The kittening space must be clean, cozy, and quiet so the queen and her offspring feel safe, warm, and protected.
Getting the queen and her kittens checked out by a vet prevents them from experiencing complications further down the line.
Feed your cat only high-quality wet food and ensure she stays hydrated; clean her litter box and the nesting box as best as possible.
Kittens can start eating solid food at four weeks of age; make kitten gruel by mixing kitten formula with wet kitten food and gradually increasing the amount of solid food to wean them.
Postpartum health complications are a reality for some queens, so ensure that your cat behaves and eats normally and cares for the kittens as she is supposed to.
Welcoming a litter of kittens into your home is a joyous occasion. However, it is also a huge responsibility. You want to ensure the cat mom and her babies are healthy, happy, and comfortable. The tips in this article help you to care for your queen and her kittens.
How To Create the Right Space for the Cat Mom To Raise Her Offspring
Creating a comfortable and safe space for the cat mom to raise her kittens is essential. Start by choosing a quiet room in your home where no noise and distractions are available. Provide the cat and kittens with a large, clean, and cozy nesting box where the queen rests and nurses her offspring.
Ideally, this is the same box you used when she delivered her babies, but you’ve cleaned or replaced the bedding in the meantime. Use your cat’s favorite blanket or cat bed if these items are soothing to her. Whatever surface she’s laying on must be soft, warm, and washable.
When creating the perfect space for the mom and the offspring, the most important aspect is the temperature. Letting the kittens and the queen spend time in a cold, humid spot is the worst thing you can do for their health, so ensure your thermostat is set to at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The kittens need some amount of space to play and explore as they grow, especially after their first seven to 10 days of life. They are born blind and helpless, but their mother will guide their journey and teach them how to interact with each other while also offering opportunities for playtime.
Although trying to give your cat as much attention and care during this time is tempting, offering her too much is stressful. Let your pet set the pace for how often you visit the kittening box.
Why You Should Get a Veterinary Check-Up if Your Cat Just Delivered Kittens
If you are lucky enough to convince your vet to do a house visit, your cat is going to be able to remain in the same safe space while also receiving the medical care and attention she needs. Should this not be the case, you must take the queen and the kittens to the animal hospital while also sheltering them and keeping them warm for around a week after the delivery.
A physical examination and several questions your vet asks you about your cat’s behavior are usually sufficient to tell if everything is going fine. Some health complications affect nursing cat moms, though, and it’s a good idea for them to be diagnosed as early as possible.
A feline veterinarian is able to advise you on how the kittens are doing in general. They’ll look at the weight they put on after the first week of their life, their coat, and how their visible mucous membranes look in terms of color and moisture if they’re well-hydrated and seem active. Expect a couple of questions about the feeding frequency and if no kitten is left behind, especially in a large litter.
Caring for the Mother Cat
The first two weeks following parturition are vital for both the queen and her kittens. During this time, you need to keep an eye on how everything is going and how your cat is behaving, using the litter box, caring for her kittens, grooming herself, and eating and drinking.
Give Your Cat Some Privacy
Cats are naturally private animals, and they prefer to have a quiet, secluded spot to rest. Make sure your cat has a private space where she rests without any disturbances. Especially when caring for kittens, they need to know that the space they spend most of their time in poses no threat to them.
Do not allow children or other pets to visit the queen unless they get along perfectly and the mother doesn’t engage in any aggression while trying to protect her offspring. Letting the queen be during this time is the best solution, and since it prevents unnecessary conflicts, it also prevents possible wounds and infections.
Feed Her the Best Wet Pet Food
High-quality kitten food, ideally in the form of cans or pouches, is best for a queen that’s producing milk. As you probably know, if you’ve been a cat owner for a while, cats aren’t too keen on drinking water.
During this time, your cat has to ensure that she produces enough milk for the kittens. She can’t do so if she’s not getting hydrated enough. Kitten recipes are usually richer in calories and nutrients, so they give the mother more energy than the standard adult cat diet, especially a low-budget one.
Are you worried about your cat staying hydrated enough while she is nursing? If so, switch to giving her bone broth instead of regular water. Using a cat fountain is another trick you might want to consider, as this type of device keeps the water fresh and makes it more enticing for domestic cats.
Cleanliness is Godliness
Excellent hygiene is crucial when caring for a lactating queen and her kittens. Regularly clean the kittening box and the surrounding area to reduce any risk of infection. Keep a litter box nearby and clean it daily, but instead of just removing the soiled parts in the litter, use a smaller amount in the first place and completely replace it. Once a week, scrub the litter box and use a non-scented disinfectant to ensure that your cat doesn’t have a risk of developing a urinary tract infection — especially now.
Now’s also the time to get rid of any external or internal parasites that the mother might have. Talk to your vet, as they may recommend the best dewormers and insecticides for the purpose, particularly given that the kittens share their living space with the queen, so they risk coming in contact with these substances. Some dewormers are passed through the milk, and kittens may be exposed to flea products like spot-on solutions by touching their mother’s coat.
Caring for the Kittens
While the delivery is still happening, your responsibility is to ensure that the kittens are born once every 30 to 60 minutes, that the mother cares for them immediately by rupturing their sacs with her teeth, and that the queen eliminates the placenta at the end of the birth.
If there are no complications, that’s most of what you should do for the kittens. They have an instinct to latch onto their mother’s teats to start nursing, so even feeding is handled without your intervention. The queen guides any kitten that has trouble finding a nipple.
