Feeding a Pregnant Cat: The Dos and Don’ts

Tabby cat seen from above, licks the lips while waiting for food, selective focus on the tongue and narrow depth of field

Key Points

  • Overweight and underweight cats have a higher likelihood of a difficult pregnancy and delivery. 

  • Pregnant cats need more protein, fat, and carbohydrates, so switching to a diet for kittens is recommended. 

  • Avoid feeding fish, undercooked meat, or eggs to pregnant cats to prevent potential health complications. 

  • Milk fever is the most common condition experienced by queens at delivery and during lactation.

  • Take your pet for veterinary check-ups throughout their pregnancy and after the kittens are born. 

If your cat is pregnant and you’re wondering whether it’s time for a diet change, this article provides important information about the appropriate foods for pregnant queens, what to avoid feeding them, and health problems they may develop while expecting. This is an exciting time for you and the mother-to-be, but you want to do all you can to protect your pet and her litter.

What to Consider Before Your Cat Becomes Pregnant

If you have any control over when your cat becomes pregnant at all, the two most important factors to consider before feline pregnancy are whether they are underweight or overweight. Malnourished queens have reproductive problems, but infertility is not one of them. If they don’t have enough nutrients in their body to pass on to their offspring, the kittens may be born with deficiencies, or your cat might have a miscarriage.

Obesity is linked to a decreased production of eggs at ovulation, which basically means a smaller litter. Obesity also affects milk production, so you might end up feeding the kittens formula just because your pet doesn’t produce enough milk. 

According to a study by Denise van Lent at the University of Amsterdam's Department of Ecology, “Kittens that nurse 7 weeks or longer are less likely to become overweight adult cats.” 

Keeping your cat’s health in check before they become pregnant prevents complications for your pet and their kittens. 

Adorable pregnant gray cat near bowl of food indoors.

What Should You Feed Your Pregnant Cat?

The basics of any healthy pet diet are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need animal protein more than other species — even those like dogs, that a classified as carnivores. During this time, your pregnant cat needs additional protein to support the development of the kittens, increased fat for the queen’s higher nutritional requirements, and minerals to ensure bone growth for the fetuses and the cat’s future milk production. 

As the pregnancy progresses, your cat can't eat as much as before conception because the kittens take up more space in their belly. This means the food needs to be more nutritionally dense. Talk to your vet for specific advice on what to feed your pregnant cat.

Generally, kitten diets are recommended after the first two to three weeks into the pregnancy. These specially formulated foods are richer and supply your cat with extra nutrients and energy. A May 2023 article by WebMD notes that a cat’s pregnancy lasts about 63 to 65 days, so you must improve your cat’s nutrition for about two months and even a few weeks afterward while she produces milk for her kittens.

What to Avoid Feeding a Pregnant Cat

There are a few similarities between what pregnant people and pregnant pets should avoid consuming during this time of their life. The three most important food groups to avoid are fish, undercooked meat, and eggs. These carry potentially dangerous bacteria that might cause an infection to complicate the pregnancy and delivery.

Ocean fish is often contaminated with heavy metals, such as mercury, so do not put them on the menu. Human foods are a no-go in this case, regardless of how much your cat might love them. Also, avoid anything containing artificial sweeteners. Although there aren’t enough studies specifically on cats, xylitol and other sweeteners are known to be harmful to dogs and other pets. To be safe, lay off the sweet stuff.

Make sure that your pet does not have access to any houseplants, particularly potentially toxic plant species, such as philodendron, elephant's ear, English ivy, and poinsettia. 

Display of eggs, raw salmon, and raw chicken

Feeding During Lactation

Lactation is very demanding on a queen’s body, so it is essential to maintain your cat’s weight while they are breastfeeding the kittens. The best way to ensure your cat gets the right nutrition while they are producing milk is to let them eat as much as they consider necessary. Kitten diets are recommended until at least four weeks following the delivery. 

Free-choice feeding is excellent, particularly for cats that have given birth to more than two kittens. If you allow your pet to have food at their disposal all the time, but their litter is small, they may produce too much milk. This increases the risk of potential mammary ailments. 

What to Feed a Queen Weaning Their Kittens

The queen initiates the weaning process when the kittens are six to seven weeks old. It is not recommended to separate kittens from the mother before their sixth-week birthday is not recommended. This can cause behavioral issues later, including anxiety when their owner leaves them alone.

Switching your cat's diet to a regular adult one can aid in weaning, as does restricting the amount of food they have access to. This causes the queen to produce less milk and forces the kittens to eat the wet cat food varieties you give them. 

