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The author hopes that this article will be useful for those who find themselves suddenly confronted with a stray pregnant cat that has wandered into the yard. Ethical breeders should already understand the importance of good nutrition during the gestation and lactation period. If you are breeding cats and do not understand this aspect, then perhaps you shouldn’t be breeding. Just a thought~
Cats stay pregnant approximately sixty-five days. There are times when cats stay pregnant longer and if pregnancy extends longer, a veterinarian should be consulted.
Even before the queen produces a litter, care and attention should be directed toward feeding the queen adequately. Besides behavioral changes within her body, the queen is experiencing hormonal and metabolical changes. Her dietary needs are affected. Before you can address the nutritional needs, if this is a stray or feral cat, you need to get her inside where she will remain safe. She is in great danger being outside and pregnant. Keeping her inside and monitoring her meals and nutrients helps to increase the chances of her and the litter surviving.
Once inside, if the queen is flea and parasite-ridden, consult a vet about the safest way to help her. Depending on how quickly she is due will determine what means the vet will recommend to get rid of the fleas.
Through the gestation period, the queen will begin to display different changes within her body weight. Weight gain is normal even refusing food occasionally is normal. But if the refusal stretches to over 24 hours early in the pregnancy get the queen to the vet immediately.
To help her adjust to the changes taking place, begin feeding her a good quality kitten chow mixed with her regular food. Provide quality canned food for her as well. She is going to need the moisture to help push the waste through her body quickly. Be sure she has plenty of fresh cold water available. Drinkwell fountains are recommended to help increase a pregnant cat’s intake of water. You can also feed her KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) diluted down with cold water.
The fetuses she carries inside of her will be demanding on her needs. Her mammary glands will start to swell, engorging with milk. She will begin to retain water and develop placental tissues.
The queen will begin refusing food nine weeks into her pregnancy. This refusal is a fairly good indicator that birthing is drawing close. The litter should be arriving within 24-48 hours afterward.
The problem with keeping track of a litter from a stray cat is you have no knowledge when the mating occurred, or how many toms actually mated with her. Outside, with no controlled mating conditions, females are routinely mated repeatedly by as many toms that can catch her. This can result in her carrying multiple litters during one gestation period.
After the kittens are born, keep feeding her kitten and adult food mixed together and again, be sure she has plenty of water. She should gradually have her feedings increase from three times a day to at least five times a day. You want to feed her small amounts during these extended feeding periods.
The kittens will wean themselves off her nipples around six weeks of age. The queen’s milk will no longer adequately stop their hunger. They will begin to hunt for other food that satisfies them.
Provide the kittens with good canned kitten food and moisten their dry food. On the first day they come off the nipples, don’t feed the queen, just provide her with water. Limit her feedings for the next five days and then provide her with her regular diet. When you are feeding the kittens, remove her from the room.
Soon the queen’s appetite will return to normal, and her body condition will improve. Now is the time to take her in and get her spayed. This will increase her life cycle considerably. Keep her inside until she is spayed. Sadly, there are enough stray kittens in the world. No need to create anymore.
Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer, website content provider and member of The Cat Writers’ Association. Her expertise lies in feral cat socialization, bottle babies and animal abuse issues.