Mother cat sick with nursing kittens

Our question this week was:

We have a mother cat that just gave birth to 4 kittens. Three have lived and one died yesterday. The mother cat is now lying around with her tongue hanging half way out. She is normally an outdoor cat, but we brought her in and locked her in a bathroom with her kittens and her food and water. What should I do with her? We are not sure how old the kittens are either. They have their eyes open and are walking around, and they seem to respond to noises. Any guesses? What should I do if the mother cat dies? What should I feed the kittens?

Thank you,

Jennifer Rittgers


Hi – thanks for your email. Goodness Jennifer – this sounds like a difficult situation. First, I’d try to make sure the mother lives. Lying with her tongue hanging out is not a good sign. Has she been eating? Are you feeding her a high quality kitten food or a food for nursing mother cats? I’d recommend taking her to you local vet where she can be examined. They can help determine if she has an infection, a low blood calcium level or another problem. Also please read Care of the new mother cat. This will give you some helpful suggestions about what she needs.

Do you know how old are the kittens? You mentioned that their eyes are open and that they are walking around. Kittens are born blind, with their eyelids sealed shut. By the time they are 2 weeks old, the eyelids and open and the kitten can begin developing their vision. This article will give you more information on the developmental milestones of kittens that may be useful – go to Developmental Milestones in the Kitten. If you don’t know how old they are, this may help. Another article that might be helpful to you is How Old is This Kitten.

Are the kittens nursing well? If the mother is sick, she may not be producing enough milk to meet the needs of the kittens. An article on how to feed kittens that need some extra help or that are orphaned may be very helpful to you – go to – Caring for Orphaned Kittens. This is a four page article that walks you through feeding and care.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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