Pregnancy and nursing are responsible for many changes in a cat's lifestyle, as well as in her body. You should pay special attention to your cat’s changing nutritional needs throughout the entire reproduction process.
Before the Pregnancy: Planning Is Important
If you are planning to breed your female cat, it is important to assess her body condition well in advance. Because of the physical demands of pregnancy and nursing, starting off with less-than-ideal health can cause problems.
An underweight cat often can't consume enough food to support her and the developing kittens. Overweight cats may experience abnormal or difficult labor because of large fetuses.
A complete and balanced diet that supports a healthy weight and body condition before breeding helps the female cat maintain her health, and that of her offspring, throughout pregnancy and nursing.
The gestation period for cats is nine weeks. Pregnant cats, like humans, gain weight gradually throughout pregnancy. The energy requirements of pregnant cats are reflected by their weight gain. The energy needs of a pregnant cat should gradually increase so that, by the end of pregnancy, the cat is consuming 25% to 50% more than her normal amount of calories.
Pregnant cats lose weight after giving birth. However, their nutritional needs increase dramatically. Energy needs can be two to three times normal, depending on litter size, in order to produce the milk supply that will support the offspring. Water intake is also important for milk volume.
To ensure a nursing cat is getting enough nutrition, give her a nutrient-dense diet, such as kitten food. Without increasing the amount of food at each meal, increase the number of meals in the day. Free-choice feed her, offering unlimited access to dry food.
By 5 weeks, most kittens show an interest in their mother's food. Gradually, the kittens will begin eating solid food and nursing less. At the same time, the nursing cat will usually start eating less. Most kittens are completely weaned by eight weeks after birth. By this time, the mother's energy requirement is back to normal and she should be eating her usual pre-pregnancy diet.
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This article is part of a series on how to spot signs of a healthy cat. You can learn more about the key signs here.
Cats don’t lack personality; that’s for sure. They can be shy, outgoing, snuggly, independent, energetic, relaxed and everything in between. Yet some breeds tend to exhibit certain traits more strongly than others. Here are our picks for what we’re calling the Cat Personality Awards.
The friendliest cat breed:
This larger cat has a big heart to match. They’re often very social and happy to chat with you, whether they’re curled up on your lap or following you around the house. They make excellent family pets because more family members means more people to snuggle and play with.
Also outgoing: Ragdoll, Siamese, Burmese
The most laid-back cat breed:
Gentle and calm, this soft and silky-furred feline is friendly without being demanding. Ragdolls are usually totally cool sharing a house with other pets and kids. They don’t stress much about routine changes or even being carried around. Their motto? It’s all good.
Other cool kitties: Scottish fold, Birman, British shorthair
The most playful cat breed:
Making up around 90% of cats in the U.S., with more than 80 colors and patterns, domestic shorthairs are a melting pot of different breeds. They were originally working cats used to hunt mice and other critters on farms. They still love to stalk, hunt and pounce on toys and play games with their owners — so expect to spend lots of energetic playtime together.
Also ready to play: Siamese, Maine coon, Manx
The most independent cat breed:
This popular breed has been around humans since the 1600s, but is satisfied doing its own thing. Gentle, docile and quiet, Persian cats don’t insist on a lot of attention. They’re just as content sitting on your lap or observing what’s going on by themselves from a sunny perch across the room. They can be discerning in who they give their affection to, but you’ll be on their good side once you earn their trust.
Also fine on their own: Russian blue, American shorthair, Norwegian Forest cat
The most trainable cat breed:
The idea of training a cat may seem hilarious, but the curiosity and intelligence of Abyssinians make them highly trainable. Some can even be taught tricks or to walk on a leash and harness. Training and playing games are perfect ways to direct their affectionate energy.
Also eager to learn: Bengal, Siamese, American shorthair
The cleanest cat breed:
Owning this affectionate, hairless breed means you can spend more time cuddling and less time lint-rolling your clothes. They do require regular baths, but that just means more time to hang out together.
Other neat freaks: Siamese, Russian blue
The best cat for first-time owners:
it’s a toss-up!
Thinking of getting your first kitty? It’s hard to pick just one breed, so we’ve got three:
- Maine coons are super friendly and charming, and adapt well in a variety of living situations.
- Siamese are clean, love to talk and are very loyal.
- American shorthairs are smart, playful and independent.
Remember, most cats — especially those found in shelters — are a mix of breeds, which just means they often combine the best of all cat personality traits! Whatever personality you’re looking for in a cat, you’ll know it when you find your fuzzy soulmate.
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