cats may experience abnormal or difficult labor because of large fetuses.
Feeding a complete and balanced diet at amounts that support a healthy weight and body condition before breeding helps the female cat maintain her health and that of her offspring throughout pregnancy and nursing.
Managing Your Cat’s Pregnancy
The gestation period for cats is nine weeks. Pregnant cats, like humans, gain weight gradually throughout the pregnancy. The energy requirements of pregnant cats are reflected in the pattern of weight gain. The caloric needs of a pregnant cat should gradually increase so that by the end of pregnancy she is consuming 25 to 50 percent more than her normal maintenance amount of calories (energy).
Pregnant cats lose weight after giving birth. However, their nutritional needs increase dramatically—up two to three times their normal adult maintenance requirement, depending on litter size—in order to produce the milk supply that will support the growth and nourishment of the offspring. Adequate water intake is also important for sufficient milk volume.
To ensure the nursing cat is receiving enough nutrition, feed a nutrient-dense diet such as Eukanuba Kitten Chicken Formula. Without increasing the amount of food offered at a meal, increase the number of meals throughout the day. Free-choice feed her, offering unlimited access to dry food throughout the day.
Weaning Kittens from Their Mother
By five weeks after birth, most kittens are showing an interest in their mother's food. Gradually, the kittens will begin eating more solid food and nursing less. At the same time, the nursing cat will usually reduce the amount of food she is eating. Most kittens are completely weaned around eight weeks after birth. By this time, the mother's energy requirement is back at the maintenance level, and she should be eating her normal pre-pregnancy diet.