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Feeding the Pregnant Cat

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Good nutrition and a balanced diet are essential elements for good health in a cat. And that is especially true in the pregnant cat. Overfeeding or underfeeding at certain times during your cat's pregnancy can be detrimental to her as well as her developing kittens. When feeding the pregnant cat, people tend to overfeed early in pregnancy and not feed enough when the cat is nursing.

Your cat needs plenty of fresh water available at all times. This holds true during your cat's entire life. Unless specifically instructed by your veterinarian, your cat should never be denied access to water.

Prior to breeding, your cat should be fed a high quality adult cat food. Learn more about proper feeding techniques by reading the related story "Feeding Your Adult Cat". After breeding, your cat should still be fed the normal amount of her high quality adult cat food. There is little growth of the kittens during the first 3 to 4 weeks of pregnancy. (Pregnancy in cats lasts for about 62 days.) This means that your cat will not need extra nutrients. Feeding more early in pregnancy tends to add unnecessary fat, which will make delivery more difficult and increase the risk of complications. Be prepared for a 3 to 10 day period of a lack of appetite in your cat around the third week of pregnancy. This is a common occurrence and is not that much of a concern if the cat is at least eating a little bit. If she completely stops eating for more than 1 to 2 days, consult your veterinarian.

During the last 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy, the kittens begin to grow rapidly. This puts a big demand on nutrients and the mother-to-be will need more energy. During this final part of pregnancy, your cat's weight should gradually increase by 40 to 50 percent. For this reason, during the last 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy, your cat should be gradually fed more and more food until she is eating about 50 percent more food by the time she delivers. This means that if your cat normally eats one cup of food a day, you should slowly increase her food until she is eating 1 1/2 cups of food a day. Also, it is a good idea to gradually switch her food over to a diet that contains more calories per mouthful. This includes growth/kitten food or a nursing/lactation diet. By feeding your adult cat kitten food, she will be able to consume the necessary nutrients to provide for her rapidly growing brood. A lactation diet is also a good choice. During the last 1 to 2 weeks of pregnancy, you may want to let your cat eat as much as she wants. During the last week or so, energy demands are great and your cat may need to eat up to twice her normal diet.

How often you feed your cat will vary and may depend on the size of the litter. Some cats with large litters do not have enough space to eat a big meal. You may have to provide small frequent meals throughout the day. Some people are successful leaving the day's ration in the bowl and allowing the cat to nibble through the day. If you do decide to let her self-feed, it is very important to make sure your cat is eating enough food. A poor diet, especially late in pregnancy, can lead to pregnancy toxemia.

Just before delivery, your cat will drastically reduce the amount of food she eats and some will even stop eating. This is one of the signs that within the next 24 to 48 hours, kittens may be born. Leave food available in case she does want to eat but she may not eat as much as she was just the day before. This decrease in appetite is nothing to worry about but you may want to get everything ready for the new arrivals! Be prepared by reading the related story "Normal Labor and Delivery".

A Word About Supplements

Some veterinarians recommend giving cats vitamins during pregnancy. Many veterinarians feel that if fed properly, the cat will receive sufficient nutrients through the diet. Either way, don't add anything to your cat's diet unless specifically instructed by your veterinarian. Excessive of certain vitamins or minerals can have devastating effects on mom and babies.

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