Because cats are mammals, they provide milk to their young until the time comes for them to be weaned and begin eating food on their own.
How long does a cat continue to nurse its kittens, and when does its supply of milk stop?
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding in Cats
It is possible for cats to become pregnant before they reach the age of one year, and the pregnancy usually lasts for about two months.
They will begin lactation when they are close to the time of delivery.
In most cases, a cat will have eight teats, and all of them will be able to produce milk.
It is possible for cats who are not pregnant and even cats who have been spayed to produce milk; this phenomenon is referred to as a false or pseudopregnancy.
This production of milk that is not necessary is regulated by hormones in a cat’s body.
If your cat is not actually pregnant but is lactating, you should not let it pretend to nurse on things like toys or socks because this will cause the pregnancy to last much longer than it actually would.
Around the time when they are about halfway through their pregnancies, pregnant cats will notice that their teats have begun to swell, but they will not start lactating until just a few days before they give birth.
During pregnancy, most women experience an increase in appetite, which helps provide the additional nutrition that their bodies require in order to produce milk.
After the kittens have been born, the mother cat must feed them colostrum, which is the first milk that the cat produces for her offspring after giving birth.
Colostrum is loaded with various nutrients and antibodies, both of which are essential for the development of the immune systems of young kittens.
After the kittens have nursed for about a month, they will start weaning themselves off of their mother and start eating solid food.
Liquid food for kittens should be freely provided to them while they are still able to nurse from their mother, but this should only be done while the kittens are still young.
The weaning process will take place over the course of the following six weeks, during which the kittens will gradually consume more kitten food and nurse less.
During the weaning process, the food the kitten consumes will progress from a liquid to a diluted form of canned food, which will be followed by regular canned food, then moistened kitten kibble, and finally dry kibble before it is old enough to be weaned from its mother at 12 weeks of age.
If a kitten is old enough to eat on its own, you should shorten the amount of time it is allowed to nurse as it gets older.
If a kitten is eating well on its own but still wants to nurse a lot, you will need to limit the kitten’s access to its mother for part of the day in order to satisfy the kitten’s desire to nurse.
If a mother cat is going to be able to produce enough milk for all of her kittens, she needs to be getting the proper nutrition.
If a cat has an unusually large litter, either it will need supplemental nutrition to help its body produce enough milk for its young, or the kittens will need supplemental nutrition if they aren’t getting enough feeding time with so many litter mates. The average litter size for cats is about five kittens, but if a cat has an unusually large litter, both it and the kittens will need supplemental nutrition.
In order to accommodate the additional stress of feeding kittens as well as the energy requirements of lactation, nursing mothers of cats should be fed kitten or growth diets that are high in calories, fat, and calcium. These types of diets are available.
Talk to your veterinarian about the options available to you if you are concerned about the nutritional requirements of a mother cat who is nursing her young.
When the kitten is three or four weeks old, the mother cat is experiencing the most difficult and demanding phase of the process of lactation.
The body of the mother cat has been continuously producing milk for roughly a month at this point, but the production of milk is about to slow down.
As of right now, the kittens are beginning the process of weaning themselves off of their mother’s milk, which means that less milk will be required.
The Finish Line for Breastfeeding
The nursing process will continue for as long as there are kittens for the mother cat to care for.
This is helpful if you have a litter of orphaned kittens that need to be fed and have been abandoned by their mother, but it is not necessary if you only have kittens who are now eating solid food. If you have a litter of orphaned kittens that need to be fed and their mother has abandoned them, you will find that this is helpful.
Once they begin eating solid food, kittens typically stop trying to nurse, which results in a significant decrease in the amount of milk produced by the mother cat.
After a few weeks, the milk ought to be completely dry, but this is a process that takes its time and is not instantaneous.
Even after the swelling subsides, the teats will continue to secrete milk.
After this, the milk production will stop, the swelling will go down, and after one to two weeks, the mammary glands under the teats should no longer be swollen.
Issues Following the End of Breastfeeding
After a week during which your mother cat has not been nursing, you should take her to the veterinarian to have her teats examined if they continue to be swollen, red, and large in size.
If left untreated, mastitis can be a serious and painful condition, and it may necessitate the use of medication.