Avoid touching the kittens immediately after they are born, especially if the mother is doing a good job caring for them. Unless their airways are covered with mucus or tissue remnants, and you need to remove them, you should not handle the kittens after birth, as the mother needs to do so to mark their little bodies with her smell. This allows her to recognize them as her own.
Once they’ve been around for 10 days or so, you are allowed to handle them every now and then, as this practice makes them understand that they need to interact with humans, too, not just with their brothers and sisters. Avoid separating them from their mother for too long, as it can be stressful for both the queen and the kittens.
Kittens develop quickly during their first few weeks of life. Watch for milestones such as opening their eyes, walking, and exploring their environment. Kittens should open their eyes by the age of two weeks.
They should double their weight in the first week of life. If the kittens don’t seem to be putting on at least 10 grams of body weight a day during the first few weeks of their life, contact a vet immediately. In some cases, the mother cat may not produce enough milk to feed her kittens. If this happens, contact your vet immediately. They may recommend supplementing the kittens' diet with formula.
Health Issues in Newborn Kittens
Newborn kittens are vulnerable to health issues, mainly because their immune system isn’t completely developed. It takes time for them to develop some resistance to potential pathogens.
Ideally, your cat has her vaccination plan in check so that she’s able to transmit partial immunity against some feline diseases to her kittens. If this is not the case, keep the queen and the kittens indoors at all times and schedule an appointment with your vet to get your cat’s shots as soon as possible.
The most common health issues that newborn and nursing kittens are prone to are:
After giving birth, some queens experience a variety of health issues, too. From postpartum low blood calcium to uterine infections and inflammations, they’re not completely risk-free. Some of the most common postpartum health problems to be on the lookout for are:
Hypocalcemia, or milk fever, is when the mother cat's calcium levels drop dangerously low. It can be lethal and requires immediate veterinary attention.
Mastitis is an infection of the mammary glands that affects nursing cats. It is essential to watch for signs of mastitis, such as swollen or painful mammary glands.
Metritis is an infection of the uterus that occurs after giving birth. It is also life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary attention.
Uterine prolapse is a condition in which the uterus protrudes from the vagina. Seek out veterinary assistance immediately if you notice this symptom in your pet.
When Should Kittens Start Eating Solid Food?
Kittens should start eating solid food at around four weeks of age. Start by offering them a small amount of wet pet food mixed with formula. This mix is also known as kitten gruel, and it’s designed to be a sort of paste that kittens are capable of lapping up quickly. Gradually reduce the quantity of milk while increasing the amount of commercial wet kitten food. Most kittens fully complete the transition by the time they reach their sixth-week birthday.
British veterinarian Louisa Marcombesstates, “Early weaning, as in early separation from the mother, can result in behavioral problems. It can be a challenge in hand-reared kittens." Even if the mother doesn’t produce enough milk anymore, it is still important to let the kittens spend as much time with her as possible.
Caring for the Cat Mom After the Kittens Are Weaned
After the weaning process is done, the queen needs time to recover. Even if it happens that she experiences a heat cycle, possibly while she’s nursing her litter, do not allow her to mate with a male — at all costs. Repeat pregnancies rid a queen’s body of precious nutrients, potentially leading to severe health complications. Monitor her weight, but remember that a queen losing weight is normal even while she is lactating and even more so after she weaned her kittens.
Continue to provide her with high-quality wet pet food and make sure she stays hydrated. Keep her living space clean and comfortable, and take her to the veterinary clinic for a quick check-up to ensure that she’s healthy. If you do not want your cat to become pregnant again, now’s the time to get her spayed — especially since the operation has multiple health benefits, too, such as preventing ovarian and mammary cancer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most of the essential information you should be aware of has been showcased above, but if you have any other questions or want to learn more about properly caring for a cat mom and her kittens, the section below could be helpful.
When Is It Safe to Separate the Queen From Her Kittens?
It is safe to separate the queen from her kittens at around eight weeks of age. However, it is essential to ensure that the kittens are fully weaned and that they eat solid food before separating them.
Will a Mother Cat Reject Her Kittens if You Touch Them?
A consensus as to whether this happens or not doesn’t exist, but there’s no point in risking the queen rejecting her offspring just because you intervened too early. If you have to ensure the kittens are breathing properly, wear disposable gloves or cover your hands with a towel and avoid touching them directly.
Ideally, only the mother cat should touch them for at least a week, if not more. According to a 2023 article by LovetoKnowPets.com, it’s best to avoid touching newborn kittens until they are approximately two weeks old, so the longer you wait, the better.
Can You Leave Newborn Kittens Alone With Their Mom?
If the queen’s behavior is entirely normal and she doesn’t exhibit any aggression or lack of attention and care toward her kittens, you should leave both parties to their devices. It’s advised that you give them some space to bond without outside intervention.
Making Sure Everyone Is Healthy
Caring for a queen and her kittens is a big responsibility. Create a comfortable and safe space for the cat mom to raise her kittens while giving the queen privacy, feeding her high-quality kitten food, and ensuring she stays hydrated. Keep the kittening space clean and flea-free. For the best kitten care, ensure that their eyes are open by the age of two weeks and that they’re doubling their weight in the first week. Get help if the queen doesn’t produce enough milk.
Both newborn kittens and the cat mom are vulnerable to various health issues, so getting them checked out is paramount. Kittens should start eating solid food at around four weeks of age, and the mother cat needs some time to recover after the kittens are weaned. It is safe to separate the queen from her kittens at around eight weeks.
If you enjoyed this article and learned something new, share it with your friends and subscribe to Cattitude Daily today!