care of the female following delivery


Although for the first two days the queen will stay almost constantly with her kittens, within twenty-four hours of delivery she should leave the nest for short periods of time, move about, and be normally interested in eating and drinking. For cats who do not eat or drink after delivery, those who have fevers or who seem abnormally quiet or inactive, as well as those who seem to neglect their kittens, there should be no delay in arranging for examination by a veterinarian. Problems following delivery are too complex to be treated well at home without veterinary consultation.

Shortly after delivery a brownish-red vulvar discharge may be seen that may become greenish or greenish black. Such discharges should change to clear mucous or cease within one to three weeks following delivery. A profuse red, bloody discharge following delivery or any vulvar discharge that is odorous or looks like pus or seems to be present in abnormally large amounts or for too many days should alert you to take your cat to a veterinarian for a thorough examination. Such abnormal discharges may indicate excessive internal bleeding, retained placenta or kitten, and/or uterine infection.

If all seems well with the mother, little special treatment is necessary.

Keep her indoors following delivery. Heat (estrus) often occurs within one to four weeks following delivery, and she may become pregnant while still nursing newborn kittens. Since lactation itself is a great stress and the uterus has not had sufficient time to return to its prepregnancy condition, breeding should not be allowed at this time. Keeping the queen indoors also avoids exposure to diseases that she could catch or carry home to the fragile nursing kittens. Her diet the first few days following delivery can be the same as that just before. As lactation progresses, however, expect her food intake to increase. A rule of thumb to use is to feed the normal maintenance requirement (about 40 calories per pound per day, 85 calories per kilogram) plus 100 to 125 calories per day per pound of kittens (220 to 275 calories per kilogram).

And be sure to continue to feed a high-quality, high-protein diet since, as in pregnancy, protein requirements for lactation are higher than normal. By the end of lactation a female may be consuming three to four times as much food as she was prior to breeding; in fact, it is almost impossible to overfeed a nursing queen! But despite all rules of thumb, the best guide to feeding is the appearance of the cat. If she is thin and worn-out looking her diet may need adjustment. Diarrhea in the nursing mother often indicates that a diet inadequate in energy is being fed. Poor-quality high-fiber diets cause the mother to consume large volumes of food in an attempt to meet her nutritional requirements, and diarrhea soon follows.

Avoid this problem by offering only good-quality high-protein/high-energy foods to nursing females. Although balanced vitamin-mineral supplements are not required if a proper diet is fed, they are probably most beneficial when used during lactation. Also be sure water is freely available as dehydration will decrease milk production.

The common problems which may affect the female following parturition are infection of the uterus (acute metritis), inflammation of the mammary glands (mastitis), and milk fever (puerperal tetany). These problems are covered.