Most queens (mother cat) require little or no assistance during the delivery and are able to successfully raise a litter without our assistance. However, the prudent carer should be aware that there will be some requirements to help the queen stay healthy and well so she is able to care for her new family.
Immediately after the birth:
Count how many placentas have been delivered, ie; two kittens, two placentas, three kittens, three placentas etc., to ensure that none have been retained. If you are not sure that they have all been delivered, check with your veterinarian.
Once the kittens have been born, the soiled bedding should be replaced with clean, dry bedding, but try to do so with as little disruption to the queen and kittens as possible.
Ensure the queen is provided with comfortable, warm area to care for her kittens. It should be in a quiet and safe area. The new mother will rarely leave the nest over the next few days.
Within 24 hours of the birth, your queen should see a veterinarian for a check up. He will be able to feel for any undelivered kittens and make sure everything is healing as it should. A small amount of vaginal discharge is present for 7 - 10 days post queening. The discharge is reddish brown in colour and should not be odorous. Discharge which has an offensive odour is bright red, profuse, or lasts longer than 3 weeks should be immediately reported to your veterinarian. This is a medical emergency.
Feeding during lactation:
The queen has delivered her kittens, a meal should be offered to her, she may or may not eat it
A lactating queen will need to consume two to three times the number of calories that she required prior to becoming pregnant. Without these additional calories, she cannot produce enough milk to feed her kittens. She should be provided as much food as she wants and has constant access to fresh water.
A high-quality food designed for kittens is recommended.
- Postpartum hemorrhage: As stated above, some discharge is normal, but if the discharge is bright red, or there is an excessive volume seek immediate veterinary help.
- Mastitis: Mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland) occurs when the lactating queen's mammary gland(s) becomes inflamed, blocked or infected. Symptoms include pain, heat, and swelling of the affected gland(s), fever, milk may be bloody, yellow or thick, the queen may refuse to let her kittens nurse from the affected gland, the queen may become depressed and lose her appetite and become dehydrated, lethargy, sick or dying kittens.
- Acute Metritis: This is inflammation of the lining of the uterus (endometrium) postpartum. It is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection. It can be caused by retained placentas or kittens, or unsanitary conditions. Symptoms include; lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, fever, foul smelling, dark discharge from the vagina.
- Agalactia (complete lack of milk supply) and dysgalactia (decreased milk supply): This may be caused by inadequate nutritional support of the queen, large litter size, deformed nipple(s) or occasionally caesarean sections. Suckling should be encouraged as this assists with milk production (the more stimulation, the more milk is produced). Fresh drinking water should be available at all times, and she should be provided with as much high-quality food as she wants. By the second week of lactation, she will require up to three times the amount of calories as a nonpregnant cat. Kittens may cry and fail to thrive. Your veterinarian may recommend you supplement the litter or he may prescribe a medication to assist with milk production or both.
- Eclampsia (milk fever, puerperal tetany): This life-threatening condition occurs when the levels are depleted in the lactating queen resulting in hypocalcemia. Signs of eclampsia include restlessness, anorexia, walking with a stiff gait, high temperature, increased respiration rate, trembling, convulsions.
What to look out for:
- Loss of appetite (anorexia).
- Lack of interest in kittens.
- Vaginal discharge which is odorous lasts longer than three weeks or excessive bleeding. Excessive loss of blood can lead to shock and death.
- Swelling, heat or discomfort from the breasts.
If you notice any of the above, seek veterinary help immediately.
Cats will come into heat quite quickly after the birth, therefore it is important to ensure she is kept away from entire male cats to prevent another pregnancy too quickly.