Care of the New Mother Cat
Your cat has just delivered a litter of cute and cuddly kittens. You can trust that she will likely take care of them, but who will take care of Mom? The answer is you!
Fortunately, most queens (female cats) need little help. All they ask for is peace, quiet and privacy as they deliver their new babies and take care of them. But, you should still be there to help if necessary.
Queens are very protective of their young. It is wise for only one to two people to check on her. Parading various friends and neighbors through the house to handle and play with the new kittens is stressful on the mother and can potentially spread disease to the kittens. For their safety, visiting should be delayed until the kittens are at least 4 weeks old.
During the birthing process and immediately after, most queens are not interested in eating. However, within 24 hours after the birth of the last kitten she should begin eating again, and most likely will eat a lot. Nursing a litter of kittens takes a lot of energy and the queen must eat enough to provide for her newborns; In fact, they should be fed as much as they want to eat.
Feeding a high quality cat food may be sufficient but many veterinarians recommend feeding the new mother kitten food or a specially made nursing (lactation) diet. This will provide extra calories that the cat can use to produce more milk. Make sure to keep your cat’s food bowl full at all times. Some new moms can eat up to four times their normal amount while they are nursing. After about a month, the queen will begin weaning her brood and the amount of food she is offered can be reduced slowly as you begin to switch her back to her normal adult diet. By about 8 weeks, the kittens should be pretty much weaned and the cat should be back to a normal amount of her maintenance adult cat diet.
New mothers are usually very nervous about their babies. For this reason, many will not leave their side for at least the first 24 hours. The cat will do without food or water and some won’t even leave to visit the litter box. For this reason, it is important that the new mother has food and water kept close by. Also, have a litter pan just outside the weaning box. After about a week, the new mother will feel more relaxed and may venture out a little more, but food, water and a litter box should still be kept nearby.
After about a week, the mother cat may begin to cycle again. If a male is around, it is possible that the queen will mate and may become pregnant right away. Having a second litter three months after the first litter is not healthy for your cat. It is important to keep her protected from the male.
Discharge from the vagina should be minimal. The queen should keep herself clean and you will likely not notice any drainage. Still, you should check her daily to look for any vaginal discharge. Also check the breasts for excessive swelling, discharge or pain. Make sure your cat is eating plenty of food and the kittens are active and gaining weight. If you notice any abnormalities, contact your veterinarian.