Once a cat has kittens, breast feeding the kittens is the best way to ensure that the kittens are receiving all of their nutritional requirements. While there are risks that can occur when a cat breast feeds her litter, the benefits of breast feeding far outweigh the risks.
While over the counter kitten formulas are created to provide complete nutrition to a kittens, a kitten’s sensitive digestive system cannot always adjust to formulas. Many kittens that are placed on formula instead of breast milk develop bouts of diarrhea.
The gift of passive immunity from the mother to the kitten is also another benefit of breast feeding. Passive immunity transfers antibodies from the mother’s immune system to the kitten, and these antibodies will help to protect the kitten from developing diseases and other illnesses. It should be noted that passive immunity can only be transferred to the kitten within the first 24 hours of milk flow.
Risks of Breast Feeding
Risks of breast feeding are low, but they do happen. The highest risk of breast feeding is infected or sore nipples. This risk generally increases as the kittens grow older and develop strong claws and teeth. In some cases the mother’s nipples can become so infected that the kittens need to be placed on formula. Very rarely, a mother cat will develop a disorder called eclampsia. This disorder occurs when the level of calcium in the mother’s blood suddenly drops, and it is a life threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary treatment.
If you have a cat that will soon have a litter of kittens, remember that breast feeding is best. Keep an eye on the mother’s nipples for any signs of infection or wounds, and become familiar with the easily recognizable signs and symptoms of eclampsia.