Nutritional Problems During Pregnancy, Delivery, and Lactation

The Association of American Feed Control Officials says pregnant cats need at least 30 percent protein, nine percent fat, one percent calcium, and less than one percent phosphorus in their diets. Higher taurine levels are also necessary to ensure the fetuses aren’t destroyed and absorbed into the body before day 25 of the pregnancy.

Most commercial cat foods add enough taurine to the recipe to prevent this. If you’re already feeding your cat a manufactured adult cat or kitten food, you have nothing to worry about. During this time, your vet may recommend that you switch from a homemade diet to a commercial one to ensure that your cat gets the proper nutrition. 

Kittens whose mother's diet is supplemented with EPA and DHA from omega supplements, for example, are born with better memory, vision, and learning abilities. The most common health issue cats experience during delivery and lactation is eclampsia — also called milk fever. This occurs when the blood calcium level drops dramatically and threatens the mother's life.

There are other potential health issues. Oregon-based veterinarian Dr. Jean A. Hall states, "Although uncommon in queens, hypocalcemia may occur during early lactation.” Hypocalcemia is a condition caused by a dangerously low calcium level in the blood. For this reason, some veterinarians recommend providing mineral supplements to your cat even before a planned conception occurs and throughout the pregnancy. 

Best Food for Pregnant Cats

Cats that don't receive the right type of nutrition during their pregnancy may experience problems during delivery or have fewer kittens in the litter. Your responsibility as a pet owner is to provide your cat with the best diet for this time in their life. Here are a few top-choice foods to consider.

Chicken Breast Formula
$21.48 ($7.16 / Ounce)

by Weruva 

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/08/2024 08:40 pm GMT

Weruva Kitten Formula

This is a diet available in several different formulas depending on your cat’s preferences. It can be used to wean kittens off milk, especially since it comes in the form of hydrating purees, chicken and pumpkin with gravy, or pate. The best reason to consider this diet is that it provides your cat with the right amount of hydration.

The Weruva Kitten Formula is an all-natural option for people who have been feeding their cats a commercial diet. It is free of wheat, corn, or soy and has no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Some consumer reviews note that even the fussiest pets respond well to their diet being switched to this one. Other customers say the recipe aids in successfully weaning kittens. 

$24.98 ($5.00 / lb)


Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/08/2024 08:51 pm GMT

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Natural Dry Cat Food

If you have a cat fountain and you find that your pet responds better to having food available throughout the day, Nutro is an option to consider. While primarily designed for adult cats, it stands out from the crowd thanks to its non-GMO ingredients and richness in omega-6 fatty acids. 

The kibble does not contain wheat, soy, corn, or chicken by-product meal. It is free of artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors, so you know you are giving your cat a healthy diet. The Nutro Wholesome Essentials Dry Cat Food also contains psyllium seed husk to promote balanced digestion. Other remarkable nutrients in this recipe range from a vitamin B12 supplement to taurine and biotin for healthy skin and coat. 

Wilderness Wild Delights High Protein Grain Free
$35.52 ($0.49 / Ounce)

by Blue Buffalo 

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/08/2024 08:45 pm GMT

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Wild Delights

This high-protein kitten food is recommended for pregnant and lactating queens. It is also free of corn, wheat, or soy and doesn’t contain any poultry by-product meals. Several customers note they use this diet to promote weight gain in kittens that were born underweight. The tastiness of the recipe also recommends it, with pet owners saying their pets respond well to being switched to this cat food. 

Nutrition-wise, the Blue Buffalo Wilderness Wild Delights is rich in vitamins E, B3, B5, and B2. It also has taurine and essential minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium added to the recipe. 

Consult Your Vet

Good nutrition is paramount for conception, a successful pregnancy, and providing both the queen and the kittens with the diet they need to thrive. Your veterinarian is the best person to give you more advice on how to change your cat’s diet depending on a few different factors, such as their age and their current health status. 

Make sure to monitor your cat’s pregnancy with regular vet visits throughout the two months of gestation. The kittens' health and the pregnancy's progression are assessed with several tests, including blood biochemistry, a complete blood count, and ultrasounds.  

In the end, pregnant cats and nursing queens need more nutrient-dense diets as this is the only way to guarantee they remain healthy. Even if the "blessed event" was an unwelcome surprise, it's a part of responsible pet ownership and you owe it to these cute little balls of fur to get them here safe and give them a good start in life.

If you enjoyed this article and learned something new, share it with your friends and subscribe to Cattitude Daily

Was this article helpful?